Brands hatch podium gives Barwell duo strong title challenge

11 September 2023 Brands hatch podium gives Barwell duo strong title challenge

Barwell Motorsport drivers Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha will head to next month's Intelligent Money British GT Championship finale in contention of the Silver-Am class title after claiming another podium finish on the Brands Hatch grand prix layout at the weekend.
The #72 crew finished second in class, and eighth overall, as the penultimate round of the series sweltered in the September sun, but fortunes could have been so much better for both Sansom and Tregurtha and the #78 sister car of Sandy Mitchell and Shaun Balfe, who finished fifth on the road after running at the sharp end of the field, but dropped out of contention for the overall crown after requiring a podium of their own to remain in the hunt.
Mitchell and Balfe arrived at Brands Hatch 48 points adrift of their title rivals but showed that the seven-week hiatus since round seven had done little to dull their pace, placing strongly in the two practice sessions before Mitchell ramped up the pace, briefly topping the times before the duo’s combined efforts in qualifying gave them third place on the grid. Sansom and Tregurtha, meanwhile, lined up ninth as they tried to maintain their involvement in the Silver-Am title fight after victory at Portimão in round seven curbed their main rivals' run of wins.
Britain's Indian Summer continued into race day, presenting tricky track conditions and extreme cockpit temperatures for the drivers. Undaunted, the two Barwell entries featured right at the top of the timesheets after the morning warm-up session, with Mitchell and Balfe narrowly edging out their team-mates to raise confidence levels within the camp heading into the afternoon's two-hour event.
A rapid getaway by Balfe, allied to a chaotic opening lap, quickly lifted the Black Bull Whisky-liveried #78 Lamborghini Huracan Evo 2 into second spot, where it remained until a couple of safety car periods not only bunched the field, but also erased the 8.9s gap Balfe had created to the car behind to overcome the mandatory success penalties they would have to serve at the driver changes.
Slowed out of the pit-stop due to a busy pitlane, Mitchell pushed to keep the #78 in place to take advantage of any mishaps ahead which benefited when the #3 Mercedes experienced difficulties, handing fifth place to the first of the distinctive Barwell Lamborghinis. The second car, meanwhile, was having a great run, with Sansom staying out of trouble during the first stint. A deftly organised stacked pit-stop saw both Barwell cars back on track in short order, with Tregurtha heading the Silver-Am category.
Frustratingly a slow puncture on the left rear tyre subsequently forced Tregurtha to recover to pit-lane for a new tyre, dropping him to second in class with just a handful of laps remaining. With a shake-up in the familiar Silver-Am order, the result was still enough for Sansom and Tregurtha to stay in the hunt for the class title, where no fewer than three crews will go head-to-head in a 'winner takes all' finale.
Mitchell and Balfe can still finish on the overall championship podium too, as fifth on the road at Brands Hatch leaves them in with a shot at third in the final point standings.
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