Title rivals come to blows in TOCA supports as British GT visits Silverstone

Silverstone welcomed the British GT and British F3 championships last weekend with some new faces on the top step of the podium. While rain, Brands Hatch and British F4 once again provided plenty of excitement, and Porsche Carrera Cup protagonists Dan Cammish and Harry King came to blows out on track.

Title rivals come to blows in TOCA supports as British GT visits Silverstone

Hunter Abbott and Martin Kodric were the dominant force in British GT’s blue riband event, as they convincingly won the Silverstone 500 for the returning 2 Seas Motorsport squad.

The part-time entry had already set down a marker in qualifying, placing the team’s new Mercedes-AMG GT3 clear by 1.7 seconds, although its advantage proved to be not as large in race trim.

Surprisingly, the three-hour contest ran without any caution periods – which allowed for a new distance record to be set – with a range of different strategies being implemented as all crews were required to make three driver changes at some stage.

Abbott led from the outset, pulling out almost a second a lap initially to build up a sizeable lead, while Ian Loggie (RAM Racing Mercedes), Brendan Iribe (Inception Racing McLaren 720S) and Adam Balon (Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Evo) circulated in close proximity behind.

Iribe made a decisive move up the inside of Loggie at Brooklands after 15 minutes and immediately pulled away, but just two laps later his and team-mate Ollie Millroy’s race was over after a coming together with the GT4 Mercedes of Dave Whitmore through Becketts, which damaged the GT3 car’s right-rear suspension.

Taking avoiding action, Loggie dropped behind Balon, Giacomo Petrobelli (TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage) and the fast-rising Richard Neary, whose Abba Racing-run Mercedes had started 10th. Neary made further progress, disposing of Petrobelli around the outside of the left at Club at the 30-minute mark and moving onto the back of Balon, who was 12s behind Abbott.

Unable to find a way past the Huracan, Neary was the first of the leaders to pit after 42 minutes, handing over to son Sam. Any hopes of challenging for victory were dashed moments later, though, when Neary Jr brought the car back in after it had suffered terminal gearbox issues.

Abbott stopped for the first time just after the hour mark, handing over to Kodric, but any advantage had all but evaporated as Dennis Lind had closed to within a second and a half in his Barwell-run Lamborghini.

Leo Machitski/Dennis Lind (Lamborghini Huracan Evo GT3), British GT, Silverstone 2021

Leo Machitski/Dennis Lind (Lamborghini Huracan Evo GT3), British GT, Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

The Dane took over from Leo Machitski, who had spun in spectacular fashion through Farm Curve on the opening lap and dropped to the rear of the GT3 field before making an impressive recovery and being one of the first to stop. Some blistering laps while other cars circulated with Am drivers had brought Lind into contention and he soon took the lead from Kodric on the inside of Woodcote, edging out more than seven seconds before diving into the pits for stop two just before the halfway point.

He was followed in four laps later by the Paddock Motorsport entry of Martin Plowman, who after taking over from Kelvin Fletcher, had steadily risen up the order in his Bentley Continental and had closed to within touching distance of Kodric. But when the Croatian made 2 Seas’ second stop a lap later, the car rejoined in a net-lead, with a two-second advantage over Machitski, and Fletcher a further six behind.

By this point, several crews took the decision to extend their second stints in the hope of a caution, with Loggie/Yelmer Buurman, Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam (TF Sport Aston), James Cottingham/Sam De Haan (RAM Mercedes) and Bonamy Grimes/Marco Sorensen (TF Sport Aston) occupying the top spots into the final hour.

Abbott was the first of the net-leaders to make their final visits to the pits and, once all stops had been made, Kodric found himself with a lead of nearly nine seconds, having benefited when the Machitski/Lind machine was forced to serve a 10s success penalty for its third-place finish at the opening round.

As Kodric guided his Mercedes to victory, Balon’s co-driver Sandy Mitchell closed up behind Barwell stablemate Lind over the final minutes. When the former was baulked on the last lap by a GT4 machine entering Hangar Straight, Mitchell made an audacious move around the outside of Stowe, with the pair touching, before completing the pass into Club.

“The team were saying don’t try anything risky but you’re free to race, especially at this point in the season,” said reigning GT3 champion Mitchell. “I went around the outside and it was down to Dennis if he was going to leave the room. I just had enough room.”

With the 2 Seas entry not eligible for points, Balon/Mitchell took the maximum 37.5 points on offer but Machitski/Lind now lead the standings. Petrobelli and Charlie Eastwood finished fourth, 20s off the podium battle, with Loggie/Buurman, Howard/Adam, Grimes/Sorensen and Cottingham/De Haan – Silver/Am winners – completing the top eight.

