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British GT title fight goes on
British GT title fight goes on

The Intelligent Money British GT title fight is going down to the wire, following Daren Leung and Dan Harper’s impressive victory at Brands Hatch last weekend.

The Century Motorsport BMW really came into contention in the second half of the race after the pit window after running just outside the top-three in the initial stages in Leung’s hands.

It was the 2Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG of James Cottingham that enjoyed an advantage early in the race and the series leader rapidly built what appeared to be a significant lead.

The pace setting car’s progress from pole position was stifled however by a pair of safety cars in rapid succession, the first following an accident for Richard Neary’s Mercedes-AMG at Clark Curve and the latter following an off-track excursion for Simon Orange’s McLaren on the Grand Prix section of the circuit.

With the pack bunched up, Cottingham’s margin at the front was completely eliminated. And with the car he shares with Jonny Adam carrying the maximum 20-second pit stop penalty following a victory last time out, a loss of position in the pit stop phase of the race was inevitable.

Cottingham finally led the first of the GT3 contenders into the pits on lap 41, shortly after the hour mark, where the car duly ceded the lead as Adam took to the controls. Ross Gunn assumed the lead in the Beechdean Aston Martin after taking over from Andrew Howard whilst Harper slotted into second after replacing Leung in the driver’s seat.

Adam clung onto third at the head of a rapid Mercedes-AMG train, right in front of Jules Gounon in the second 2Seas machine. Gounon’s presence in the top-four was remarkable given that co-driver Ian Loggie was tipped into a spin at Paddock Hill Bend at lap one and dropped to the back of the pack. Callum Macleod was third in the Mercedes-AMG queue at the wheel of the Greystone GT car shared with Mike Price, whilst Sandy Mitchell rounded out the top-six after taking over from Shaun Balfe who’d run second pre-pit window.

Whilst Gunn possessed the track position at the front, Harper immediately set about lighting up the timing screens with a sequence of super-fast laps of the iconic former Formula 1 layout. This culminated on lap 45 when the Northern Irishman posted a time of 1m24.480s to set a new British GT3 lap record of Brands Hatch.

Harper’s attack on the led was briefly interrupted by the safety car’s third appearance of the day, this time for a visit to the Clearways gravel trap by Joe Wheeler’s GT4 Ginetta. The race resumed with 45 minutes to go with Gunn leading from Harper, Adam, Gounon and Macleod with the leading duo still bunched closely together.

The battle for the lead really intensified on lap 57 when Harper made the most of lapped traffic to launch an audacious overtaking attempt through Dingle Dell and up to Sheene Curve. The door was firmly closed, however that all changed a lap later when Harper got a much stronger run through Hawthorn. The BMW was able to cut back and secure the inside line into Westfield to claim a lead that wouldn’t be lost.

From there until the chequered flag, Harper was rarely much more than a second ahead of Gunn but he controlled matters calmly to take the chequered flag. Further behind, Adam drove home to seal a strong podium finish, but by finishing behind Leung and Harper, he and Cottingham will have to wait until the series finale at Donington Park if they’re to seal the title.

Gounon crossed the line fourth after a trouble free final stint to complete a remarkable comeback from Loggie’s early misfortune. Things weren’t so simpler for Macleod however, with his car slowing down with an issue just two laps from the end to drop out of fifth. This opened the door for Mitchell to secure fifth place for himself and Balfe in one of Barwell Motorsport’s Lamborghinis.

Behind that, Martin Plowman and Mark Smith finished sixth in Paddock Motorsport’s McLaren ahead of Chris Hart and James Wallis in the Drivetac Mercedes-AMG. Rob Bell and Mark Radcliffe’s McLaren and the Lamborghini of Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha were the only other cars to finish on the lead lap.

The top-ten was completed by the Sky Tempesta Racing McLaren of Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt. This was another impressive drive through the field after Tse was caught up in the same incident as Loggie at Paddock Hill Bend on lap one and the car was forced to make an early visit to the pits.

The GT4 title will also go down to the wire after runaway class leaders Jack Brown and Charles Clark dropped out of the running early on. Victory in the GT4 field went to Matt Cowley and Erik Evans, with Seb Hopkins and Josh Miller and Chris Salkeld and Michael Johnston completing the rostrum.

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