The 2017 British GT season made a sensational start last Bank Holiday weekend at the picturesque Oulton Park circuit, with the #33 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen claiming a double victory in a mix of wet and dry conditions.
Qualifying on Saturday saw Team Parker Racing driver Seb Morris posting a best time of 1:32.993 in his Bentley Continental GT3 – six-tenths faster than last year thanks in no small part to the new Pirelli P Zero DHD slick tyre. He was joined on the front row by Keen in the immaculately prepared Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3, with their sister car, driven by Liam Griffin and Sam Tordoff, qualifying two-tenths behind on the second row.
Race one proved to be a dominant tour de force for the Barwell Motorsport duo. Following heavy showers on Sunday morning, Minshaw made the best of the wet circuit, managing to sneak down the inside of Parfitt Jnr’s pole-sitting Bentley into Old Hall before settling into his rhythm. He then proceeded to open up a lead, 5 seconds, 14 seconds, 20 seconds.. before passing the reins to team-mate Keen at the compulsory pit stop.
The #33 Huracan’s lead would never be challenged, but the battle for second was much closer.
Morris, had taken the wheel from Parfitt Jnr at the pit stop and rejoined in second but struggled to find pace on a damp, but drying track. It would not be long before Tordoff in the second Lamborghini found an opening, passing Morris at Knickerbrook before setting off in pursuit of his Barwell team-mate who eventually crossed the line with a 37.2 second advantage.
Sadly, a podium was not on the cards for the pole-sitters. Reigning champions Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam, in the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3, came storming through from 11th on the grid to finish 3rd overall by the end of the 60-minute stint. Johnston had a great opening lap, picking up three places from the start before inheriting two more when Ian Loggie spun in the second Team Parker Racing Bentley and Mowle ended up in the Shell Oils tyre wall in his Mercedes-AMG GT3. The TF Sport Astons swapped places during their visit to the pits, and after first re-passing team-mate Jon Barnes on-track, Adam slipped past Morris taking third and leaving Morris to settle for fourth at the flag.
Round two was a mirror of the first race, with the #31 Bentley on pole and the #33 Huracan passing Morris around the outside of Old Hall before settling into the lead. But the podium this time was completed by TF Sport Astons – finishing just 1.9 seconds behind the Minshaw/Keen Lamborghini, with the pole sitting Bentley finishing 15 seconds further behind in 5th.
This weekend sees the championship return to the banked curves of Rockingham for the first two-hour race of the season. Four different manufacturers and teams have claimed victory at the Corby circuit during the past four years, and while Barwell’s Minshaw and Keen will be hoping to maintain their perfect start to the season, it won’t be easy – the #33 car carries a 20 second pit stop success penalty going into the third round.
And with the TF Sport Astons carrying 15 and 10 second penalties each, perhaps the sun will shine on the Team Parker Bentleys after the disappointment of Oulton.
Tickets for this weekend’s third round of the season at Rockingham start from just £12, while children aged 15 and under go free (ticket required). Click here for more details.
And if you’re unable to attend, you can watch Sunday’s two-hour British GT race live on Front Runner TV (Freeview channel 91, FreeSat 250, YouView/TalkTalk/BT 91 and Sky 468). Live timing and circuit commentary provided by TSL can be found here.