Easter weekend played host to the first two rounds of the 2022 Intelligent Money British GT Championship. Held at Oulton Park, Saturday consisted of two rounds of free practicie, followed by qualifying, while Monday saw two hour-long races.
For the first race, Cottingham and Williamson showed excellent pace with a fantastic qualifying result, having qualified within a half second of Shaun Balfe and Adam Carroll's Audi R8 LMS Evo II GT3 on pole. Making his full championship debut, James looked immediately comfortable during the session and initially set the quickest time of the session. As the clock ran down the order would change, but James’ performance secured the best qualifying position for the team of the weekend with P3 in class, P5 overall.
A busy opening few minutes to the 60-minute race 1 saw James take the start and make immediate progress to gain a position. He led the sister 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 as they chased down the leaders, despite a number of cars around him starting on newer tyres. Overall pace was strong, and James maintained position as he found his groove, slicing through the slower GT4 traffic while absorbing the pressure from the chasing pack. He would gain a further position after 20 minutes when one of the leading McLarens ended the race in the barrier and, as the pit window opened, James concluded his opening stint running well in the final podium position.
Switching for Lewis, the bold yellow and red Mercedes-AMG GT3 re-emerged and was the quickest car on track and leading the Pro-Am class as the race reached middle distance. Shortly after, however, the team was handed a 5 second penalty for a pitstop infringement which dropped them out of overall contention, but Lewis continued to press on as he looked to make up the lost time. At the chequered flag, he had recovered to a solid P5.
The second of the weekend’s races saw Lewis take the start, but a difficult qualifying put them firmly in the midfield. With the threat of rain hanging over the circuit as the race got started, the #4 made some early progress but the action was brought under an extended safety car period within the first five minutes. Lewis maintained position from the restart, and continued to fight before the rain started to fall just as the pit window opened. As cars started to filter into the pitlane, the race was then red flagged following a high-speed incident for a GT4 which caused damage to the barriers. As Lewis made his way into the pitlane, an engine issue following earlier contact would bring an unfortunate early end to the weekend.
Reflecting on the weekend, James explained: “I have a number of friends from the world of historic racing who have raced in British GT, and I have always been told that in order to have a successful season you don’t necessarily have to be on the podium, but it is all about being consistent and finishing every round, and that was the aim heading into the weekend. The strength of the field is extremely strong and there is no margin for error and, after this weekend, we will have to really push now and maybe not take quite such a steady approach as previously planned.
“Luck wasn’t quite there for us over the weekend, and we weren’t where we wanted to be with the setup, but I managed to get a good result in qualifying which I am really pleased with, and Lewis proved in both races that the pace is definitely there. While the result in the second race is obviously disappointing, there are lots of positives to come away from the weekend with. We are still learning the new tyre, but our combined pace has shown that we have the potential to fight for the overall podium. We made a few avoidable mistakes with the penalty in race 1 and the contact in race 2, so we need to look at each piece of the puzzle and make sure we are firing on all cylinders at Silverstone.”
The next round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship will be the Silverstone 500, taking place on the weekend of May 7-8.