Keen and Igoe star in British GT as spectators return to national events

Michael Igoe and Phil Keen made a dream start to their British GT title assault with a comfortable victory at Brands Hatch. Their WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan was never challenged once Igoe hit the front on lap six, leaving Keen with the relatively simple job of stroking home to a 9.6-second victory over four-time champion Jonny Adam in the polesitting Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage started by Andrew Howard. “Michael has been driving really well, we’ve worked really hard over the winter with his driving and with the team running through routines to make sure that when we arrived here we’re ready to go,” said Keen, who switched from fellow Lamborghini squad Barwell Motorsport over the off-season. “It was fairly stress-free, I just had to monitor the gap to Jonny and that’s it.” Igoe’s second British GT win, after a breakthrough success alongside Andrea Caldarelli at a wet Donington Park last year, served as a warning shot to the rest of the grid that he will be a tough man to beat. “It wasn’t about trying to get the fastest lap out there,” he said. “It was just keeping focused on the job in hand. We had a nice comfortable lead, it wasn’t a pressurised drive on my behalf, so [it was] just [about] keeping it all together and bringing the car back.” The heavens opened as the cars made their way to the grid, but everybody stuck with slicks for the start – which was delayed after debutant Morgan Tillbrook (Enduro Motorsport McLaren) crashed on the first of two planned formation laps at Westfield. The safety car remained out for a further three tours before two-time champion Howard led the field away, but Igoe was more confident in the conditions and made a committed pass at Druids. Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard held on to second Photo by: Jakob Ebrey “He was quicker than me in that phase of the race,” said Howard. “Darren Turner always taught me, ‘Pick your battles’ and that wasn’t one to fight.” Igoe added: “I had more pace than Andrew, so it was just about working out where was going to be the best place for me to make the move.” But he wasn’t able to pull away decisively from Howard, and the gap fluctuated around the 1-1.5s mark until a stroke of good fortune came his way. Just before the safety car was called on lap 25 – the result of James Cottingham’s overly-optimistic lunge on Adam Balon at Paddock Hill Bend that left both cars in the gravel – Igoe had put a lap on Ashley Marshall’s GT4 McLaren. With the Balfe car between himself and Howard for the restart on lap 29, Igoe was immediately two seconds to the good as they crossed the timing line, while Howard came under attack from 2006 GT3 champ Leo Machitski (Barwell) and had to give best at Surtees. Igoe’s lead grew to just over four seconds before handing over to Keen on lap 38, with the latter’s job made easier by a GPS issue delaying Dennis Lind (in for Machitski). The Dane emerged fourth, behind Adam and the RAM Racing Mercedes of Yelmer Buurman that had quietly risen up the order during Ian Loggie’s stint. But it wasn’t long before the reigning Pro-Am champion was coming under heavy pressure from Lind and, on lap 57, he took advantage of Harry Hayek’s Team Rocket RJN GT4 McLaren delaying Buurman slightly on the exit of Hawthorn to dive up the inside at Westfield. Once in clear air, Lind immediately set about closing on Adam and caught him with two laps to go, but his stirring charge went unrewarded as he finished 0.335s in arrears. Dennis Lind was on a charge late on Photo by: Jakob Ebrey “I was basically driving blind trying to catch something I could not see,” explained Lind, who was almost 10s behind Adam when he first grabbed third. “In the end I could see him, but I used the tyres quite vigorously so I didn’t have much left.” Howard, though, was elated with second, having only made two appearances last year. His stated aim of a third title looks entirely feasible. “You’ve got no idea when you’ve been out of it for 18 months what your pace is going to be,” he said. “If you look back over the beginning of the season in all the championships we’ve done, we’ve always had a poor start and then gathered momentum. Hopefully this year we can start a little stronger and keep that momentum up.” Buurman staved off pressure