British GT : Oulton Park report
Barwell and Team Parker both break their ducks for the season. By Tom Errington
Fine margins defined the two races at Oulton Park, handing Lamborghini a first win since Spa 2010, before Rick Parfitt and Seb Morris took their first victory in the GT3 division for Bentley.
Adam Carroll and Liam Griffin’s pit strategy proved to be the masterstroke that became the catalyst for their dominant race one win.
Their decision went against the majority of the grid’s pit strategy, with a crowded pit lane on the window’s opening claiming the victory hopes of the polesitting Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw Huracan, as well as the rivalling Bentley.
Lessons were learned for the second race, and Morris’s incredible first stint before he pitted gave Parfitt the perfect platform to take their first win in British GT.
Pit stops had little impact in GT4, where Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson’s superb pace in their Ginetta was enough to secure two wins.
Their first was a straightforward run to the flag, while the second relied on the duo keeping their noses clean as rivals faltered.
Carroll’s commanding first victory for Barwell Motorsport’s Huracan was the result of a different pit strategy to the majority.
As has been the case in the first two rounds, the opening of the pit window leads to most cars pitting to hand over to their team-mates.
Like Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston at Brands Hatch, Liam Griffin stayed out for an extra tour before handing over to Carroll.
That decision was quickly vindicated. Griffin had been running behind the polesitting sister Huracan of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen and the Bentley, but would soon jump them.
Those two cars ahead pitted at the window’s opening, and became embroiled in pitlane errors.
Minshaw’s Barwell-run car would have to serve a seven-second success penalty carried over from Rockingham, but the Bentley had no such hindrance. Yet that would count for nothing, as Morris was blocked in his pit box by the Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren 650S of Rob Bell and Alasdair Mccaig.
Morris lost crucial time – he estimated between 15 and 20 seconds – but the Bentley was impeded further when Keen was released incorrectly alongside.
Keen was then given a 10s stop-go penalty for his part in the pits, but the Mclaren was the killer blow to Parfitt and Morris’s hopes.
“We lost 20 seconds there,” said Parfitt. “Everything was working perfectly. I knew once I didn’t pass Minshaw that I had to just follow, and their success penalty would work for us but the Mclaren blocked us and ended that.”
While Keen could only return to finish seventh, Morris took the wheel of the Bentley and expertly carved his way up the order and into third.
Carroll was out of reach for Morris, but the AMD Tuning BMW of Joe Osborne had lucked in during the stops and made enough ground to emerge second once the order worked out. Osborne ran just over six seconds ahead of Morris with 10 laps to go.
Osborne, boosted by the early pitting of their last generation Z4 by Lee Mowle, was forced to go defensive late on. The Bentley had the superior pace, but help from an unlikely source secured second for Osborne.
The bonnet of Matthew George’s GT4 Aston came loose and landed at Knickerbrook on the final lap, bringing out the yellow flags and nullifying a potential passing spot.
“It was a great battle with Joe,” said Morris. “I finally had him on the final lap, I was going to pass on Knickerbook, but a yellow flag meant I had to pull out of the move and get third.”
In GT4, Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson took their second win of the season.
Racing at the last circuit considered to be “Ginetta-friendly,” the pair were untroubled as they cantered to victory.
Behind the winners, the Aston Martin of Jack Mitchell was able to jump the Team Hard Ginetta of Jordan Stilp for second during the pit window.
Team Parker Racing learnt its lessons from the opener. From pole, Morris put in a sensational opening stint that would secure the Bentley a maiden win.
With pro drivers starting the race, gaps between cars weren’t surprising, but Morris was almost an astonishing 12 seconds clear of Bell’s Mclaren when he pitted from the lead to hand over to Parfitt.
With the success penalty of seven seconds, Morris had more than compensated for the loss of time meaning that Parfitt came out well in front. He was then able to drive into the distance for the win ahead of Alistair Mccaig, who took over from Bell.
Bell wasn’t ever able to challenge the Bentley, admitting the Continental had the pace advantage.
“It’s mixed emotions for us,” he said. “You never want to be second, but with our season so far with gremlins here and there it’s a good result. The car was very good, but the Bentley was so quick.”
Keen and Minshaw bounced back from their race one mishap to take the final podium place, ahead of TF Sport’s Adam and Johnston.
While GT3 was largely processional, GT4 had a fascinating duel for the win that eventually crowned Johnson and Robinson double winners.
The pair had the pace, but the tight confines of Oulton Park meant the duo had to wait for those in front to make mistakes.
Early leader Scott Malvern was cruelly forced out of a comfortable lead with power steering failure, before Anna Walewksa’s mistake led to a crash at Lodge.
While Johnson would inherit the lead as a consequence, he was made to fight hard for it as Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth’s pace regularly had their Ebor Maserati on the tail of their Ginetta.
The Maserati would go on to take their first podium with a second place finish, with Robert Barrable and Aaron Mason finishing the rostrum. ■
Both Lambos had pace, with Griffin/carroll (r) winning
Parfitt and Morris took dominant victory in the second race at Oulton
Johnson/robinson: two GT4 wins