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Video: Carroll and Gounon's epic battle for British GT win as rain shower plays havoc

Two teams proved the class of the opening British GT meeting at Oulton Park. Adam Carroll and Shaun Balfe (Balfe Audi) narrowly beat Jules Gounon/Ian Loggie (RAM Mercedes) to win a breathless first race, before the order was reversed for the second. But a bizarre set of circumstances meant the first and second cars on the road were classified fifth and sixth as Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman’s Paddock McLaren came from 14th on the grid to top the podium after a mid-race stoppage.

Poleman Balfe lost out at the start of the opener as his tyres took their time to heat up. He tumbled to sixth on lap one as Richard Neary (Abba Mercedes) headed returning 2019 champion Graham Davidson (Rocket RJN McLaren), Morgan Tillbrook (Enduro McLaren) and 2 Seas Mercedes pair James Cottingham and Kevin Tse.
Through traffic, the leaders were tightly bunched and Davidson was ready to pounce when Neary was baulked up Clay Hill. But, as Neary moved back to the right, Davidson was already there and was edged onto the grass on a collision course with the barriers.

A frustrated Neary received a stop/go penalty for the contact, plus another for a fractionally short pitstop. That double whammy should have handed the lead to Tillbrook after Tse pitted a lap later than the rest, but he had missed his pitbox as the GT3 runners streamed in and had to go around again, leaving team-mate Marcus Clutton to fight back to eighth. Lewis Williamson (in for Cottingham) took over in front after Neary’s penalty, but also had a stop/go to serve following a team error with the timer. “It was like gala bingo,” remarked Balfe of the flurry of penalties. “We had no idea what was going on!”

That cycled Carroll back to the lead, but Gounon was zeroing in. Loggie had started 10th after struggling with tyre pick-up, but advanced to eighth at the start and ran patiently behind GT3 debutant Nick Halstead (Fox McLaren) early on. When Gounon climbed aboard, he scythed past pitstop gainer Phil Keen (WPI Lamborghini) and Jamie Stanley (in for Halstead), then caught Carroll at a second per lap. The two ran nose to tail for the final 15 minutes and a RAM victory appeared a formality.

But Carroll held firm, staving off a bold Gounon attempt around the outside at Lodge after he’d been held up in traffic on the penultimate lap. Gounon crossed the line fractionally ahead, but Carroll retook the place on the inside at Lodge and claimed a first British GT win since Oulton Park in 2016, while Stanley held off Keen for third.

Ian Loggie/Jule Gounon (RAM Racing Mercedes AMG) won on the road in race two put were pushed down the order (Photo by: Jakob Ebrey)

Gounon set a new qualifying lap record on his way to race-two pole and bolted away from Carroll as Euan Hankey (7TSIX McLaren), Clutton and Jamie Caroline (RAM Mercedes) shuffled third-starter Sandy Mitchell (Barwell Lamborghini) back to sixth. Plowman, meanwhile, capitalised on Will Tregurtha (Assetto Bentley) punting Keen into a spin at Cascades, forcing Stanley off in avoidance, to take 10th.

Gounon’s four-second advantage was wiped out by a safety car, caused by Freddie Tomlinson assaulting GT4 rival Moh Ritson at Shell Oils, but he escaped again at the restart as Plowman zapped Lewis Proctor (Greystone McLaren) for ninth. Rain then hit and, on lap 15, Caroline and Proctor both aquaplaned off approaching Druids – with the latter clearing the barrier. Mitchell then tagged Clutton into a spin at Lodge as the remaining dry-shod runners tiptoed in for wets. But, with several cars mid-pitstop, the race was red-flagged, creating confusion as success penalties for Gounon/Loggie (7s) and Carroll/Balfe (10s) had yet to be taken.

After a half-hour delay to repair the barriers, the race resumed behind the safety car with the field back in its pre-pitstop order and all cars on slicks, success seconds to be added post-race – a decision that led to RAM protesting the result.

Following two slow laps, Loggie led Balfe and Mia Flewitt (in for Hankey), with Fletcher now seventh behind Tillbrook, Adam Balon (in for Mitchell) and Alex Malykhin (Redline Lamborghini) after the exit of Caroline and Williamson (oil leak). As the top two gapped Flewitt, Malykhin was next to fall with a spin at Druids, before Balon peeled in to serve a 10s stop/go for the Clutton contact. Barwell’s resultant non-score compounded a difficult day, having finished only ninth in race one as a hit from Tse’s co-driver Chris Froggatt had left Mitchell with left-rear tyre damage.

After Tillbrook was sidelined by an electrical glitch, Fletcher dived past Flewitt into Hislops with seven laps to go. From 9.3s behind Loggie at this stage, he made use of the clear air as Loggie began to suffer with his tyres and got the gap below the 7s marker two laps from home. Heavy GT4 traffic for Loggie and Balfe only confirmed the inevitable as a radio-troubled Fletcher claimed victory from the Nearys and Tse/Froggatt (up from 17th) after Flewitt also lost ground in traffic.

