British GT and British F3 put on a show during annual visit to Spa

British GT and British F3 made their annual visits to Spa in Belgium where drivers and teams had to contend with rain and shine. Closer to home, Matt Hammond had a weekend of extremes in the Mini Challenge at Oulton Park and Wallace Menzies eked out his points lead in the British Hillclimb Championship

British GT and British F3 put on a show during annual visit to Spa

Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind celebrated a crushing victory during British GT’s annual European foray to Spa – the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini duo stealing a march in the championship on a day when many of their rivals endured a different type of crushing.

Eliminated on lap one last time out at Donington Park, Machitski and Lind were one of the only crews to emerge unscathed from a bruising Belgian encounter, one that became more about survival than outright pace before it even actually started.

Even ahead of qualifying, there were casualties, with the guesting Leipert Lamborghini GT3 being withdrawn almost as soon as it arrived after Brendon Leitch’s crash in first practice. Then, in the wet second session, Scott Malvern caught standing water on the climb to Raidillon, the resulting 20G impact with the barriers putting the Team Parker Racing Porsche out. That left just eight GT3 runners when the grid formed up, and not even all of those made it past the start/finish line.

Machitski and Lind had already bossed qualifying, securing top spot by half-a-second ahead of joint championship leaders Beechdean AMR (Andrew Howard joined by Ross Gunn, with regular team-mate Jonny Adam required to self-isolate) and the RAM Racing Mercedes of Ian Loggie/Yelmer Buurman.

Pole turned out to be about the only safe place to be when the lights went out for the rolling start. Machitski didn’t get away brilliantly and Loggie behind made a better launch to get a run on him, jinking left just as Donington winner Richard Neary – starting from the back of GT3 after a wishbone failure in qualifying – was attempting to put his ABBA Mercedes straight through the middle, having reacted quickest when the lights went out.

The contact launched Neary into a spin in the pack, leaving Team Rocket RJN McLaren drivers Michael Benyahia (GT4) and Mia Flewitt (GT3) with nowhere to go. Loggie limped back to the pits, where the RAM mechanics changed his rear suspension in just 20 minutes to allow the car to rejoin, albeit seven laps down, in the hope of bagging some points.

Richard Neary (Mercedes-AMG GT3) British GT, Spa 2021

Richard Neary (Mercedes-AMG GT3) British GT, Spa 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

With one championship contender struggling, Machitski didn’t hang around when the resulting safety car finally departed, and set about pulling a healthy gap over Howard’s Aston Martin, which had no answer to Machitski’s pace due to over-inflated tyres. The Lamborghini simply disappeared into a near 30-second lead before handing over to Lind, who in truth didn’t have much to do in the two-hour race.

“Leo did literally all of the work for that, I just got in the car and drove about, staying out of trouble,” said Lind. “I did radio the team at one point to ask about fastest lap as I wanted something to go for!” He got it, too. And his efforts helped the car to a mighty 49s advantage at the flag to record the pair’s first win of the season and Machitski’s first British GT3 win since 2006 – when he won the class title in what could prove to be an ominous statistic.

Behind, things were far from settled. Howard was running a solid second until he was called into the pits a few moments before the pit window had actually opened, essentially giving himself a stop/go penalty, and then picking up an eight-second stop/go for speeding while doing so. That dropped Beechdean to fourth, almost two minutes down on the winners.

With the Aston gone, Stewart and Lewis Proctor’s Balfe McLaren moved up to second. It had been an effective roadblock for both Michael Igoe and Adam Balon’s Lamborghinis in the opening stint – Igoe briefly losing fourth to Balon with a mistake at Fagnes before regaining the position with a bold move into Eau Rouge. Further around that 14th lap, Balon spun at Campus and lost 90s to the group ahead digging himself out of the gravel.

After taking the WPI Huracan over from Igoe, Phil Keen finally managed to pass the McLaren after getting a run on Lewis Proctor through traffic up Eau Rouge. That sealed second for the Brands Hatch winners, and helped get their title bid back on track after two disappointing rounds. The Proctors brought their McLaren home third for a maiden British GT podium as a pairing, while Gunn just fended off the Balon/Sandy Mitchell Lamborghini – which then had 30s added to its race time in lieu of a drivethrough for straying beyond track limits – to claim fourth.

