Balfe, Paddock Take Opening Wins of Season
Balfe Motorsport and Paddock Motorsport have taken the opening wins of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship season following a pair of action-packed Easter Monday races at Oulton Park.
Adam Carroll held off a hard-charging Jules Gounon to take the Race 1 win in the No. 22 Balfe Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II alongside co-driver Shaun Balfe, following an impressive charge from down the field by the Mercedes-AMG factory driver.
Gounon, in the No. 6 Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, came up less than a half-second short in Race 1, and while the Ram Mercedes crossed the line first on the road in Race 2, it ultimately was classified sixth.
A mid-race red flag for barrier damage from an accident by a Mercedes-AMG GT3, coming amid a downpour on the British circuit, resulted in race control resetting the field to the lap prior to the GT3 pit window being opened and allowing teams to change tires and drivers while under the red.
Once racing resumed with 20 minutes left on the clock, Ian Loggie held off Balfe on track, but both had 7 and 10 seconds, respectively, added to their finishing time due to not being able to serve the success penalties during the pit stop.
It resulted in the No. 11 Paddock Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 of Martin Plowman and Kevin Fletcher, which finished third on the road but did not have any success penalty time from Race 1, being declared the winner in Fletcher’s first weekend with the GT3-spec McLaren.
GT4 race honors went to the No. 42 Stellar Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4 of Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding in Race 1 after Darren Turner was forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty for his Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4 not meeting the minimum pit stop time.
Turner and co-driver Matt Topham rebounded to take the win in Race 2.
Champions Open Defense with Sonoma Double
Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper launched their Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS drivers’ title defense by winning both races that made up the season-opening round at Sonoma Raceway.
The K-PAX Racing Lamborghini duo swept the weekend as Wright Motorsports and AF Corse did the same in the Pro-Am and Am classes.
Pepper made a strong getaway from pole at the start of Race 1 to give Caldarelli a comfortable advantage heading into the second stint.
The Lamborghini factory driver extended his cushion to 52 seconds at the checkered flag, while Philip Ellis took second overall in the Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo started by Russell Ward.
Ellis and Ward finished second again in Race 2, but it was another Mercedes-AMG entry that provided the strongest initial challenge.
Caldarelli ran second behind Loris Spinelli in the US Racetronics Mercedes-AMG, the Italians running nose-to-tail before handing over to their co-drivers.
However, a quicker stop from K-PAX Racing brought Pepper out ahead of Steven Aghakhani, whose Mercedes then dropped out of contention with a punctured tire.
Ward then became Pepper’s main threat and the American driver was right on the South African’s tail with under half an hour remaining thanks to a safety car.
However, Pepper strengthened his grip on the final third of the race after the restart by establishing a lead over Ward that stood at 21 seconds at the finish.
Racing Spirit of Leman Wins at Paul Ricard
Tom Dillmann and Alexander Mattschull won the opening round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup season at Paul Ricard driving for the Racing Spirit of Leman squad.
The French team, which previously ran the Cool Racing LMP2 program, claimed its first outright victory in the series by a margin of 17.5 seconds.
Mattschull started the No. 10 Duqueine D08 Nissan from the second row, behind MV2S Forestier Racing’s Jerome de Sadeleer and pole-sitter Torsten Kratz of WTM Racing.
Kratz led the opening stint while Mattschull and de Sadeleer battled over second place up to the driver swaps.
Dillmann emerged from the pit cycle in third, behind Leo Weiss who had assumed driving duties in the WTM Duqueine and Louis Rousset who had been promoted to the lead courtesy of MV2S Racing’s quicker service.
Dillmann first found a way past Weiss before sweeping around the outside of Rousset at Turn 3, shortly before a Full Course Yellow was brought out to deal with a stoppage for the No. 69 Cool Racing Ligier JS P320 Nissan.
The Racing Spirit of Le Mans Duqueine controlled the race from that point, as Dillmann extended his lead after the FCY to take a commanding victory ahead of Rousset and de Sadeleer. Tommy Foster and Martin Rich took third after getting past the WTM car.
RESULTS: Paul Ricard
Other Racing Action
***Sonoma debutants Stevan McAleer and Eric Filgueiras won both races of the Pirelli GT4 America season-opening round sharing an RS1-prepared Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport. They were twice joined on the podium by Conquest Racing Mercedes-AMG duo Gavin Sanders and Michai Stephens, and Pro-Am winners Bryan Putt and Kenton Koch. Race 1 / Race 2
***A late caution period fed a tight end to the opening GT America powered by AWS race at Sonoma, which ultimately went the way of Jason Daskalos aboard an Audi R8 LMS ultra. Daskalos held off George Kurtz by just 0.152 seconds and went on to finish second in Race 2, behind Jason Harward who won from pole in his Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini. Race 1 / Race 2
***FFSA French GT held its season-opener at Nogaro, for the annual Coupes de Paques Easter Cup meeting. Nicolas Prost and Rudy Servol worked their way up from 10th on the grid to win the first race in a CMR-run Alpine A110 GT4. In Monday’s Race 2, the No. 87 Akkodis ASP Team pairing of Hugo Chevalier and Enzo Joulie took the win in their Mercedes-AMG GT4. Race 1 / Race 2
***The second season of the Ligier European Series kicked off at Paul Ricard with a pair of hourlong races. In the top Ligier JS P4 prototype class, Gillian Henrion won both encounters while Haytham Qarajouli and Nicolas Beroud shared out top honors in the class for Ligier JS 2Rs. Race 1 / Race 2
News & Notes
***Lotus has become the new official safety car provider for British GT and served its first meeting in the role at Oulton Park last weekend. The new Emira sports car will lead the GT3 and GT4 fields throughout 2022. Lotus is preparing to launch the new Emira GT4 race car.
***Audi Sport factory drivers Mattia Drudi and Markus Winkelhock will support Car Collection Motorsport’s two-car ADAC GT Masters entry with the new Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II. Drudi will pair up with Thierry Vermeulen, the son of Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen. Winkelhock is partnering Florian Spengler, who topped the GT Masters Trophy classification last season.
***Reigning DTM Trophy champion team FK Performance has announced a four-driver crew for the 2022 season. The German squad’s BMW M4 GT4s will be driven by Moritz Loehner, Marc de Fulgencio, Steriyan Folev and Jordan Wallace, who joins from the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America.
***Madpanda Motorsport has confirmed the driver lineup for its debut season in GT Masters. Team principal Ezequiel Perez Companc will share the wheel of the team’s sole Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo with Jannes Fittje.
***Imperiale Racing has set its Italian GT Championship lineups with Alberto di Folco and Stuart Middleton teaming up in the No. 6 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo for the Sprint Cup events. The No. 9 car for Sprint will be driven by solo competitor Paul August.
***European Le Mans Series squad Racing Experience will race in the new Prototype Cup Germany with a Duqueine D08 Nissan for Gary Hauser and Sebastian Von Gartzen.
***Vintage racer Larry Connor recently missed the HSR event at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta due to his participation in the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. Connor is the pilot of the Axiom 1 mission that launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on April 8.
On this weekend: ADAC GT Masters (Oschersleben), NLS (Round 3), 24H Series (Spa-Francorchamps)
John Dagys and Davey Euwema contributed to this report