British GT4: Fielding and Williams win opener

Steller Audi duo Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding lead in GT4 at Oulton Park (Photo by: Jakob Ebrey)

Steller Audi pair Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding scored their first GT4 win since 2019 despite a pitstop punishment, and finished first on the road in the second before post-race penalties were applied.

Race-one poleman Williams pulled fifth gear too early on the run to Old Hall at the start, which allowed Benji Hetherington (in his first British GT outing since 2013) to snatch an early lead. But the Valluga Porsche boss recognised Williams was quicker and didn’t fight him hard, remaining comfortably clear of the battle for third between Jamie Orton (Parker Porsche), Marco Signoretti (Academy Mustang) and Tom Edgar (Speedworks Toyota).

Leading Pro-Am entry Matt Topham (Newbridge Aston) held seventh and was looking good to advance up the order courtesy of a shorter pitstop relative to the Silver crews. Sure enough, Darren Turner rejoined second behind Fielding, but both cars were too short in the pits and, like Orton’s team-mate Seb Hopkins, would have to come in again to serve penalties. Turner couldn’t get the Vantage to select first as he tried to exit the penalty box and so lost more vital seconds.

Hetherington’s team-mate Ross Wylie moved into the lead, but ran out of tyres and was usurped by the flying Fielding, while Josh Miller (R Racing Aston) also moved ahead for second late on. A rueful Turner finished fifth, less than a second adrift of Wylie in third.

Few doubted that Steller had the edge on pace, but it had needed others to drop the ball too. “We are due a bit of luck,” was Williams’s assessment. Turner had pole for race two, but was jumped at the start by Fielding, as a change of brakes for Will Burns (Century BMW) brought the reigning champion to life in third after struggling for pace in qualifying and race one.

The red flags were a boon for Newbridge, as Topham’s Silver class rivals all had 14s added to their race time. Leader Williams had an additional 10s after his race-one win and, although he managed to put Betty Chen’s GT3 BMW between himself and Topham, there was little prospect of making up 24s. He was ultimately classified third behind winner Topham and Burns’s team-mate Jack Brown, who kept the pressure on Topham throughout. Edgar and 2018 GT4 champion Jack Mitchell took fourth.

“Last year we weren’t even at round one,” reflected Topham, “so just to be here and getting some points, we’re already ahead.”

GB3 & GB4: Browning brilliant on home turf, while Walker takes two

Luke Browning (Hitech GP) started his GB3 season off with two wins (Photo by: Jakob Ebrey)

Luke Browning asserted his dominance on the opening round of the GB3 Championship at Oulton Park, as he took two lights-to-flag victories.

The 2020 British F4 champion had no problem adapting to the new-for-2022 Tatuus MSV-022 machine, placing his Hitech GP-run car on pole for the first two races. The closest his rivals came to challenging was off the line but, once Browning had the holeshot each time, he was never headed, cruising to victory by around 10 seconds in both races.

“For sure [the start was key] as it’s so difficult to overtake,” said the 20-year-old after winning at his local track. “It feels amazing [to win] and being at home is something special.”

Roberto Faria was his closest challenger on both occasions, but the Carlin driver’s focus was on those behind him as he withstood constant pressure from an impressive Matthew Rees in the opener. Despite the difficulty of following in the heavily aero-dependent cars, the 2021 British F4 champion kept under the Brazilian’s rear wing almost throughout but failed to find an opening.

“It was maybe not the best for the tyres, but for me it was psychological to show I was there, but credit to him he didn’t make a mistake,” said Rees.

McKenzy Cresswell was another impressive debutant in the opener, as he took fourth for Chris Dittmann Racing ahead of fellow rookie John Bennett (Elite Motorsport), who passed Joel Granfors on the last lap. The Fortec Motorsports driver was stuck in fifth gear for the final tour and eventually finished sixth, having lost the opportunity to start from the front row having been demoted five places for a collision with Branden Oxley in qualifying.

The Swede did keep his front-row start for the second race, but lost out to Faria off the line and came home third from Rees, Bennett and Tom Lebbon (Elite), who had also been on the receiving end of a qualifying grid penalty for race one.

Alex Walker (Elite Motorsport) extended his points lead in GB4 (Photo by: Jakob Ebrey)

Mikkel Grundtvig (Fortec) took another fully reversed-grid victory, having never been headed from the start as Douglas Motorsport’s Tommy Smith came home second. David Morales completed the podium for Arden having pulled off an audacious overtake on Nick Gilkes, looking to the outside at the high-speed Island Bend before taking to the inside at the Shell Oils hairpin. Gilkes, Oxley and Zak Taylor (Fortec) completed the top six.

Browning made progress from his 19th on the grid, climbing to 16th before contact with Lebbon at the Hislops chicane put him out with broken right-front suspension on lap five of 14. However, he still left the Cheshire venue with the championship lead, with Faria – who finished 14th in race three – just seven points in arrears.

Alex Walker extended his points lead in the GB4 Championship after the Elite driver also took two lights-to-flag victories. Much like Browning, the Briton romped away in both races and was never challenged.

