Fletcher and Topham Beat The Clock At British GT Oulton Park Opener

Strictly Come Dancing winner takes first overall British GT victory at Oulton Park in the curtain-raiser’s second eventful race.

Words: Graham Keilloh

At Oulton Park for Easter Monday’s British GT curtain-raising double header, a race with claim to be the championship’s best ever was followed by one with claim as its strangest. And strange not merely because the victors were Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman, winning overall for the first time in British GT.

Fletcher and Plowman – in a Paddock Motorsport team having its debut as a McLaren outfit and as a two-car squad – were not likely winners in advance, finishing Oulton’s race one 15th and starting race two 14th.

The second race though in effect became a 20-minute sprint for every pairing’s ‘Am’ driver. The Pro drivers’ opening stint of the hour-long contest was wiped, first by a lengthy safety car period after GT4 pair Moh Ritson’s Paddock McLaren and Freddie Tomlinson’s Assetto Ginetta collided at Shell Oils. Then the red flag flew during the half-distance pit window as amid sudden rain Jamie Caroline’s RAM Mercedes slid off before Druids, burying deep in the tyre barrier.

The race restarted with the order from before the pit window, all now with their stint-two drivers and assuming the mandatory stops were done. However pitstop penalties – for the top-three finishers from Oulton’s race one plus the 14 seconds for GT4’s Silver Cup runners – would still apply in full and be added at the end. It meant race two was on the clock as well as on the track.

This was bad news for race two’s frontrunning pair Ian Loggie’s RAM Mercedes and Shaun Balfe’s Audi. They also were the top two home in race one so had to add 7s and 10s respectively.

At first this looked OK for Loggie nevertheless as he led Balfe on track in first and had less penalty to take, plus Mia Flewitt’s 7TSIX McLaren in third was holding the rest back.

Yet Fletcher got himself into fourth behind Flewitt after Morgan Tillbrook’s Enduro McLaren was delayed by an electrical problem then Adam Balon’s Barwell Lamborghini served a 10s stop-go penalty after partner Sandy Mitchell hit Tilbrook’s partner Marcus Clutton under an earlier safety car.

Fletcher was able to clear Flewitt for third at Hislop’s chicane with 10 minutes left to get a clear track to charge in to. But he was 9.3s behind Loggie, more than the magical 7s range to finish ahead. Yet Fletcher then closed on the leaders incessantly and took the net first place with two minutes left. Loggie and Balfe, the first two home, dropped indeed to fifth and sixth in the final calculation.

And Fletcher was clear on the significance. “[It’s been] a challenging weekend. We always set the bar high [at Paddock] but we have to be realistic, we’re going up against some really quick combinations [who] are comfortable in their chosen vehicles. It was a tall order, but we just drove our hearts out,” he told Motorsport News.

Plus in the dramatic climax Fletcher was largely unaware of the time situation: “My earphones had completely gone so I just knew I was making a bit of a headway but I just wanted to get some good times in.”

Loggie wasn’t happy that the restart wiped partner Jules Gounon’s stint-one lead and appealed the result, but it stood.

Yet RAM’s penalty was nothing on Steller Audi’s GT4 race-one winners Sennan Fielding and Richard Williams who had a mammoth 24s to add, accumulated from 10s for winning race one and 14s for being a Silver pairing.

They also finished first on the road in race two but were third in the classification, as Darren Turner’s Newbridge Aston Martin Pro-Am partner Matt Topham came home second on the road well within range to win. Jack Brown, partnering reigning champion Will Burns in a Silver Cup Century BMW, was chasing Topham and also snuck ahead of the Audi.

“I never knew the gap to P1, they just let me do my thing,” Topham told MN, “and I’m glad they did because it took everything to stay in front of Jack. I thought it was a P2 [result] until they told me.

“I knew we were on for [victory] but when the Audi snuck past the GT3 BMW I thought ‘that’s it’, because I just couldn’t get past.”

Results

British GT Championship 2022

Round 2: Oulton Park

GT3

Pos Driver 1/Driver 2 Team/Car Category Time
1 Kelvin Fletcher/Martin Plowman Paddock Motorsport/McLaren 720S Pro-Am 1h30m06.053s
2 Richard Neary/Sam Neary Team Abba Racing/Mercedes-AMG Silver-Am +2.726s
3 Kevin Tse/Chris Froggatt Sky Tempesta Racing/Mercedes-AMG Silver-Am +4.004s
4 Graham Davidson/James Kell Team Rocket RJN/McLaren 720S Silver-Am +4.654s
5 Ian Loggie/Jules Gounon RAM Racing/Mercedes-AMG Pro-Am +5.452s*
6 Shaun Balfe/Adam Carroll Balfe Balfe Motorsport/Audi R8 LMS Evo II Pro-Am +9.015s*
7 Michael Igoe/Phil Keen WPI Motorsport/Lamborghini Huracan Pro-Am +9.168s
8 Alex Malykhin/James Dorlin Redline Racing/Lamborghini Huracan Silver-Am +10.185s
9 Mia Flewitt/Euan Hankey 7TSIX/McLaren 720S Pro-Am +13.000s
10 Nick Halstead/Jamie Stanley Fox Motorsport/McLaren 720S Pro-Am +16.307s*

