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McLaren masterclass in British GT as BTCC supports thrill at Thruxton

Enduro Motorsport’s Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton took a second British GT win in as many visits to Donington Park, as they won last weekend’s three-hour race by almost a minute.

After a non-finish last time out at the Silverstone 500, Clutton admitted he was anxious heading to the East Midlands for the first of two visits this year. He immediately eased his nerves however, as the pair put their McLaren 720S on pole ahead of 2 Seas Motorsport’s Lewis Williamson and James Cottingham.

Come the race it was the latter who made the better start, as Cottingham moved the Mercedes-AMG around the outside of Redgate to relegate Tillbrook into second. The squabbling pair quickly pulled away from RAM Racing’s Ian Loggie, but had their battle cut short by the only safety car of the race – called to clear up an excess of debris after numerous early incidents.

That neutralisation proved to be the decisive factor in Enduro’s charge to the flag as Clutton was serviced and released just before the safety car came round, while Williamson was briefly stopped by a red light at pit exit and rejoined behind the safety car. A wave-by shuffled the leading McLaren of Clutton back to the front and, with a buffer of GT4 cars between his nearest rivals, he soon disappeared into the distance.

“I think [the wave-by] was fair; at the time I was furious, but I think that was fair to do what they did and re-organise the pile,” Clutton said. “Having that clear track – there was one thing on my mind and that was a bit of a quali stint for an hour, well for the first 10 minutes until I caught traffic again and broke the pack.”

Clutton (right) has praised Tillbrook's rate of progression (Photo by: JEP)

After a second Donington win to follow up their success in the 2021 finale, Clutton was quick to praise Tillbrook’s development and added that victory had given him a ‘reset’ after a tough start to the season.

“Anyone who has not been watching British GT for the last two seasons when he wasn’t there wouldn’t realise he’s only been doing it for just over one season,” he said. “His pace is unbelievable, the way he adapts and responds to anything I give him, we’ve worked so hard giving him tuition and we’re reaping the rewards now.

“I’ve had a bit of a tough time from Silverstone up to this event and I was bricking it up to this weekend, getting in the car dreading I was going to be off the pace again. I’ve not been quick, I’ve not performed well, but it’s full reset this weekend.”

2 Seas avenged its first-lap retirement at Silverstone with a lonely run to second, more than 20 seconds ahead of the rival Mercedes of Loggie and Callum Macleod.

Williamson conceded the team couldn’t match the speed of the McLaren, adding: “The race was all about continuing the pace we had in qualifying. James did a phenomenal job to qualify second so the main aim was to go forward but if we could maintain we would have been happy, too.

“We just didn’t have the pace of Enduro. There was a couple of things we could have done better but ultimately that wouldn’t have actually made the difference to be P1. James’s pace was the same as the McLaren and when I was in it was about the same, so it was just about the pitstops really, getting that right, and traffic. Traffic was pretty crazy round here and OK you’re racing your race, but you didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s race, too.”

Loggie consolidated his points advantage (Photo by: JEP)

Heading into the third round of the year as joint championship leader, Loggie left Donington undisputedly on top after his faultless opening stint set the foundation for a third podium of the season.

7TSix’s Mia Flewitt and Euan Hankey fell just 0.8s short of their first trophy of the year in fourth, having pitted a lap later than the majority of the GT3 field under the safety car, which vaulted them up to second.

Despite the car losing places in the middle hour, Hankey charged back – eventually prevailing in a captivating scrap with Redline Racing’s James Dorlin with less than five minutes remaining to go fourth – but time spent behind the Lamborghini Huracan denied Hankey an opportunity to threaten Macleod’s grip on third.

Fifth gave Dorlin and Alex Malykhin victory in the Silver-Am class, aided by class rival John Ferguson having a lairy spin after taking too much kerb on the inside of the Old Hairpin in his RAM Mercedes.

A bold strategy of making two of its three mandatory stops during the safety car paid off handsomely for WPI Motorsport, with Michael Igoe and Phil Keen finishing sixth in their Lamborghini and moving up to second in the standings.

British GT4: Mustang masterclass from Academy duo

Signoretti and Cowley were faultless in GT4 (Photo by: JEP)

Academy Motorsport duo Marco Signoretti and Matt Cowley drove a faultless race at Donington Park to claim their first win of the season in the GT4 category.