Main title rival Tom Mills finished last in Saturday’s opening race having stalled on the grid after burning his clutch out, but fought through from fifth to second in race two, pulling off a neat switchback on Max Marzorati exiting Lodge for the spot.

Nikolas Taylor – winner of the inaugural GB4 race at Snetterton – endured two torrid starts from the front row, which derailed any hopes he had of pushing Walker for the lead, with the Fortec driver only able to salvage sixth and third.

Jarrod Waberski handed Kevin Mills Racing its maiden win in GB4 in the reversed-grid race, pulling alongside front-row starters Logan Hannah and Jessica Edgar on the run to Old Hall. With the inside line, the South African pulled clear from Edgar as Marzorati claimed third, which moved him to second in the standings and 32 points behind Walker.

Donington Park MSVR Masters Historic: Mallock defies Drake's dogged efforts

Intense battle for the win between Ray Mallock (U2 Mk2) and Chris Drake (Terrier T4 Series 1) (Photo by: Mick Walker)

Ray Mallock (U2 Mk2) and Chris Drake (Terrier T4 Series 1) twice battled mightily at the head of the front-engined Formula Junior races during the Donington Park Masters Historic meeting over Easter.

Mallock, in his 53rd season of racing, got ahead from the start on Friday in the 25-minute encounter, but Drake chased hard and worked the Terrier ahead mid-race when Mallock was more cautious on some dropped oil. Even though he built a slender lead, Drake could never relax as Mallock’s pursuit was relentless. Over the closing stages, Mallock was right on Drake’s tail, and dived ahead to win by 0.6 seconds.

“We love our racing and we love our cars – there’s lots of respect,” said Mallock after winning in the car designed and built by his father. It was more of the same on Saturday, when Mallock came back strong in the closing stages to beat the Terrier once again, this time by 0.8s.

The opening rear-engined Formula Junior race was all about Alex Ames in his ex-Mike Hailwood Brabham BT6, despite a slight concern over his clutch. He went clear from the start as Clive Richards gave chase in his Lotus 22, but Ames was able to control the race from the front. On Saturday, Ames elected to go from the back of the grid and battled to the lead, despite a determined challenge by Richards.

An entertaining hour-long Pre-’66 Touring Car race ended in victory for the Ford Mustang of Craig Davies after a fine contest with the Ford Falcon of Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie.

In the early laps, four mighty V8s delivered a stunning spectacle but, as the race developed, it was the Falcons of Thomas and Sam Tordoff that pulled clear. With an extra 40s added on to his pitstop as a pro driver going solo, Tordoff was up against it, but his race ended soon after the stop with a broken manifold.

Meanwhile, Lockie – in for Thomas – took a handy lead over Davies after the stops before a safety car for the removal of some debris allowed Davies to close up and move ahead of the tyre-stricken Falcon.

Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie's Daytona Cobra won the Gentleman's race (Photo by: Mick Walker)

Thomas and Lockie got their win in the Gentleman Drivers enduro, where their Daytona Cobra was the class of the field. “He’s driven faultlessly all weekend,” said Lockie of his racing partner. John Spiers and Nigel Greensall ran a good second in their TVR Griffith 200.

Will Nuthall (Cooper T53) was dominant in the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association races and rocketed clear on Friday, while his main rival Peter Horsman started from the pitlane as a reserve entry. Speed differentials were enormous, and Nuthall also had to cope with a prodigious amount of oil on the track, but won at a canter.

Second place became a wonderfully sonorous battle between the V8s of Nick Fennell (Lotus 25) and Tim Child, first time out in a Brabham BT3/4, while Horsman worked his way through to sixth at the flag. Race two was pretty much a repeat as Nuthall again romped away from Child and Horsman.

Martin Stretton seemed to have done enough in the opening Historic F1 race as he warmed his Tyrrell 012 up for the Monaco Historique next month. But by mid-race Stretton was in trouble as a misfire set in and the car started cutting out due to a lack of fuel pressure. The problem got worse as the race developed, and allowed the chasing Steve Hartley to move his McLaren MP4/1 onto Stretton’s tail and then ahead when the leading Tyrrell coughed again on the exit of Redgate. Stretton struggled home second and parked the Tyrrell just after the flag.

Polesitter and opening-lap leader Ken Tyrrell (Tyrrell 011) drove a fine race and battled long to keep Greg Thornton (Lotus 91/5) behind. Eventually, the Lotus racer edged ahead to take the final podium position after Tyrrell ran too deep at Redgate.

Stretton elected to go from the pits on Saturday, but sliced through the field to take the lead. With Hartley an early retirement, Thornton gamely tried to hold onto the fleeing Tyrrell but came up short.

Elsewhere, in Masters Sports Cars, Andy Willis (Lola T212) capitalised when Tom Bradshaw’s Chevron B19 refused to restart after the pitstops.

Reports by James Newbold, Stefan Mackley and Paul Lawrence. Photography by Jakob Ebrey Photography/Motorsport Images and Mike Walker. Want plenty more reports from the national motorsport scene? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine

Ken Tyrrell (Tyrrell 011) leads in Historic F1 at Donington Park (Photo by: Mick Walker)
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