And what of RAM? Buurman managed an overheating gearbox to reach the finish in 13th and sixth of the GT3 runners, keeping himself and Loggie well in the title hunt. The result also means that neither Beechdean nor RAM will carry a success penalty into the next round at Snetterton. With the top four crews being covered by 16.5 points, the season run-in should be anything but dull.

Spa British GT4: Marshall and Brown give McLaren victory

Ashley Marshall/Jack Brown (McLaren 570S) British GT, Spa 2021

Ashley Marshall/Jack Brown (McLaren 570S) British GT, Spa 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

It’s safe to say that the McLaren 570S hasn’t enjoyed a successful British GT4 season so far in 2021.

It has largely struggled against renewed competition from the upgraded Century Motorsport BMWs and others, but Balfe Motorsport’s Ashley Marshall and Jack Brown brought a ray of sunshine to Woking with a fine victory at Spa, even if they had to overcome a few obstacles to secure it.

It came as little surprise that Century’s runaway championship leaders Will Burns and Gus Burton plonked their M4 on pole but, with an extra 20s to serve on their pitstop after winning last time out at Donington, a clear run in the first stint would be vital to their hopes. They didn’t get it.

While Burns managed to avoid the chaos at the start, taking the restart in fourth overall, he couldn’t pull away from Marshall’s chasing 570S. That in itself was remarkable, given Marshall was caught in a second early clash at La Source, which both knocked his tracking out and also affected the throttle map.

Will Burns/Gus Burton (BMW M4) British GT, Spa 2021

Will Burns/Gus Burton (BMW M4) British GT, Spa 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

“The car was a real handful, it was pretty wayward on the straights and the throttle was permanently stuck open by 30%, so it wasn’t easy to manage,” he said. Still, Marshall stuck to Burns’s tail and drafted ahead into Eau Rouge, before repelling a counter challenge at Les Combes. From there, he crafted a three-second lead before handing across to Brown at the pit window, which jumbled the order further.

Matt Topham had been forced to bring his Pro-Am Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin to a complete stop in the startline mayhem, then lost more time in a tangle with Mark Sansom’s Ginetta during an eventful opening stint. But, with the Silver Cup entries all having to serve an extra 26s at their stops, co-driver Darren Turner emerged in third and looked a real threat.

After passing Katie Milner (Team Rocket RJN) for second, Turner hacked away at Brown’s advantage at the rate of two seconds per lap and then pulled a terrific move for the lead around the outside of Pouhon. But a 30s penalty for track limits abuse handed the victory back to Marshall/Brown.

Turner’s pace was such that he retained second – and Pro-Am honours – with Burns/Burton capping the podium. Matt Cowley inherited fourth when Milner was stopped by a puncture at the Bus Stop, after prevailing in a terrific scrap with Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke’s BMW, both delayed by drivethroughs for track limits infringements.

Spa British F3: O’Sullivan stars come rain and shine to extend points lead

British F3, Spa 2021

British F3, Spa 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Despite not taking a win on BRDC British F3’s traditional visit to Spa in Belgium last weekend, championship leader Zak O’Sullivan did his chances of the title no harm at all.

The Carlin driver took home two second places in the opening pair of races at the Belgian Grand Prix venue, as well as a fighting drive to seventh from 15th in the full reversed-grid race three on Sunday morning. He extended his championship lead in each race and, having entered the weekend with a 47-point margin at the top of the standings over Hitech’s Reece Ushijima, left the Ardennes with a 78-point buffer to the Japanese-American.

The trio of races produced three different winners, two of whom claimed their maiden British F3 victories. The first went the way of O’Sullivan’s team-mate Christian Mansell, who had prior experience of the circuit having competed in the Euroformula Open round a month ago. The Australian qualified third, but rain arrived in time for the start of the race and he used that to his advantage as he followed O’Sullivan past polesitter Bart Horsten at Les Combes on the first lap.

Mansell followed his team-mate closely for the next three tours and, when O’Sullivan made a mistake at the Bruxelles right-hander, he slipped through and pulled away to take his second victory of the year by 4.5 seconds. Second place for O’Sullivan was his seventh podium in 10 races, while Arden’s Roman Bilinski, a new entrant at the previous round at Donington Park, claimed his first series podium with third.