It looked unlikely after Saturday, though, when the pair could only qualify fourth as Steller Motorsport pairing and championship leaders Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding came to the fore and bagged pole.

But just three laps into the three-hour contest, the narrative shifted dramatically as Williams rotated out of the lead at the Old Hairpin after an unforced error. “It all went downhill from there,” bemoaned Fielding, as the Oulton Park-winning pair fell back and eventually finished eighth in GT4.

With the Audi R8 out of contention, Academy seized upon the opportunity, knowing that the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin that won at Silverstone would be hit by a 20-second success penalty later in the race.

It was R Racing that was the initial beneficiary, Jamie Day leading a close battle that included Signoretti’s Ford Mustang. Despite dropping behind Will Burns’s Century BMW M4 early on, Academy assumed the lead following the safety car in the opening half hour, with Cowley holding Newbridge’s Darren Turner at bay.

Turner piled on the pressure and finally sliced his way under the Mustang down the Craner Curves as Cowley braked to evade a faster GT3 BMW, but the Mustang driver was looking at the bigger picture.

“I knew Darren by then had the pace on me, but I was just making it difficult for him to get past me,” said Cowley. “I knew it would help us in the long run. We raced our own race all the way through, had no warnings or track-limits penalties and that saw us through.”

Signoretti assumed a comfortable lead in the second half as pitstops cycled through, eventually claiming Academy’s first GT4 win of 2022 by nearly 18s from the Century BMW of Burns and Jack Brown, having also kept out of trouble.

After surviving a bumper-removing clip from the second Century BMW, the Speedworks Toyota Supra charged through the field, Jordan Collard grabbing third with a neat cutback at the chicane on Josh Miller’s Aston with 15 minutes remaining.

Miller and Day also fell to fifth behind Team Parker’s Porsche Cayman, as Jamie Orton/Seb Hopkins recovered from a 10s stop/go penalty for a pit infringement. Turner and Matt Topham ultimately fell to seventh by the flag, but it was enough to claim the Pro-Am honours.

GB3 Donington Park: Title battle intensifies as rivals clash

Browning and Granfors are now separated by a point in GB3 standings (Photo by: JEP)

The GB3 Championship battle intensified at Donington Park, as Joel Granfors and Luke Browning bounced back from a dramatic incident in race one to leave the weekend one point apart at the top of the standings.

For the second round in a row, all three races delivered first-time winners, with a strong performance from Max Esterson bringing the Douglas Motorsport driver into title contention. Granfors topped a close qualifying session to take pole for the opening contest, but the Fortec Motorsports driver’s race lasted just half a lap.

JHR Developments’ Matthew Rees tried to take the lead from the outside of the front row into Redgate, and having been run wide he made a second bid around the outside into McLeans. But contact put him in the gravel as Granfors speared across the track into retirement with damaged suspension. Browning was forced to take to the grass in avoidance, and became briefly airborne before colliding with the barriers. Rees was able to rejoin in eighth as a separate collision behind also put Carlin’s Javier Sagrera and Arden’s Nico Christodoulou – the latter making his GB3 debut – out with damage.

Callum Voisin profited to take the lead ahead of Roberto Faria, and the 16-year-old Ginetta Junior graduate controlled the remainder of the 12-lap encounter to head a Carlin 1-2 and record his first single-seater victory, with Esterson scoring his first series podium in third. Arden’s Alex Connor was fourth ahead of Elite Motorsport duo Tom Lebbon and James Hedley.

Esterson started from pole for race two, which he duly converted into a lights-to-flag triumph, with his only threat coming on the opening lap. Voisin tried to drive around the outside at the Old Hairpin, but ended up on the grass and tumbled to an eventual seventh.

Browning was second ahead of Granfors, having passed his rival at the start from sixth on the grid. Hedley survived an early excursion at the Fogarty Esses to claim fourth ahead of Faria.

