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British GT season kicks off with Lamborghini one-two

Monday, April 17 2017

Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen won the opening round of the British GT Championship at Oulton Park this afternoon (Monday) with a dominant performance in tricky damp conditions behind the wheel of their Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan. They were followed up by team-mates Liam Griffin and Sam Tordoff, with Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam completing the overall and GT3 class podium for Aston Martin. GT4 class honours went to the McLaren 570S of Adam Balon and Adam McKay.

There was drama before the race even began as Jack Mitchell's Aston Martin was removed from the grid with an issue, but once the race got underway Minshaw stole the initiative from the line, steaming past the pole-sitting Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental of Rick Parfitt Jr from the rolling start. From here, the championship stalwart was able to begin building an advantage he was never to lose, despite a detour across the grass at Hislop's chicane on the opening tour - such was his domination in the opening five corners off the race alone.

Griffin occupied third behind Minshaw and Parfitt early on, and was under immense pressure from Aston Martin racer Mark Farmer as a small queue began to form behind the Lamborghini, including Johnston who stormed from the back of the GT3 grid early on to being himself into contention. Incredibly, just behind this pack Sandy Mitchell was keeping the GT3 class in sight in his GT4 McLaren as he charged away from his rivals with a classy drive.

At the head of the pack, nobody could live with Minshaw's pace as he set fastest lap after fastest lap to streak further and further into the distance. Whilst Minshaw was happily enjoying his own race, Bentley GT3 pilot Ian Loggie suffered a moment at Britten's chicane forcing Johnston to slow in avoidance.

During the early stages, the fiercest off-track dice began to develop between Farmer's TF Sport machine, the Century Motorsport Ginetta of Harry Gottsacker, and Lee Mowle in AmDtuning.com's Mercedes-AMG. Mowle swiftly dispatched Gottsacker and seemed to be the man on the move as he immediately set about hunting down Farmer too. Unfortunately Mowle's heroics were put to an abrupt end as he slid off the track into the Island bend tyre barrier on lap 10 - he was able to rejoin in 26th overall, but any chance of an overall podium was gone.

Amidst the drama behind, Minshaw continued make mincemeat of the opposition as he scythed effectively through the GT4 backmarkers. Behind, Parfitt and Griffin continued to hold podium positions, but a spin for GT4 Nissan racer Tim Eakin slowed Farmer and Gottsacker enough for Johnston to slip past into fourth position.

Johnston was immediately on Griffin's case, and both cars darted for the pit-lane at the end of the 14th lap for driver changes. Tordoff took over from Griffin and quite literally had to squeeze past Adam in the Aston Martin on the pit exit as his car was wheeled back out of its pit box.

Keen and Morris entered the fray at the end of the following lap as Minshaw and Parfitt brought their cars in, and whilst Keen emerged with his lead intact, Morris was thrust right into the heat of battle for second position. The Welshman found himself ahead of Tordoff, and Jon Barnes who took over from Farmer, with Adam lying in wait at the tail of the scrap. It didn't take long for Adam to pounce on Barnes, whilst Tordoff sublimely shot past Morris in the braking zone for Hislop's on lap 17.

Keen picked up immediately where Minshaw left off by setting fastest lap after fastest lap to continue the Lamborghini's domination of the race. Indeed, Keen and Tordoff were trading fastest lap times well into the race, demonstrating the Lamborghini's supreme pace in changeable conditions. Keen's advantage was enough though as he carried his car to a comfortable victory at the end of the 33-lap race. Tordoff looked totally in control too, whilst Adam had to withstand a late charge from Morris to hold on to the final podium step as the Bentley's pace drastically improved on a drying track.  

Matt Griffin was the man to watch late in the race as he gained ground in his Ferrari 488 to set a sequence of blisteringly quick fastest lap times, culminating in a last gasp dash to the line to secure sixth ahead of Callum McLeod's Bentley.

The battle for GT4 seemed to be one nobody wanted to win, as early race leader Sandy Mitchell's stunning drive was negated by an issue with the left rear wheel during the pit stops. Thereafter, Aston Martin driver Matt Nicoll-Jones seemed best placed to steal the win, but he was handed a penalty for a pit lane infringement, removing him from contention for the top spot. Unbelievably, his successor Adam McKay (McLaren) was penalised too, though he did manage to maintain position ahead of Ginetta racer Stuart Middleton to secure the win.