OP­TI­MUM’S GT4 SUC­CESS

Motor Sport News - - Review: British Gt -

Among the thriv­ing GT4 field, fa­mil­iar­ity proved the key as Op­ti­mum Mo­tor­sport duo Gra­ham John­son and Mike Robin­son cel­e­brated a maiden ti­tle in their sec­ond cam­paign.

The rise in pop­u­lar­ity of GT4 brought with it a wave of new driv­ers and teams, with record num­bers sign­ing up for the all-semi-pro Sil­ver Cup con­test with young prospects grad­u­at­ing from ju­nior sin­gle-seaters and tin tops.

Within the busy grid, con­sis­tency and grab­bing re­sults when­ever pos­si­ble be­came vi­tal. John­son and Robin­son took full ad­van­tage of their head start on ex­pe­ri­ence and the sorted Ginetta pack­age early in the sea­son to snatch a lead.

“The key to this year was un­der­stand­ing ev­ery­thing,” says John­son. “Mike and I know each other so well – we work to­gether and race to­gether – so we have that un­der­stand­ing of how each other be­haves and drives. We used last year to learn the car and the team, and this year was about putting all of that to­gether.”

Of last year’s field, 2015 run­ners up John­son/robin­son were the only top pair­ing to re­turn un­changed, and they stated their intent when they won the sea­son opener at Brands Hatch by a clear lap and also took a dom­i­nant dou­ble on the third week­end at Oul­ton Park.

How­ever, the pair weren’t flaw­less. John­son crashed out of a solid lead dur­ing round two at Rock­ing­ham. Their car was also taken out at Sil­ver­stone by a clash with a GT3 ma­chine. Both in­ci­dents al­lowed their ri­vals to make a fight of it.

The de­fend­ing Beechdean AMR team ran BRDC For­mula 4 grad­u­ates Jor­dan Al­bert and Jack Bartholomew. The pair didn’t lack pace, but had a lot to learn.

The pair took ad­van­tage to fin­ish sec­ond in Corby, which would be­come the win after Nathan Freke/anna Walewska’s Cen­tury Ginetta was thrown out for pass­ing un­der yel­low flags.

That set up a bat­tle be­tween the top two crews. Beechdean cer­tainly had the con­sis­tency, be­ing the only car in the class to score points in ev­ery race to stay on Op­ti­mum’s tail. But there was a twist in the tail when Al­bert was ruled out of the fi­nal three rounds due to a con­trac­tual is­sue. Beechdean paired Bartholomew with Ross Gunn for those rounds in an at­tempt to haul in the lead­ers, but a brak­ing is­sue at Don­ing­ton ended their chal­lenge and left Bartholomew a solo sec­ond in the points.

A ma­jor fil­lip for GT4 came when Mclaren GT an­nounced it would run its new 570S GT4 for its de­vel­op­ment sea­son with Ciaran Hag­gerty and Sandy Mitchell driv­ing. The car was a game-changer, be­ing the first car­bon-chas­sied en­try for the class. It showed rapid pace but lost early points and a near-cer­tain win at Spa to teething trou­ble.

Other new mar­ques also pro­vided drama, but none more so than Porsche. The new Cay­man Club­sport GT4 caused a stir on re­lease, but for all the wrong rea­sons. Due to pro­duc­tion de­lays the cars were shipped out to teams late and without GT4 up­grade packs or ho­molo­ga­tion. Lanan Rac­ing was due two, but had its or­der can­celled after a pair came up for sale on the in­ter­net from a mys­tery seller. Lanan in­stead rented a Ginetta and won at Spa with Joey Fos­ter and Alex Reed, who will both be in the ti­tle hunt when they re­turn next year.

Scott Malvern and Nick Jones did bring a Cay­man to the se­ries, ini­tially with Simp­son Mo­tor­sport be­fore fin­ish­ing the sea­son with Team Parker. The car was well off the pace, but got faster with each up­grade to­ward the end of the year. Malvern ended the year only 0.4s off the fly­ing Mclaren’s fastest lap at Don­ing­ton, sig­nalling good things for 2017.

Pho­tos: Jakob Ebrey

John­son and Robin­son were ul­tra con­sis­tent

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