11 Nick Jones/Scott Malvern (Team Parker Racing/Porsche 911) +21.421s; 12 Adam Balon/Sandy Mitchell (Barwell Motorsport/Lamborghini Huracan) +36.972s; 13 Betty Chen/Angus Fender (Century Motorsport/BMW M4) 1m34.614s; 14 Morgan Tillbrook/Marcus Clutton (Enduro Motorsport/McLaren 720S) -1 Lap; 15 Mark Sansom/Will Tregurtha (Assetto Motorsport/Bentley Continental) -4 Laps; Ret James Cottingham/Lewis Williamson (2Seas Motorsport/Mercedes-AMG) 14 Laps; NC John Ferguson/Jamie Caroline (RAM Racing/Mercedes-AMG) 13 Laps; Ret Stewart Proctor/Lewis Proctor (Greystone GT/McLaren 720S) 13 Laps. Pole position: Gounon 1m32.384s. Fastest lap: Gounon 1m33.862s (103.25mph). Winner’s average speed: 51.98mph. *Additional success pitstop time adjustments added to race time.

GT4

Pos Driver 1/Driver 2 Team/Car Category Time
1 Matt Topham/Darren Turner Newbridge Motorsport/Aston Martin Vantage AMR Pro 1h31m48.048s
2 Jack Brown/Will Burns Century Motorsport/BMW M4 Silver +15.142s*
3 Richard Williams/Sennan Fielding Fielding Steller Motorsport/Audi R8 LMS Silver +15.506s*
4 Tom Edgar/Jack Mitchell Toyota Gazoo Racing UK/Toyota GR Supra Silver -1 Lap*
5 Benji Hetherington/Ross Wylie Valluga Racing/Porsche 718 Cayman Silver -1 Lap*
6 Jamie Day/Josh Miller R Racing/Aston Martin Vantage AMR Silver -1 Lap*
7 Aaron Morgan/Bobby Trundley Team BRIT/McLaren 570S Pro-Am -1 Lap
8 Jamie Orton/Seb Hopkins Team Parker Racing/Porsche 718 Cayman Silver -1 Lap*
9 Marco Signoretti/Matt Cowley -1 Lap* Silver -1 Lap*
10 Tom Rawlings/Chris Salkeld Century Motorsport/BMW M4 Pro-Am -2 Lap*

Ret Ashley Marshall/Moh Ritson (Paddock Motorsport/McLaren 570S) 2 Laps; Ret Joe Wheeler/Freddie Tomlinson (Assetto Motorsport/Ginetta G56) 2 Laps. Pole position: Turner 1m41.957s. Fastest lap: Fielding 1m43.059s (94.03mph). Winner’s average speed: 51.02mph. *Additional success and Silver Cup pitstop time adjustments added to race time.

Driver standings

GT3

 Pos Driver Points
1 Shaun Balfe/Adam Carroll 35
2 Ian Loggie/Jules Gounon 30
3 Kelvin Fletcher/Martin Plowman 25
4 Michael Igoe/Phil Keen 20
5 Richard Neary/Sam Neary 18
6 Nick Halstead/Jamie Stanley 17
7 Graham Davidson/James Kell 15
8 Mia Flewitt/Euan Hankey 12
9 James Cottingham/Lewis Williamson 10
10 Mark Sansom/Will Tregurtha & Alex Malykhin/James Dorlin 6

11 Morgan Tillbrook/Marcus Clutton 4; 12 Adam Balon/Sandy Mitchell 2; 13 John Ferguson/Jamie Caroline 1; 13 Nick Jones/Scott Malvern 1

GT4

 Pos Driver Points
1 Richard Williams/Sennan Fielding 40
2 Matt Topham/Darren Turner 35
3= Josh Miller/Jamie Day 26
3= Jack Brown/Will Burns 26
5 Ross Wylie/Benji Hetherington 25
6 Tom Edgar/Jack Mitchell 16
7 Matt Cowley/Marco Signoretti 14
8 Seb Hopkins/Jamie Orton 10
9 Aaron Morgan/Bobby Trundley 6
10 Ashley Marshall/Moh Ritson 2

11= Joe Wheeler/Freddie Tomlinson 1; 11= Chris Salkeld/Tom Rawlings 1

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