Tale of two races at British GT

Monday, May 29, 2017

We arrived at Snetterton yesterday to something of a strange atmosphere within the Team AMR garages as they prepared themselves for rounds 4 and 5 of the 2017 British GT Championship.

Having already qualified on GT3 Pole, the #24 MacMillan car of Jack Mitchell and James Littlejohn elected not to participate in the morning warm up citing "all was good and there wanted to save the tyres". Their team mates, Jan Jonck and Will Phillips in the MacMillan GT4 Vantage had to go out and prove their car after being forced to replace both a fuel pump, hydraulics and gearbox throughout Saturday's Qualifying session meaning that the car would have to start from the back of the grid in both of todays races.

Up the pit lane, the drivers and crew of the TF Sport team were all wearing long faces as they struggled to overcome issues with both of their cars (mainly understeer) that left them fighting with the car throughout the lap despite all of their preparation for the event last week in testing.

Under a clear blue sky Race 1 (Am Drivers) started with Mitchell quickly establishing an early lead over both of the super quick Barwell Lamborghini's. Just a bit further back Mark Farmer in the #11 TF Sport GT3 was all over the back of the #30 AMD Mercedes AMG trying to get past for lap after lap.

As expected due to the high speed differential ewteen classes, a large gap soon established between the GT3 and GT4 runners. Phillips in the #42 MacMillan GT4 had already picked off 5 or 6 cars after his start from the rear of the grid and was progressing nicely before heavy contact was made with the rear of a Porsche going into the Wilson hairpin but he was at least able to continue.

Just prior to the pit window opening an over impatient Farmer would make contact with the rear of the #30 Mercedes going into Riches at Turn one causing damage to his own car that would result in spins at both Wilson and the Bomb Hole due to a deflating tyre. Repairs to that would put them a lap down and out of contention by the time of the pitstops.

Mitchell had done a sterling job in his MacMillan car - establishing a lead over ten seconds prior to their compulsory stop but like Rockingham only time would tell if that would be enough to defend once the Pro drivers got in?

The answer to that question unfortunately came quite soon as Phil Keen was simply able to drive up to the back of James Littlejohn in the #42 MacMillan with still nearly twenty minutes remaining. This time (similar to Rockingham when Mitchell got in at the half way mark) it would be down to the ex radical racer to hold off the hungry Bulls behind him.

The inevitability of having to carry the Silver/Silver equalisation ballast around came back to bite Littlejohn with just seven minutes remaining and two laps later he would loose the second step of the podium to the sister #6 Lambo but at least the gap between him and the fourth placed car was enough to see out the race.

Whilst Mitchell and Littlejohn could be moderately happy with their P3 finish from their podium start in Race 1 the same couldn't be said for Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam in the #1 TF Sport car. Speaking with Johnston in the paddock between races he was explaining how the car had been suffering from understeer type issues and no matter what the did nothing changed, and that the car was different to change each time they did something to it. A great deal of despite and frustration was evident.

Better news was to come to the #1 car after the race however, as a post race penalty was applied to the #31 Bentley dropping them down to P7 and lifting the #1 car up to P5 so despite their car issues they at least bagged some points. The #11 car was classified as finishing P10.

Back in GT4 the Academy Motorsport car of Will Moore and Matt Nichol-Jones headed the class for Team AMR finishing P5 in class whilst the #42 car suffered a further 5 second penalty for track limits to finish P13 in class.

Race 2 would be after lunch.

Podium photo credit - Jacob Ebrey

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