The British GT Championship once again roared into life at the Oulton Park circuit, with a wild two races on a cloudy day in Cheshire.
Race one saw issues for the No. 24 MacMillan Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 even before the flag had dropped, with the car leaking fluid all over the fourth place grid spot.
Luck was more on the side of Barwell Motorsport, as Jon Minshaw shot off the line in its No. 33 Demon Tweeks Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to take the lead off polesitter Rick Parfitt Jr heading into the first corner; a start so good that even a small off track excursion later on in the lap still allowed him to keep the advantage.
The battle for fourth was by far the closest on track as the No. 69 Ginetta G55 GT3 of Harry Gottsacker, No. 11 TF Sport Aston Martin of Mark Farmer and the No. 30 AMD-Tuning Mercedes AMG-GT3 of Lee Mowle, going hammer an tongs for the first half of the race. This was all interrupted as Mowle went off and into the barriers down at the Shell Oils hairpin. Mark Farmer would take the spoils as the pit window opened.
Another interesting battle was ensuing in GT4, with the No. 42 Aston Martin Vantage GT4, No. 29 McLaren 570s GT4, No. 59 Garage 59 McLaren and the defending class champion, the No. 501 Ginetta G55 GT4, fighting up until the pit window was opened.
Minshaw handed over to Phil Keen, who began his stint with a very nice 13.6 second gap. The battle for second had tightened up however, as Seb Morris, in the No. 31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental, was desperately defending from Sam Tordoff in the No. 6 Gard-X Barwell Huracan, Jonny Adam in the No. 1 TF Sport Aston Martin and Jon Barnes in the No. 11.
Duncan Cameron, in the No. 21 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, may have started from the back of the grid but a solid opening stint saw him rise up three places before the pit stop window. Matt Griffin would then take over and, as well as setting the fastest lap of the race, take the Ferrari up to seventh place.
But no one would be able to match the No. 33 Barwell Lamborghini of Minshaw and Keen, who took the flag a full 37.2 seconds ahead of the sister No. 6 of Sam Tordoff and Liam Griffin. The podium was rounded out by Jonny Adam in the Aston, albeit only 0.6 seconds in front of the Morris driven Bentley.
Unfortunately for Morris, Adam would also leap the Bentley the lap after the Lamborghini.
Sandy Mitchell, in the No. 100 Garage 59 McLaren, had dominated the opening half in GT4, however, problems in the pits led to a lengthy stop and Ciaran Haggerty would eventually emerge in 14th place in class, promoting the No. 62 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin GT4 of Matt Nicoll-Jones into the lead.
The lead would not remain, as the No. 62 was handed an 18 second stop go penalty, handing the class lead to the No. 72 Track-Club McLaren of Adam Mackay. Not all was lost as the penalty only dropped it down to third place in class.
Even with a 1.5 second stop go penalty, the No. 72 would keep the lead, a lead that would in fact remain until the end. The No. 55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta GT4 of Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton would come home second, whilst the penalised No. 62 would round out the podium on track, but it was excluded from the final result, promoting the No. 501 Optimum Motorsport Ginetta GT4 to third.
Another good start, this time from Phil Keen, saw the No. 33 once again launch into the lead before turn one as he passed Seb Morris. Callum MacLeod also got a good start in the No. 7 Team Parker Racing Bentley to follow the Lamborghini through.
Unfortunately for MacLeod, the first rule of motorsport would be broken on the next lap, as Morris misjudged a move on his teammate, sending the No. 7 spinning over the grass at Hislops before rejoining in sixth. Morris would receive a penalty for the error shortly after.
Keen set off into the distance, but a hot battle ensued behind as Jon Barnes, in the No. 11 Aston Martin GT3, Sam Tordoff and Jonny Adam ran nose to tail for a good couple of laps. Tordoff would drop out due to an issue, causing the No. 6 Huracan to stop and eventually slow at the side of the track.
Callum MacLeod didn’t give up after the earlier setback as he clawed time back hand over fist, even after an additional spin, whilst setting the fastest lap of the race in the process, eventually hauling the No. 7 Bentley back up to within touching distance of the Nathan Freke driven No. 69 Century Motorsport Ginetta GT3 by the time the pit window opened.
The big winner from the pit stops would be the No. 21 Ferrari, as Duncan Cameron came out of his late stop in fourth place after another storming stint from Matt Griffin.
Team Parker Racing’s bad luck continued, as Ian Loggie, in the No. 7, and the Team Abba Rollcentre No. 88 Mercedes of Richard Neary made contact, destroying the front end of the Bentley, spreading debris all over the circuit and taking both cars out of the race. To no surprise, it meant the first and only safety car of the weekend was called out.
This would ultimately lead to the chequered flag coming out with four minutes to go, meaning the No. 33 Lamborghini of Keen and Minshaw took a clean sweep of the weekend, whilst Derek Johnston would bring the No. 1 TF Sport Aston Martin GT3 home in second, and Mark Farmer would complete the podium in the No. 11 sister car.
The MacMillan Racing GT3 Aston Martin, which failed to start race one, had a solid run in race two, eventually coming home in a solid fifth place.
Mike Simpson made a good start in the No. 111 Pole Sitting Ginetta GT4, but it wouldn’t last due to early contact unsettling the front bumper and aero. He was able to defend for the first four laps, but Martin Plowman, in the No. 53 UltraTek Nissan 370Z GT4 would eventually pass him.
Plowman would maintain that lead until the pit window, bringing a solid five second buffer to the race one winning No. 72 McLaren, as he handed over to Richard Taffinder. Taffinder would not be able to capitalise, as Marcus Hoggarth, in the No. 29 In2Racing McLaren GT4, would take the lead not long after the stops.
Alex Reed made a move and took the lead just prior to the safety car in order to take the No. 51 Lanan Racing Ginetta GT4 to the win, whilst Hoggarth would come over second, and Johnson would come over the line in third in the No. 501 Optimum Motorsport GT4.
It was an action packed opening round, and it shows real promise heading into the next round at Rockingham on the 29th-30th April.