from fellow Merc runner Sam Neary (Team ABBA) to finish fourth, while Scott Malvern was a distant sixth in the Team Parker Racing Porsche he shared with Nick Jones. In his first race outing since clinching the 2019 GT4 Pro-Am title, Kelvin Fletcher was left to rue passing Hayek’s co-driver Katie Milner before the timing line at a restart, copping a drivethrough penalty that dropped the JRM Bentley he shared with Martin Plowman down to seventh, having run a strong fourth early on. It was a successful start for Century BMW pair Will Burns and Gus Burton Photo by: Jakob Ebrey British GT4: Ginetta’s comeback win hopes punctured late on Ginetta was denied a dream return to British GT at Brands Hatch as its new G56 run by Assetto Motorsport suffered a puncture just five laps from home, handing victory to the polesitting Century Motorsport BMW M4. Benefiting from a glut of safety cars that meant the leading Silver cars could not negate a 26-seconds longer pitstop, Pro-Am pairing Charlie Robertson and Mark Sansom had been odds on for the Leeds marque’s first series win since Rockingham 2018 when the left-rear tyre blew. “I must have caught a bit of debris, I was really trying not to run any of the kerbs too excessively,” said a disappointed Robertson. “All I had to do was bring it home, that’s what I was gutted about. These are the days that are a bit tough to swallow in terms of the result.” As the Ginetta plummeted to fourth, Gus Burton and Will Burns gratefully accepted the gift to lead a Century 1-2 ahead of Pro-Am class winners Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke, but had to work hard to get it. The leading pair in the 2020 Ginetta GT4 Supercup lived up to their billing as pre-season favourites by qualifying 0.897s clear of the field and Burns led throughout the opening stint –at one point running ahead of GT3 tail-ender Mike Brown on merit. After Will Moore’s Academy Ford Mustang dropped out with broken suspension courtesy of Stewart Proctor’s GT3 McLaren, Richard Williams moved up to second in the Steller Audi, followed by James Kell (Team Rocket RJN McLaren), Sansom and Salkeld – having survived contact with John Ferguson at Hawthorn that spun the Speedworks Toyota into retirement. Late puncture proved costly for Charlie Robertson and Mark Sansom Photo by: Jakob Ebrey But the safety car resulting from James Cottingham and Adam Balon’s tangle left Burns only 11 minutes before the pit window opened in which to pull a gap – “Will did a cracking job but can’t work a miracle,” said Century boss Nathan Freke – and when he finally took over four laps after his rivals’ stops, Burton was down to third behind Robertson and Gordon-Colebrooke. As Robertson streaked away, Freke admitting “we didn’t have an answer” for him, the two Century cars engaged in a battle royal behind. Gordon-Colebrooke firmly slammed the door at Druids before Burton made the decisive pass around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend. After taking over from Williams, Sennan Fielding was hit with a drivethrough for an unsafe release, promoting Kell and Jordan Collard to a lonely third. British F4 runner-up Zak O’Sullivan is the early BRDC British F3 points leader Photo by: Jakob Ebrey BRDC British F3: O’Sullivan grabs the early lead as Simmons crashes out Series rookie Zak O’Sullivan stayed out of trouble and laid a claim to the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship crown by leaving the opening round at Brands Hatch with the points lead. The Carlin driver was left disappointed to start down in third for the opener, believing a decision not to put new tyres on in qualifying after a red flag period cost him a chance of pole, while Ayrton Simmons returned to the category in fine form with pole and the fastest ever qualifying lap for BRDC British F3 machinery around the Grand Prix loop. With overtaking notoriously difficult at the Kent venue, the opening encounter turned into a procession. Chris Dittmann Racing driver Simmons came out on top from impressive debutant Oliver Bearman (Fortec Motorsport) and O’Sullivan, the front three comfortably clear of Hitech GP duo Bart Horsten and Reece Ushijima. Horsten, in his second full season of British F3, made the best getaway from third on the grid in race two and got between O’Sullivan and Simmons on the run to Paddock Hill Bend. Having secured second, he made an