Another extraordinary Donington Decider in British GT

Monday, September 16, 2019

All previous examples of the British GT Championship's infamous hashtagged final race of the season have all provided highly exciting and eventful races that have in the past (mostly) gone in the favour of any Aston Martin Racing customer team in the equation, but Sundays events took all of that to the next level.

Going into Sunday's finale there were four AMR cars all with a statistical possibility of lifting a class or overall crown should all other results go their way. Indeed, such was the complexity of the issue that TF Sport had even created themselves a large excel document listing all of the scoring permutations just in case!

The 'favourites' had to be the then class leading entries of the #42 TF Sport Vantage GT3 car of Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam, the #97 TF Sport Vantage of Tom Canning and Ash Hand along with the #11 Beechdean AMR Vantage of Martin Plowman and Kelvin "Twinkletoes" Fletcher all up for a potential haul of accolades in both GT3 and GT4. All they had to do was to follow the team plan and not fall off the track!

The #96 Optimum Vantage GT3 of Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis did have a small statistical possibility of taking the overall GT3 crown but following issues during Free Practice and Qualifying it seemed that that duo had 'settled' for the GT3 Silver Cup title which they received on Saturday as their prize for a job well done in the first season of British GT.

Speaking with many of the drivers concerned, it was quite surprising just how 'matter of fact' they were being about it all - even for those who hadn't won anything of this level before as it would after all be what it was going to be. One thing was always going to be for sure though, that none would go down without the biggest fight that they could muster on track!!

On the formation lap, clearly some had got a little ever excited with two GT4's coming together at the Melbourne Hairpin putting themselves effectively out of the impending two hour race even before it had started - fortunately none of the AMR family of cars were affected as the actual race then began behind the Safety Car.

With the Am drivers taking the start, the opening laps saw Davidson do exactly what he needed to do in terms of following (whilst still applying the pressure) onto their Championship rival in the #72 Barwell Lamborghini - then the BMW of Angus Fender got past the #47 for position to start applying (helpfully) some significant pressure onto Adam Balon.

In GT4, Tom Canning was doing the same as he followed the class leading #29 Stellar Performance Audi R8 whilst the #97 TF Sport car of Patrick Kibble acted 'like his wingman' keeping their Championship rivalling Multimatic Ford Mustang of Scott Maxwell safely behind.

Whilst the order within GT4 would remain the same until the pitstop, pressure clearly got the better of Balon who dropped behind Davidson and into the crosshairs of both the #96 Optimum of Wilkinson and the #99 Beechdean AMR of Andrew Howard. At the halfway stage the #47 pitted for their extended pit stop from P4 whilst the #72 was now down in P11.

For the GT4 starters of Canning and Kelvin Fletcher (#11), they both ran impeccable opening stints with fast lap times built upon the basis of zero mistakes and that helped them to be able to pass on almost undamaged cars onto their respective co-drivers.

Obviously there were a few other Aston Martin Racing teams competing in the event. Despite Academy's experiencing another problematic opening day to the meeting to a point where many of the teams mechanics would spend more time working upon the #62 car of Will Moore and Alex Toth-Jones that the car ever would on race track over the weekend, at least they, with Micah Stanley and Ben Hurst in the #61, would see their season out with two solid, mid table finishes.

Also, the two Optimum GT4 cars of Connor O'Brien and Jack Butel (#35) and Mike Robinson and Patrik Mathiessen (#75) would sadly see out the season on something of a crash and a whimper (despite earlier promises in Qualifying) as O'Brien would crash out in an incident at the Old Hairpin where he would at first leave the track before rejoining it (facing the wrong way) and being collected by the Race Performance Mustang ending their season on the spot.

That incident also prompted another Safety Car period that would rotate the tables slightly for both the #47 and #97 TF Sport cars at the restart.

Firstly, the #15 Multimatic Mustang of Seb Priaulx would take P2 from Ash Hand as the pack began to space out a little once the circuit went green again - that would reduce the points deficit between the two cars slightly in the Championship but was OK as long as things didn't get any 'worse' on track.

In GT3, the biggest drama was just about to unfold going into the closing minutes of the race when the #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini at first gave Jonny Adam a more than decent whack up the rear going into the final corner of one lap before giving him further 'kisses' down through the Old Hairpin before overtaking him for P5 a corner later on the next lap.

That overtake took the #47 car off the top of the table in GT3 and with Adam seemingly unable to respond that all allowed the #69 Barwell car of Sam de Haan and Jonny Cocker to be the surprising victors at the chequered flag just half a lap later. That 'disaster' within one side of the TF Sport garage opposed directly with the joy and elation on the GT4 side as Hand delivered the #97 Vantage GT4 home to claim P3 in class and the GT4 crown.

Martin Plowman would also avoid all the clashing and banging on the restart (action that would ultimately claim the #96 Optimum GT3 into the gravel on the final lap) to finish P4 overall in GT4 and convincingly claim their GT4 Pro-Am title which was being celebrated in the pit lane even before the #11 car returned to Parc Ferme!!

Even at their younger ages, it was extremely professional of all four members of the TF Sport crew to mellow their celebrations as the team responded to the events on track and pondered any protest against the actions of the #18 car against the Adam/Davidson car. That action quickly went into full effect as the #47 car's Prodrive engineer was soon on his way to Race Control armed with the car's software data upon his laptop closely followed by both Adam, Davidson and other AMR representatives.

Passing them waiting outside the office of Race Control was reminiscent of waiting outside the headteachers office at school but obviously a lot more rode upon the outcome of any decision they might make - it could have easily been a very long night for all as the race results remain strictly provisional.

Investigation/appeal - counter claim/investigation from all parties all ended with WPI Motorsports appeal against their five second post race penalty finally being rejected by the Stewards allowing both Jonny Adam and Graham Davidson to be officially declared GT3 Champions based upon their adjusted P5 finish to the race thanks to a 0.037 of a second gap to the #18 car now behind them in the results.

To say that the eleven Aston Martin Racing GT3 and GT4 race cars entered this year dominated the season wouldn't be so, whilst the #47, #96, #97 and #11 car's have dominated six British GT Championship titles in both GT3 and GT4 classes which they have won, the 2019 season has been one of the most competitive and closest seasons to date and is a testament to the SRO ability to regulating such close inter marque competitiveness.

What a race - what a season and thank you to all who made that possible!

Now - when does 2020 start......???

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