Bilinski’s weekend went from good to brilliant in race two, as he claimed a first British F3 victory from fourth on the grid. Horsten started from pole again and led the first lap, while Bilinski climbed to second past the Carlin pair at Les Combes despite being edged onto the grass by Horsten on the Kemmel Straight.

Roman Bilinski, British F3, Spa 2021

Roman Bilinski, British F3, Spa 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Next time around, the Arden driver used the tow to good effect, blasting into the lead at Les Combes. Horsten kept Bilinski within his sights while O’Sullivan and Mansell closed in behind, with the championship leader moving into second on lap six of nine but he was unable to make an impression on Bilinski, who had the race under control. Mansell deprived Horsten of a podium on the final lap, with yet another move on the Kemmel Straight.

Roberto Faria then claimed his first British F3 win in the full reversed-grid third race, as Fortec locked out the podium places. The Brazilian started fourth, passed polesitter Max Marzorati at the Bus Stop Chicane after an opening-lap battle and then drove around the outside of Reema Juffali at Fagnes on lap three.

Faria’s team-mate Mikkel Grundtvig had already taken the lead on the opening lap and built a gap of over three seconds, but the Rio de Janeiro resident whittled that down and made a move for the lead at Les Combes on the penultimate tour.

Grundtvig took his second podium in four races, with one-off entrant Hunter Yeany completing the Fortec lockout after Ushijima was handed a five-second penalty post-race for exceeding track limits, which dropped him to sixth.

Oulton Park MSVR: Hammond wins again in Minis before big crash

Matt Hammond, Mini Challenge Trophy, Oulton Park 2021

Matt Hammond, Mini Challenge Trophy, Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Mick Walker

Matt Hammond experienced a day of vastly contrasting fortunes at Oulton Park last weekend, as he extended his Mini Challenge Trophy advantage with a win before a major crash put him in hospital.
Hammond resisted pressure from a train of seven cars to take a lights-to-flag victory in the opening encounter.

Charlie Mann led the charge behind but couldn’t create an opportunity to snatch the lead, while Hammond’s nearest championship rival Dominic Wheatley finished third. Louie Capozzoli came out on top in a fierce battle for fourth with Nicky Taylor as the pair made contact a couple of times, before a damaged exhaust caused Taylor to lose power on the final lap and tumble to eighth.

Taylor started on pole for the partially reversed-grid race alongside Alfie Glenie, but it was reigning champion Harry Nunn who grabbed the lead into Old Hall after bravely threading his way between the pair off the line. Lewis Saunders moved into second and then took the lead from Nunn before Hammond’s incident at Druids brought out the red flags. The championship leader was airlifted to Stoke Royal Infirmary, before being released on Tuesday evening having undergone CT and MRI scans. A result was declared after two laps, with Saunders the winner from Nunn with a full investigation into the circumstances of the crash due to be held at a later date.

The meeting was abandoned due to the approaching time curfew, preventing the second Monoposto F3 race from going ahead. Martin Wright took victory in the earlier race, which had to be restarted after the front three collided just moments after the lights went out. Points leader Lee Fern moved between F3 class rival James Drew-Williams and M1400 runner Jason Timms off the line but the gap disappeared, sending all three into the barriers.

A cracked oil filler prevented Chris Davison from taking the restart in his Dallara F301 F3 car, leaving the front two rows of the grid empty for the resumption. That enabled Wright to lead away in his M1400 301 machine, with James Rimmer and Bryn Tootell applying early pressure behind. Wright was eventually able to pull clear, while Rimmer was denied a podium finish after retiring with a broken gearbox.

Lewis Ryan, Focus Cup, Oulton Park 2021

Lewis Ryan, Focus Cup, Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Mick Walker

Championship leader Dan Gore took two wins in the Moto 1000 category, triumphing in the first race ahead of fellow Jedi racer Nikita Abramov before resisting a late charge from Dan Clowes in race two.

Simon Rudd extended his slender Focus Cup points advantage with a controlled victory in race one ahead of Gary Mitchell. Lewis Ryan took the lead away from Spencer Fortag at the start of the partially reversed-grid race, but came under early pressure from Scott Parkin. Rudd climbed from sixth to join the lead battle, passing Parkin with three laps to go. Ryan ran deep into the Knickerbrook chicane on the final tour, but was able to hold off Rudd to take the win. Charlie Barre crashed heavily at the chicane after contact with Branko Kiprovski, who was disqualified for causing the collision.