attempt around the outside of Simmons at Druids, but the pair made contact, with Simmons landing on top of Horsten’s machine and leaving both out of the race. Simmons was deemed at fault and was handed a grid penalty for the next round. The collision between two likely title protagonists left the way clear for another challenger, O’Sullivan, to win from Bearman, with Ushijima completing the podium. Christian Mansell stormed into the lead at the start of race three Photo by: Jakob Ebrey A tweaked format for 2021 meant the starting order for race three was a reversal of the qualifying times, with points still on offer for each position gained, leaving Reema Juffali and Max Marzorati on the front row. Marzorati made the best start, but he and Juffali made contact approaching Paddock, allowing Christian Mansell to sweep into the lead after an incredible start from seventh on the grid. Then the safety car was deployed to retrieve Sebastian Alvarez’s Hitech-run Tatuus from the Paddock gravel. Another safety car was called shortly after the restart when 2020 F3 Cup runner-up Alex Fores ran into the back of Juffali at Stirlings, putting them both out, but Carlin racer Mansell remained unchallenged once racing resumed. Javier Sagrera took second and a maiden podium for Elite Motorsport on the squad’s British F3 debut, with rookie Dexter Patterson finishing third for Douglas Motorsport. O’Sullivan charged through from 17th on the grid to finish seventh, ahead of Horsten and Bearman, while Simmons managed 13th. “I’m more happy with the last race than even the win,” said O’Sullivan. “The win was gifted, I don’t see it as a proper win, but in race three we really showed our pace. There’s still a bit of work to do as always, but I’m very content with the weekend.” O’Sullivan leads the standings by four points from Bearman, who only plans to compete part-time in the championship this year with his continental F4 commitments taking priority, while Ushijima sits third a further 13 points back. Miles Griffiths was in dominant form in Historic F2 Photo by: Mick Walker Silverstone HSCC: Griffiths miles ahead of the raging F2 battle Two magnificent drives by Miles Griffiths earned a memorable Historic Formula 2 double as the Historic Sports Car Club’s International Trophy retrospective centred on the BRDC’s European championship rounds of the 1970s. Unfeasibly charismatic cars and shrill two-litre engine notes brought Silverstone’s Grand Prix circuit alive, but it was the field’s depth and intensity of battling throughout that enthralled spectators, back for the first time in more than a year. Griffiths, Classic F3 ace Andy Smith, Historic Formula Fordster Cameron Jackson and Thundersports standout Calum Lockie – whose reactions in a savagely powerful 8.8-litre March in dry and wet conditions defied marshals’ comprehension – were among the competitors at the top of their game. Such mastery was reflected across the host club’s portfolio of grids. The quality of cars, including three Le Mans veterans, in Sunday’s guest GT & Sports Car Cup enduro was another talking point. Griffiths qualified Philip Walker’s Ralt RT1 quickest on a damp track, but fellow Midlander Smith lapped 0.663 seconds slower in his March 742, with Rob Wheldon (762), Matt Wrigley (ex-Giacomo Agostini Chevron B42) and Manfredo Rossi di Montelera (762) well in touch in the 29-strong pack. Former champion Matthew Watts, first time out in his Marc Surer 782, sat ninth after damaging its nose, while Martin Stretton didn’t get a lap in when his now BDG-powered 712’s fuel metering unit seized. Smith went after Griffiths from the rolling start, but a flat battery-induced misfire forced early retirement. Wrigley took up the cudgels, but Historic F1 racer Rossi screamed up to second, taking Frazer Gibney (ex-Wink Bancroft Chevron B40) with him. Recovering from a moment, Wrigley fought back past Gibney for second, with Rossi and the shadowing Glenn Eagling (ex-Reine Wisell GRD 273) within three seconds of him. Sunday’s stanza was no less gripping – with Wheldon, Smith and Stretton charging from the back, fireworks were guaranteed. Griffiths was clear of Rossi and Gibney within three laps, but Watts rose confidently from sixth to fourth and, having worked hard to usurp team-mate Gibney, latched on to Rossi before diving past into Brooklands. Smith and Stretton were on the warpath though