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Barwell so close to another perfect sprint weekend at Snetterton

15 July 2024 Barwell so close to another perfect sprint weekend at Snetterton

Barwell Motorsport was the dominant force during last weekend’s British GT Championship round at Snetterton, with its twin Lamborghinis proving unbeatable on the road as its two crews soared into the top spots in the championship.
Alex Martin and Sandy Mitchell celebrated their third victory of the season with a controlled performance aboard the #78 Dextra Commercial Lighting-backed Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 in race one. They were the stand-outs in race two also, successfully overturning their longer pit stop to win on the road, only for a post-race penalty to set them back.
Rob and Ricky Collard also played a starring role in the #63 Black Bull Scotch Whisky/Collard Group-supported car. Two second places from a battling weekend mean the pair assume the championship lead by a handful of points over the sister car with two races left to run.
 
Rob Collard led much of the first race, but he and Ricky were limited to second by their additional pit stop compensation time following their podium last time out at Spa. Still, Ricky shadowing Mitchell to the flag in that outing sealed Barwell’s third one-two finish in British GT Sprint races this season, and returned both crews into the top spots in the championship points.
 
Despite not quite having the speed of the #78 in the second outing, Rob and Ricky produced a superb late comeback to grab fourth at the flag, which eventually became another podium after a string of post-race penalties. The results mean the Collards vault into the championship lead, five points ahead of Martin and Mitchell.
Barwell’s brace of bulls led the way for much of the weekend in Norfolk, with both cars featuring strongly in the timesheets from the start. Martin and Mitchell laid down an early marker by topping practice, with both Barwell cars inside the top three during Pre-Qualifying.
 
The potential of both crews was rammed home in Qualifying, with Rob Collard just pipping Martin by 0.177s to secure pole for the first race in a Barwell front-row lockout. Mitchell then secured pole for race two in the Pro session, with Ricky beating a spin and traffic to go seventh fastest. After its dominant weekend during the season-opener at Oulton Park – the only other event this year to run the twin-race format – it means Barwell’s cars will finish the 2024 season unbeaten in sprint qualifying.
 
Race one played out as a great intra-team battle between the two Lamborghinis, as Collard and Martin led the field away when the lights went out. With an additional five seconds to serve during his mandatory pit stop, Collard needed to pull a gap over Martin and by the time the pit window opened he had, just not quite enough. Collard’s 3.5-second advantage meant the cars swapped places during the stops, with Mitchell rejoining just ahead of Ricky Collard after the #63’s longer stop. From there, both cars roared clear of their pursuers, Mitchell securing a third win of the year for himself and Martin, with the Collards right behind.
 
Race two glory looked to also be heading the way of the #78, only for sheer bad luck to deny them. The car would have to spend an extra 10 seconds stationary in the pits after its race one win, so Mitchell’s mission was clear: get the hammer down and pull clear.
 
The Scotsman obliged with a tremendous opening half, gapping his pursuers to the tune of 11 seconds by the time he stopped to hand to Martin. Slick work from the Barwell crew got the car serviced and back running in perfect time, even if it was then impeded by the #6 Mercedes-AMG being pushed into its path as it attempted to rejoin.
Once the #6 had been penalised for that incident, Martin was back into the lead ahead of the 2 Seas Mercedes-AMG of Kevin Tse. Unrattled, Martin built a gap over Tse, and looked to be cruising to a second victory when a safety car was called inside the final third of the race to recover a stranded car, and the unlucky Martin was deemed to have passed a lapped car under yellow flags. While the crew took the win on the road, the perfect run was wrecked post-race with the additional time dropping them to a disappointed 10th.
 
That ironically opened the door for the Collards to pull off something of a remarkable comeback. Ricky took the start in seventh but was handed a harsh five-second penalty early on during his battles. Ricky struggled to make progress stuck in the dirty air of the pack and brought the car in to hand to Rob in seventh. The longer stop meant Rob rejoined 10th, but with the bit between his teeth. A string of hard-but-fair moves brought Rob into seventh by the time the safety car appeared and presented a new opportunity to progress, closing the pack and giving Collard the chance to reach new targets.
 
On the restart, Collard flew. Pulling passes on the J&S Motorsport Audi, Garage 59 McLaren and then a wonderful move around the outside of the Optimum McLaren through Palmer to rise to fourth. He then got a tow on the RAM Racing BMW, but fell just shy of securing third on the road at the flag. However, after the exclusion of the BMW and the revised race result, fourth became second in the final reckoning, meaning the Barwell crews switched places in the championship.
 
With a win and two second places, the weekend can still be considered a successful one for the team, and Barwell Motorsport has also stretched its lead in the Teams’ Championship, now sitting 84.5pts clear of its nearest rival.
 
Alex Martin said: “It’s such a mixed weekend. To have the highs of race one, and then thinking you had that for race two also, only for the lows of the penalty… it’s been a rollercoaster. Obviously, I’m disappointed as the car was superb and Sandy was on a different planet so we deserved the two wins, and that would have put us up the road in the championship. But we’re still well in the fight and it’s clear we have the pace, so we’ll reset and head to Donington Park with no success penalty.”
 
Sandy Mitchell said: “It’s pretty gutting the weekend ended how it did, but there are so many positives to take from the weekend as a whole. We had incredible pace in the car this weekend and the team did a superb job. Alex also drove superbly, and we did get to celebrate one win. We’ll just aim high for the next one.”
 
Rob Collard said: “It’s been a tricky weekend, but to come away with two podiums is never a bad result, especially in a championship this tight. I feel for the #78 crew as they were so strong this weekend, but it also means we’re both now so close in the championship and we know they are our biggest competition for this title. Race two was good fun at the end. I knew the safety car would bring us back into play and I just went for it and took every gap I could see.”
 
Ricky Collard said: “It’s great to come away leading the championship, especially when I struggled with the car a bit here. I felt like I was trying everything in that second race but couldn’t make progress, but it was awesome to see some of the moves dad pulled off toward the end. It’s been a very strong weekend points-wise and we've got good momentum to take into the final two races.”
 
Barwell Motorsport team principal Mark Lemmer added: “Regardless of the penalty, we can be very proud of both sides of the garage this weekend. The team performance overall has been exceptional, with both cars looking the class of the field in a highly competitive championship. Motorsport is full of ups and downs, and this is a perfect example of the rollercoaster that is GT racing. We know we have two incredibly quick cars, and there’s no reason we can’t get straight back to winning form next time out at Donington Park.”
 
Barwell Motorsport is now set for a double-header in Germany with the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup event at Hockenheim next weekend, before returning to Endurance Cup action at the Nürburgring on July 27/28.

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