Defending F3 Cup champion Stefano Leaney continued his unbeaten run this season with another dominant brace, though slow starts from pole in both races allowed brief spells in front for George Line and Shane Kelly.

Cody Tree overtook championship leader Steve Dickens in the early stages of the opening Clubmans Sports Prototype race in his Phantom P94, before taking a dominant win ahead of Mike Evans and Dickens. Evans passed Tree exiting Old Hall for the first time to lead the second race and fended his rival off until the finish, while Dickens was fourth behind Pete Richings.

Prescott British Hillclimb: Menzies double extends slender lead over Summers

Wallace Menzies (3.3 Gould-Cosworth GR59M), Prescott British Hillclimb 2021

Wallace Menzies (3.3 Gould-Cosworth GR59M), Prescott British Hillclimb 2021

Photo by: Paul Lawrence

On a weekend when none of the top contenders could quite claim a perfect performance, Wallace Menzies was the best of the British Hillclimb Championship runners as he scored an important double victory at Prescott.

In winning both run-offs, the defending champion added a critical three points to his slender championship lead over Alex Summers as the season reached rounds 17 and 18 of 28. “It’s absolutely nothing, really,” said Menzies of his title lead. “Speaking to the other guys, everybody seemed to be making small mistakes and I was over the moon to be so close to Sean’s record.”

The Scot’s Gould came within five hundredths of a second of Sean Gould’s outright mark in the first of the two top 12 run-offs. As ever, Menzies and Summers were incredibly evenly matched, but Gould was right in the hunt as this trio claimed all the podium places.

The first run-off proved to be the quicker of the two and it was Menzies who set the mark in 35.46 seconds, a whisker shy of Gould’s 22-month-old record. But Gould was right on the money and ran Menzies to within a tenth of a second with an attacking climb, despite ongoing tweaking of his GR59’s traction control. Gould said: “The car’s fantastic: I couldn’t fault the handling. The limitation was the driver really and in getting this traction control setting correct.”

Summers ran third but admitted that it wasn’t as good a climb as it might have been, and he was more than half a second away from Gould, as Scott Moran and Richard Spedding took fourth and fifth.

Alex Summers (2.7 DJ-Cosworth Firestorm), Prescott British Hillclimb 2021

Alex Summers (2.7 DJ-Cosworth Firestorm), Prescott British Hillclimb 2021

Photo by: Paul Lawrence

The absence of top runners Trevor Willis and Dave Uren with engine dramas opened the door for a gaggle of ferociously competitive smaller-engined cars to get into the points. On his first UK hillclimb for nearly two years, Malta’s Zach Zammit was mighty on the opening run-off, running within three tenths of a second of Spedding, while Eynon Price and David Warburton continued their tremendous contest by matching each other on 37.61s.

Later, at the end of a remarkably incident-free afternoon, Menzies only qualified fourth for the second run-off after a big moment out of Pardon in the class runs. “You want to run last so that you can see what you have to do,” said Menzies but, as is so often the case, he strung it all together when he really needed to and set a 35.75s, which was good enough for a second win. Summers and Gould chased hard, and both broke the 36s barrier, with Summers taking the runner-up slot by five hundredths of a second.

Summers said: “That last one was quick, and then I had a load of understeer coming out of the second part of the Esses. I think we were strong up to there and then you can feel it slipping away.”

Spedding narrowly got the better of Moran this time around and Paul Haimes was a very committed sixth as little more than a tenth separated him from Zammit and Warburton. Former racer Charles Hall shared the Empire with Zammit and scored his first BHC points with two top-10 finishes. Finally, another two top-10 scores capped a fine day for Johnathen Varley after setting a new two-litre class record in his GWR Raptor.

Reports by Rob Ladbrook, Richard Randle, Steve Whitfield and Paul Lawrence. Photography by Jakob Ebrey Photography/Motorsport Images, Mick Walker and Paul Lawrence. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine

Sean Gould (4.0 Gould- Judd GR59JB), Prescott British Hillclimb 2021

Sean Gould (4.0 Gould- Judd GR59JB), Prescott British Hillclimb 2021

Photo by: Paul Lawrence

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