JOHNSON TAKES TITLE AT LOCAL CIRCUIT

Nottingham’s Derek Johnson, with team mate Jonny Adam, claimed the 2016 British GT Championship title, at Donington Park in September, just 12 months after Johnson had claimed his first GT victory here at his local circuit. The TF Sport Aston Martin pairing arrived at Donington 11.5 points behind Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen (Lambourghini Huracan) but led from pole position with the Alisdair McCaig/ Rob Bell McLaren 605S in second place ahead of the Lambourghini.

Johnson and Adam had started the season with back-to-back wins, but Minshaw and Keen’s double victory at Snetterton had taken them into the lead of the championship. A four-way battle ensued with title outsiders Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Morris (Bentley Continental) looking for a way through. 35 minutes into the two-hour race Minshaw misjudged a move on McCaig and ended his day in the Old Hairpin gravel. McCaig was the first to make his mid-race stop, handing over to Rob Bell, but an additional 15 second success penalty put Jonny Adam behind the McLaren as he returned the Aston to the track. With Minshaw out, second place was all Adam and Johnson needed for the title. Bell pulled clear to give the Ecurie Ecosse McLaren its first win of the season, 8 seconds ahead of Adam. Adam’s main focus was managing the gap to the third-placed Bentley of Seb Morris which was 2 seconds behind at the flag. Following his title win with Andrew Howard in 2015, Adam entered the record books as the first driver to retain the title in the championship’s 24-year history.

“Even when I saw Jon (Minshaw) had gone off I was still pushing hard,” said Derek Johnson. “I do love Donington, it’s always been good to me, whether I’ve been racing bikes or cars. But we did it again and it feels fantastic!”

“We knew what we had to do this weekend and have attacked from the word go,” added Jonny Adam. “Derek did the hard work to be fair, but it still felt like the longest stint of my life – 63 minutes of listening to every noise the car was making and just hoping for the best. It’s tough on brakes here so I concentrated on monitoring the gaps and generally looking after the car.”

Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty (McLaren) won the GT4 class while Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson wrapped up the class title by finishing third in their Ginetta G55. Great British Bake Off celebrity chef Paul Hollywood continued his motorsport education with a respectable 21st place, driving the Beechdean GT4 Aston Martin alongside 2015 GT4 champion Jamie Chadwick.

An ambitious move at the first turn, in the first race of three, cost Ricky Collard the British Formula 3 title. The son of BTCC favourite Rob Collard came to Donington 15 points clear of Brazilian Matheus Leist, but began the race from fourth place, two place behind Leist. Collard’s move failed and he resumed in 14th place. In a bid to make ground he made another mistake on lap 9 and came to rest in the gravel at Redgate. Leist went on to win the race and take the championship lead.

Toby Sowerby took his third win of the season in race 2 while Collard lost more ground to Leist after starting from the back row. The Brazilian only needed to finish ahead of Collard in the final race and, although Collard worked his way through the field, he could not find a way past Leist. Sowerby completed a double victory as Leist and Collard finished in fifth and sixth places. Leist took the title, 33 points clear of Collard with Sowerby in third place. Soerby also won the Raymond Mays Trophy as the most successful F3 driver at the Donington meeting.

After finishing second and third to newly-crowned Ginetta GT5 Champion Ollie Chadwick, Buxton brothers Ryan and Jonny Hadfield opened a big gap to the field in race 2 and looked set for a fantastic R&J Motorsport 1-2 at their home circuit. Ryan took a comfortable win but celebrations were muted when Jonny was forced to retire after being hit by a spinning back-marker returning to the track on the final lap.

Ryan, starting 14th, quickly joined Chadwick at the front of race 3 while Jonny made up 30 places to finish tenth at the flag. However, the flag came just too soon for Ryan as Chadwick crossed the line just 0.141 seconds ahead of the Buxton driver.