Esterson's GB3 success has brought him into the title picture (Photo by: JEP)

Hitech GP claimed a second reversed-grid win in a row in the final encounter, with Bryce Aron repeating team-mate Cian Shields’s triumph from the previous round. Aron led from start to finish from pole, with Branden Oxley coming home second after passing Fortec’s Mikkel Grundtvig into Redgate on lap one. Tommy Smith also passed Grundtvig for third, but a 10s penalty for a jump start denied the Douglas driver the final podium spot.

Hampered by a throttle-linkage issue in qualifying, Elite’s John Bennett salvaged fourth having been glued to the back of Grundtvig’s car for most of the race. Zak Taylor finished fifth, but was excluded having been judged at fault when Arden’s David Morales crashed out at Redgate.

Granfors climbed from the back of the 22-car grid – the largest in the history of the championship – to grab 10th and, despite finishing one place behind Browning, more points for positions gained enabled the Swede to leave the weekend with a slender advantage.

Marc Warren continued his unbeaten start to the Ginetta GT Academy season with a hat-trick of wins. The Raceway Motorsport driver led home Thomas Holland in Saturday’s contest, and profited from a bad start for polesitter Leo Karavasili to win a disrupted race two before winning again in race three from Ravi Ramyead.

Max Hart did the double at the second round of TCR UK to extend his championship advantage. His closest challenger, Chris Smiley, led the opening lap from pole, but was fired off the road approaching McLeans by Adam Shepherd, who made a subsequent mistake at Redgate to allow Hart into the lead and to the win. Shepherd retired with car damage, while Bradley Kent climbed from ninth to second.

Hart’s Hyundai stormed from 10th to win again in the part-reversed-grid race. He made up seven spots on the opening lap before swiftly dispatching Bradley Hutchinson and Ant Whorton-Eales following an early safety car period, with the Honda of Smiley finishing second.

Morgan and Marcus Short won the Classic Sports Car Club’s Slicks Series race in a Mosler MT900R. Daniel Petters (Porsche 911) and David Foster (McLaren 570S) took advantage of backmarkers to move ahead after the mandatory pitstops but the Short brothers ultimately prevailed.

BTCC supports Thruxton: Neately Dunne for British F4 winners

Argenti team-mates battled for the lead in second British F4 race (Photo by: JEP)

It was just a matter of time before British Formula 4’s new era produced a truly exciting race and, sure enough, Thruxton delivered with the partially reversed-grid middle contest being a thriller.

Polesitter Noah Lisle led in the early stages but the drivers on a charge were Argenti pair Daniel Guinchard and Aiden Neate. Mercedes junior Guinchard made a bad start and dropped to fourth, while Neate – who was penalised in race one for clashing with Louis Sharp when battling for a podium – started sixth.

The pair soon dispatched Georgi Dimitrov and began reeling in Lisle’s 2.7-second lead at a rate of over half a second a lap. Sure enough, the inevitable happened on lap 14 of 17 when Guinchard made a fantastic move around the outside of the Complex and Neate also snuck ahead.

Neate then began pressuring his team-mate and pounced when Guinchard overcooked it into the Club chicane with two laps to go, taking a maiden win. “I’m just over the moon!” said Neate. “The start was fantastic and I picked them off well and kept my head.”

Guinchard, meanwhile, was left with a mix of emotions. “I’m pleased to get a podium but also gutted to miss out on the win,” he said. “I think I needed it after a tough start to the season. I was trying to keep Aiden behind and just made a mistake.”

Either side of that, it was domination for points leader Alex Dunne. The Irishman briefly lost out to Ugo Ugochukwu in the opener but the Carlin driver ran wide at the Complex on lap six and Dunne never looked back.

Ugochukwu got the better launch in the finale and jinked one way then the other to try to pass Dunne but succeeded in just tapping the Hitech car, delaying himself and allowing Dunne to scamper clear to a 7s win. He was initially concerned about a possible puncture after the contact but soon pulled clear to respond to his Brands Hatch race-three errors in the perfect way.

Capozzoli's success proved to be the Mini Challenge Trophy highlight (Photo by: JEP)

It’s appropriate that Mini Challenge Trophy contender Charlie Mann is the grandson of the bass player from Thruxton’s local 1960s chart-toppers, Andover legends The Troggs. The competitors were once again the wild things of the BTCC support bill, with unruly driving and an inability to steer through the chicane their hallmark.