Brands Hatch race victors Michael Igoe and Phil Keen finished 11th, having lacked pace all weekend in their WPI Motorsport-run Lamborghini, while Fletcher/Plowman retired with a suspected broken rear-left driveshaft in the final 30 minutes when on course for a top-five finish.

British GT4 Silverstone: Maiden British GT success for Turner and Topham

Matt Topham/Darren Turner (Aston Martin Vantage GT3), British GT, Silverstone 2021

Matt Topham/Darren Turner (Aston Martin Vantage GT3), British GT, Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Aston Martin stalwart Darren Turner and endurance racing newbie Matt Topham both took their maiden victories in British GT, as they came out on top of an intriguing strategic battle in GT4.

The duo, who were driving for the returning Newbridge Motorsport outfit, initially languished down in the midfield as polesitter Richard Williams (Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS) led from Will Burns (Century Motorsport BMW M4), with Matt Cowley’s Academy Motorsport-run Ford Mustang moving up into third in the opening laps having started last due to a lack of running in qualifying.

Williams was an early stopper, coming in just before the half-hour mark and handing over to Sennan Fielding, as Burns took up the lead and, once the opening stops had been made, Turner had cycled through to second, ahead of Moore (in for Cowley) and the battling BMW of Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Scott McKenna (Toyota GR Supra).

Just past the halfway point, Turner’s Aston Martin Vantage took to the front for the first time, passing Gus Burton’s BMW along the Wellington Straight and began setting impressive times – which were needed as the Williams/Fielding Audi had already made its second stop and was a threat for overall victory despite not featuring at the front for much of the race.

Burton, who was victorious with Burns at Brands Hatch, not only had to contend with an additional 14 seconds per stop due to being a Silver Cup entry, but would have to sit for a further 20s at the final stop due to their opening round success. As a result, they gambled on a safety car and didn’t make their second stop until 35 minutes were left on the clock, and their final stop with 15 minutes to run.

They were unable to overcome their additional time though, dropping to fourth behind Turner, Fielding and McKenna, who along with John Ferguson had steadily brought the Toyota into the podium places.
Despite closing to within two seconds at one stage, Fielding couldn’t mount a challenge on Turner, who despite his years of sportscar racing had never won in British GT before, while Topham was making his debut in the championship.

“Newbridge have done a lovely job and they are still getting up to speed with the car,” said Turner. “They are a young team with lots of enthusiasm and are really promising. Matt did a stand-out performance, it’s been his aspiration since he started racing to get into GT4.”

British F3 Silverstone: Unbelievable Ushijima stakes claim for title

Reece Ushijima, British F3, Silverstone 2021

Reece Ushijima, British F3, Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Reece Ushijima announced himself as a genuine BRDC British Formula 3 title contender with two almost faultless wins at Silverstone. Pre-season favourite Ayrton Simmons endured a trying weekend before salvaging some decent points with victory in the reversed-grid encounter, as championship leader Zak O’Sullivan continued his strong form with a pair of podiums.

Hitech GP driver Ushijima twice converted pole position into a first-corner lead over O’Sullivan – who started second and third respectively – and was never headed in either race despite the Carlin racer’s persistent pressure.

The action largely came behind the leading pair, who might have been challenged by Ushijima’s team-mate Bart Horsten in the opening race if the Australian had cleared Frederick Lubin sooner. The second-row starters diced through the middle portion of the first lap before Horsten made the move stick at Village. Javier Sagrera and Roberto Faria quickly followed through before the unsettled Lubin went off at Becketts, requiring a pitstop to remove grass from his radiator ducts.

Multiple track-limits violations meant Horsten recorded only one representative lap time in qualifying, meaning he would start at the back in race two, so he ran a full set of new tyres to maximise his chances in the opener. He was the fastest man on track, but could only reduce his three-second deficit to 1s at the finish, with the order of the top five remaining static.

Lubin dropped from second to fifth at the start of Sunday morning’s sequel, but the Arden racer recovered by passing Christian Mansell around the outside at Copse, albeit off-track, which earned him a post-race time penalty. He then shadowed Fortec driver Faria as they closed down O’Sullivan, who was suffering with graining.

Ayrton Simmons, British F3, Silverstone 2021

Ayrton Simmons, British F3, Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Having struggled with persistent understeer all weekend, Simmons managed no better than 10th in the opening two races. But from row two of race three’s reversed grid, he followed Chris Dittmann Racing team-mate Max Marzorati around polesitter Reema Juffali at Becketts. Simmons dived inside Marzorati at Brooklands on lap two, then made a perfect restart after a mid-race safety car to take his second win of the season.

