Barwell Motorsport once again proved that the fast sweeps of Oulton Park circuit are well suited to our Lamborghini Huracan GT3s, as we took a fifth win in a row there in last weekend’s British GT opener, having started the run back in 2016. This time it was Adam Balon and Phil Keen who took the spoils from pole position in race two at the Cheshire venue, with their Techtrak-backed Lambo being closely followed home by the BlackBull-supported version of team-mates Rob Collard and Sandy Mitchell. Having notched up seventh and fourth place finishes in the first race of the day, our two driver crews are currently lying in second and third in the overall championship, as well as leading in the Pro-Am and Silver class standings respectively. Barwell Motorsport also came away from Oulton with a healthy lead in the Teams Championship.
Qualifying for race one was dominated by the ultra-light McLarens, with their Silver driver line-ups filling the top four slots on the grid. Rob secured a useful sixth place on the grid on his British GT debut, despite having to carry an extra 30kgs of ballast as he had been ‘upgraded’ by the British GT organisers from his actual FIA Bronze grade to Silver driver status. Adam put in a strong performance to qualify ninth overall, third fastest out of the Bronze-graded Ams. Rob used his BTCC experience to make a great start, going round the outside of Sam De Haan’s Mercedes at the first corner to slot into fifth place. After that the race became a high-speed train of cars all close to each other but unable to make a move around the tight confines of the Oulton Park track. Hence Rob and Adam came into the pits in fifth and ninth places respectively, with Sandy emerging in the same spot for his stint and Phil managing to move ahead of the Abba Merc for eighth after a perfectly timed pit stop. A pit stop infringement penalty for the #10 TwoSeas McLaren then moved our cars up to fourth and seventh, and Sandy was just about hanging onto the back of the #9 TwoSeas McLaren of Dean MacDonald for most of the race but just couldn’t get close enough to mount a challenge. Hence as predicted the super-light McLarens filled the top three overall positions with their young Silver driver crews.
With the Pro and faster Silver drivers on qualifying duties for race 2, it was no surprise to see that our very own factory Lamborghini Pro and absolute Oulton Park maestro, Mr Philip Keen, once again set the fastest time to take another Pole position at the Cheshire track. He was definitely made to earn it by Sandy, however, who put in a stunning lap to line up alongside his team-mate on the front row of the grid. These two also had the RAM Mercedes duo of Yelmer Buurman and Patrick Kujala keeping them very close company on the time sheets.
At the start of race two it was expected that these four would be able to eke out a small gap back to the McLaren Silver ‘gang’ who had dominated the first race, and thus leave our Am drivers the best chance possible to try and fend the McLarens off during the second half of the race. This script got torn up after the first corner, however, as a super-fast and aggressive start from the JMH Lamborghini of Marcus Clutton proved to be an annoying fly in the Mercedes ointment of Buurman and Kujala! Clutton squeezed his Huracan down the inside of Buurman into the first corner and then also managed to hold Kujala at bay on the run down to Cascades, as he slotted into third behind our Barwell duo of Keen and Mitchell. He didn’t have the pace to challenge our cars, but was able to keep both baying Mercs and the McLarens behind him for most of the first half of the race and thus inadvertently became a very useful buffer between us and our rivals!. With Buurman and Kujala unable to unleash their true pace as they were wedged up behind the JMH Lambo, it allowed Phil and Sandy to build a very unexpected healthy lead at the front of the field.
Hence the second half of the race, after the driver change pit stops, looked like it would be a nerve-wracking inter-Barwell team fight for the win between Adam and Rob! Shortly after the pit stops had been completed however, the race was put under Safety Car conditions due to a collision between a GT3 and a GT4 car and our time advantage was wiped out in an instant as the field all lined up in a tight train behind each other. With no damage to the barriers and a straightforward car recovery operation required, we expected to be back under full racing conditions after a few laps behind the Safety Car. Somehow though, this operation then seemed to be dragging on much longer than it should have, and extraordinarily the Safety Car stayed out right until the end of the race. A very frustrating way to finish, but of course it meant our 1-2 position at the head of the field remained completely unchallenged!