Louie Capozzoli’s victory in race two was the highlight. He was challenging triple Pembrey winner Nelson King for the lead around the outside of the chicane when, in stark contrast to his peers, he actually bothered to stop for the second apex rather than charge blithely through the runoff. The lost momentum dropped him to fifth, while King took to the grass in what looked like a pre-emptive avoidance of Capozzoli.

Capozzoli charged back to win from Alfie Glenie, Lee Pearce and King, although Glenie and King were penalised two positions in the results for corner-cutting.

King had made it four in a row in an opener truncated by a lengthy safety car. He pulled off an excellent outside move on Capozzoli, who finished runner-up, with Matt Hammond third. King was also the winner of the final race, which was twice red-flagged before results were declared after just one lap.

Foster was another double winner in Porsche Sprint Challenge GB (Photo by: JEP)

While his younger brother picked up his latest Indy Pro 2000 win at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Harry Foster was busy adding more family success, taking his first victories in the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB at his local Thruxton track.

Foster made his car racing debut in a one-off Porsche Cayman outing at the end of last season before grabbing three podiums in this year’s Silverstone opener. But he went better than that last weekend, taking two impressive wins.

It had looked like he was going to come under pressure from Matthew Armstrong in the opener until the Team Parker Racing driver outbraked himself into the Club chicane. “I thought he had got me at the start!” Foster admitted. “I’m very happy to take my first win after I had three thirds at Silverstone.”

Foster had an even closer fight on his hands in the second contest as, this time, he had Steve Roberts all over him but the Redline racer could not find a way by.

Further back, much of the focus was on Charles Clark. The points leader had spun out of third in the opener when he dropped a wheel wide at Goodwood and was therefore starting at the back for the finale.

But he stormed through the order and grabbed a podium from guest driver Ben McLoughlin with a brave move at Church. “That was good fun!” he said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to catch the leaders.”

Macintyre (left) and Rowledge enjoyed thrilling Ginetta Junior battle in opener (Photo by: JEP)

The Ginetta Junior action was typically frantic at Thruxton, with Josh Rowledge and Ian Aguilera sharing the spoils for R Racing.

The opener featured a brilliant battle between Rowledge and Elite Motorsport’s Will Macintyre. The pair swapped places numerous times, including on the final lap when Macintyre grabbed the lead at Noble. But, with his mirror dropping down at a crucial moment, he lost out to Rowledge at Club and was narrowly beaten to the flag.

Further back, Aguilera was causing chaos – and was eventually disqualified. His antics meant the lead pair had a huge advantage over third and fourth place finishers Aqil Alibhai and Harri Reynolds.

Aguilera’s race-two win was not without incident, either, as he tangled with Liam McNeilly at the Complex before passing Alibhai for the lead, just prior to red flags being shown with Kanato Le’s brakes on fire. Behind, it was five-abreast for third out of the Complex, Reynolds getting the place.

Haughton grabbed maiden wins in Ginetta GT5 Challenge (Photo by: JEP)

We may only be just over two months into the season but the Ginetta GT5 Challenge has already reached the mid-point of its campaign – and a hotly contested title race is developing after Harley Haughton became the fifth different driver to take a win this season.

Both races followed a similar pattern, as the Elite Motorsport driver passed early leader Connor Grady and then pulled clear. In the opener, that came on the inside of Club on lap three and, after that, a thrilling battle for second developed with six cars in the mix. Eventually, as Grady faded down the order, ‘willpower’ told with Will Orton and Will Jenkins completing the podium.

It took Haughton five laps to prise the lead from Grady in race two, this time thanks to the Xentek driver running slightly wide at Church. Grady did briefly lose second to Will Jenkins before cutting his way across the Club chicane to reclaim the place.

Next it was Nat Hodgkiss’s turn to challenge but he sent Grady spinning into the Club barriers and was later disqualified from second, promoting Mikey Doble. But he finished some 11 seconds back from the dominant Haughton, who has now moved to second in the standings.

Reports by Joe Hudson, Dan Mason, Steve Whitfield, Stephen Lickorish and Marcus Simmons. Photography by Jakob Ebrey Photography. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine

Haughton was the driver to beat in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge at Thruxton (Photo by: JEP)