Alex Connor inherited second – his and Arden’s maiden podium in the championship – after a rear puncture from contact with Bryce Aron ended Marzorati’s race, while Faria completed a profitable weekend in third.

O’Sullivan and Ushijima got embroiled in midfield scraps on their way to ninth and 10th respectively. Horsten, who impressed on his charge to sixth in race two, crashed out after clashing with Mikkel Grundtvig, for which he will serve a five-place grid penalty next time out at Donington Park.

As one of only a handful of returning drivers in 2021, Ushijima’s title prospects had gone under the radar, even after a strong weekend at Brands Hatch placed him behind only O’Sullivan and part-timer Oliver Bearman in the standings. But the first-time winner has now closed to within six points of O’Sullivan, the pair well clear of Faria in third.

“The first one’s the hardest so I’m glad to get it out the way,” he said. “I heard at the beginning of the season that no-one really counted me in it. If we just keep doing what we did this weekend then it should be all right.”

TOCA Brands Hatch: Rain spices up British F4 again as Cammish and King collide in Porsches

James Hedley, British F4, Brands Hatch 2021

James Hedley, British F4, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Rain, British Formula 4 and Brands Hatch is proving a perfect recipe for exciting and unpredictable racing. After last year’s finale ended in dramatic circumstances with late rain having title-deciding consequences, the second race of last weekend’s event was another thriller.

Precipitation, of the heavy drizzle form, arrived shortly beforehand and left teams and drivers uncertain over which tyres to use. But, unlike the wet/dry race at Thruxton earlier this year, there would be no clear-cut winning strategy.

To begin with, it was advantage to the wet-shod runners. Front-row starters Matthew Rees and McKenzy Cresswell slithered off the line and tumbled down the pack, suffering a lack of grip on their slicks. James Hedley, who had made the right call to win in Hampshire, was on a charge on his wets from a lowly 10th on the grid and shot past early leader Matias Zagazeta at McLaren on lap 10 of 23.

But the rain was easing, and soon the pendulum swung in favour of slicks. Rees was heading the charge and ensured Hedley’s lead only lasted five laps before passing him into Paddock Hill Bend.

And then, moments later, the rain fell heavier again. Hedley was back in front after two laps and his badly-worn wets powered him six seconds clear of Rees. For Hedley, it was a welcome boost after his work to rise from ninth to fourth in the opener went unrewarded when he picked up a puncture after contact with debutant Aiden Neate.

“It was so great to bounce back from yesterday,” said the Fortec driver. “I was trying to cool the tyres and was going on the grass. I was just skating around at the end.”

Third was another slick-shod driver, Abbi Pulling, who added a second podium after beating Dougie Bolger to third in race one by 0.226s. She had dropped to last after a tangle with Marcos Flack but stormed through on slicks and felt she might have won without the delay. “The red mist came down and I was pushing,” said JHR driver Pulling.

Earlier, Zak Taylor took a dominant win in the opener – the reversed-grid contest this time after a tweak to the usual format – which featured a lengthy safety car period, while Zagazeta claimed his maiden victory in the finale having gone around the outside of polesitter Cresswell at the start. But neither of these dry races could quite muster the twists and turns of the wet middle race.

Dan Cammish and Harry King, Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Brands Hatch 2021

Dan Cammish and Harry King, Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Porsche

Lorcan Hanafin took victory as the drama ratcheted up in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, with the much-hyped rivalry between Dan Cammish and Harry King resulting in a collision on the second lap.

Cammish snatched pole in his Redline car from Team Parker man King and led the first lap, before King tried to dive down the inside at Paddock Hill Bend. Contact was made, spinning Cammish, while King stayed second behind new leader Kiern Jewiss.

Jewiss slid wide at Graham Hill Bend on the fifth lap, with King and Hanafin moving ahead. Hanafin never gave up and, when King braked too late at Druids halfway through the race, the JTR driver went for the inside line. As King moved to defend, contact was made and he spun backwards into the barriers, before returning to the pits to retire. That left Hanafin to a comfortable win from Jewiss and Will Martin. Cammish spun again when he collided with Josh Caygill, before recovering to 10th.

An astonishing start from King in the partially reversed-grid race lifted him from 12th to sixth in one lap, as Jamie Orton led. King broke into the top three when he shouldered his way inside Lewis Plato at Surtees, and took second from Orton with eight laps remaining. But he couldn’t catch Martin, who’d taken the lead off Orton with a clean move at Druids on lap 14 of 34. Hanafin was third, but a track-limits penalty promoted Cammish – apologetic to Orton for a clash at Surtees that sent the early leader off – onto the podium.