and, while they displaced the Italian, Smith could not purge Watts’s defences. Eight seconds behind Griffiths, whose engine had cut out intermittently, Watts and Smith finished 0.172s apart. Stretton, Rossi and Gibney completed the top six. Donington’s overall winner Callum Grant and giant-slayer Marc Mercer, Sunday’s top 1600cc finisher, shared FAtlantic honours in March 79B and 73B respectively. Cam Jackson was again the driver to beat in Historic Formula Ford 1600 Photo by: Mick Walker In his Historic FF1600 Merlyn Mk20, Grant was too busy scrapping with Linton Stutely (Royale), Ben Mitchell and Horatio Fitz-Simon (Merlyns) to prevent fellow double champion Cameron Jackson escaping in his Winkelmann on Saturday. Grant finished second with young Horatio abreast over the line. Mitchell got closer to Jackson on Sunday, reprising their 2018 seasons, but Fitz-Simon was alongside Mitchell at the chequer. Driving one of the Peco Lotus 59s, Dominik Jackson – Cam’s brother who beat Sebastian Vettel on a few occasions in FBMW – nabbed fourth by 0.001s from Grant. Super quick Andy Smith, now in his March 783, beat hard-tryers Benn Tilley (743) and Anthony Hancock (Lola T670) in both Classic F3 races, rewarding his support team, who sourced and replaced a split crankshaft oil seal for Sunday’s outing. Murray Shepherd dominated the FF2000 section in Hancock’s Van Diemen RF82. Andy Newall (Chevron B6) led the 43-car Guards Trophy championship opener within a lap from Westie Mitchell (B8) and Simon Jackson (Lenham P70). Mitchell snatched the initiative back into Copse, then ran wide and was repassed by the pair. Mitchell regained second before relaying son Ben, but Newall ran long to his stop and extended a 30s cushion over the Mitchells’ Chevron, German Nikolaus Killenberg’s in 1968. Following Greg Thornton’s (B8) exclusion for running Avon tyres instead of the mandatory Dunlops, Richard Piper (Brahma) was accorded third ahead of the Lotus 23B of 1996 Formula Vauxhall Euroseries runner-up Goncalo Gomes and James Claridge. John Spiers’s TVR Griffith was first GT to the chequer, but a 90s penalty for a short stop dropped him to third in class behind Mike Whitaker and Peter Thompson’s similar cars. Despite losing power, John Davison topped the Elan posse in which Will Schryver’s partner Marcus Weller overhauled Nick Powell for second. Calum Lockie added two Thundersports triumphs to his GTSCC victory Photo by: Mick Walker Lockie won both Thundersports races – which attracted a great field – in the Dodkins brothers’ March, Helmut Kelleners’ 1970 Croft Interserie-winning 707, updated. After Warren Briggs had rotated his McLaren M8, Lockie beat the recovering McLaren of Dean Forward and tenacious period star John Burton (Chevron B26), who robbed Tony Sinclair (Lola T292) on the line in Saturday’s race – punctuated by a safety car after contact from Nick Sleep’s Lola T70 fired Vic Nutter’s Lola T296/7 into the wall at Maggotts on lap one. Forward kept Lockie occupied on Sunday after rain initially stopped play. Later, Lockie converted Julian Thomas’s start to victory in a superb GTSCC enduro. Thomas (Jaguar E-type low-drag coupe) and Roger Wills (ex-Bruce McLaren Lotus 15) traded places initially, but David Clark was 16s adrift at the close in the Lotus. In the E-type’s 60th anniversary year, Graeme and James Dodd and Gary and John Pearson finished third and fourth in semi-lightweights, pursued by Sam Hancock/Gregor Fisken in the latter’s AC Cobra 39PH, which finished seventh at Le Mans in 1963. Simon Garrad (Nissan Skyline) had the legs on the Ford Sierra Cosworths and Steve Soper (BMW M3) in the Dunlop Saloon Car Cup contests. Ford Falconer Dan Williamson won the Historic split from a separate grid, in which Mini men Bill Sollis, Dan Wheeler, David Ogden and Nick Paddy provided the excitement. Morgan +8 racers Will Plant and Robin ‘Canute’ Pearce won the 70s and wet Historic Road Sports bouts. Recovering from spins at Copse and Village, new grandfather Kevin Kivlochan roared his AC Cobra back from last to second in the latter, with John Davison and Paul Tooms (Elans) in his mirrors. Reports by James Newbold, Stefan Mackley and Marcus Pye. Photos by Jakob Ebrey Photography and Mick Walker. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine The Nissan of Simon Garrad defeated the Ford Sierra Cosworths Photo by: Mick Walker shares comments