Dan Zelos, Mini Challenge, Brands Hatch 2021

Dan Zelos, Mini Challenge, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

It was not the most encouraging of starts to Dan Zelos’s Brands Hatch Mini Challenge weekend. A lack of pressure in a damper limited him to 11th place in qualifying but Zelos remained optimistic – “it’s Mini Challenge, anything’s possible!”.

Sure enough, he made steady progress to seventh in the opener, while Max Bird just resisted returnee Jack Mitchell for the win.

Zelos’s words about unpredictability rang true in race two as Bird and Excelr8 team-mate Mitchell again battled. And that tussle came to a dramatic conclusion when Mitchell went for a late lunge into Paddock Hill Bend and succeeded in sending Bird into the gravel. Mitchell was excluded and that promoted Coates to a first win with the Graves Motorsport squad, from Zelos.

Zelos then ended his 21-month wait for a victory in the reversed-grid finale. Sam Weller got the initial advantage but was tapped sideways and Jason Lockwood grabbed the lead, until Zelos pounced on the inside at Druids three laps later. “We’ve had a duck for over a year and that was always in the back of my mind,” said Zelos. “I think we can now build on this momentum.”

Further back, Bird soared up from 27th to finish eighth (smashing his target of a top 15) to bounce back from his race-two strife.

Callum Voisin, Ginetta Junior, Brands Hatch 2021

Callum Voisin, Ginetta Junior, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Being handed a 70-point deduction last time out, after a technical illegality was found on his R Racing car, could have derailed impressive Ginetta Junior rookie Callum Voisin’s momentum. Instead he delivered the best possible response with a brilliant hat-trick at Brands Hatch.

Voisin had to work hard for his win in the opener after losing the lead to Liam McNeilly – who continued his strong form after a breakthrough Snetterton win – around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend. Voisin was all over the back of the Fox machine and eventually made a move stick into Paddock at half-distance. McNeilly just held onto second, finishing 0.027 seconds ahead of Seb Hopkins.

Voisin grabbed the lead on the second lap of race two, passing McNeilly on the inside at Druids, before a red flag for a frightening crash between Ian Aguilera and Ed Pearson at Paddock. Voisin controlled the nine-lap restart and completed his hat-trick in a disjointed race three, which was also red-flagged when a dozen cars spun on oil at Graham Hill Bend. “It was the best way to bounce back after such a bad Snetterton,” said the delighted triple winner. “We did our talking on the track.”

While Voisin is seventh in the table with his deduction, three podiums for Hopkins allowed him to retake the lead.

Adam Smalley, Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Brands Hatch 2021

Adam Smalley, Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

The Ginetta GT4 Supercup wins may have been shared at Brands Hatch, but the main beneficiary was Adam Smalley as he profited from two of his title rivals colliding in the opener.

Smalley had been supreme at the opening round at Snetterton, but was denied a potential hat-trick after a tangle with Tom Hibbert. That meant he arrived in Kent third in the points, but his position soon improved when Hibbert was sent spinning at Graham Hill Bend by Josh Rattican, second in the points pre-weekend. Hibbert was in turn collected by James Blake-Baldwin and Steve Roberts and a lengthy safety car period ensued.

Up at the front, Carlito Miracco resisted Smalley to claim an impressive maiden series win, while second was enough for Smalley to reclaim the points advantage.

There was more joy for Smalley in the second contest, in which he went around the outside of Miracco into Paddock Hill Bend at the start to snatch a lead he wasn’t to lose. Tom Emson grabbed second at Paddock late on, to add to his third place in the opener, while Miracco tumbled out of contention at Druids when attempting to fight back on Emson. This meant Hibbert’s impressive recovery was rewarded with third.

That podium put Hibbert third on the partially reversed-grid for the finale and, after polesitter Rattican made a poor getaway, he soon dispatched Reece Somerfield into Clearways to take the spoils. But, on the final lap, Hibbert came under intense pressure from Blake-Baldwin, who was a man on a mission.

Brands Hatch can be a difficult place to overtake, but nobody had told the former Mazda MX-5 ace that, and he carved his way through the field from 14th on the grid on his fresher tyres to threaten Hibbert. It was a great reward after his AK Motorsport squad was unable to repair his damaged car in order to get out for the second race.

“I thought I had more time,” said Blake-Baldwin of his bid to pass Hibbert for the win. “I thought I’d wait a lap and then have him. We made a massive call and completely changed the set-up and we hit the sweet spot.”

Further back, Elite Motorsport driver Smalley finished fifth – behind Roberts and Emson – but it was enough for him to depart Brands with a five-point lead over Rob Boston Racing’s Hibbert.

Reports by Stefan Mackley, Mark Paulson, Stephen Lickorish and Marcus Simmons. Photography by Jakob Ebrey Photography. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine

Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Brands Hatch 2021

Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

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