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2022 Intelligent Money British GT Championship - Donington Roundup

British GT was back in action over the weekend, 27-29 May, as the championship visited Donington Park for the first of two visits. Round 4 saw James Cottingham and teammate Lewis Williamson once again at the wheel of the DK Engineering-sponsored 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 looking to kickstart the 2022 campaign, and deliver a result which the pair has promised at each round so far. A particularly strong qualifying run by James help set up a front-row start for the 3-hour endurance battle, and after a hard battle into the final stages for the lead, the pair secured a P2 finish.

Arriving at the event having not previously run on the track configuration, James was understandably slightly apprehensive and realistic of expectations for a result. However, confidence continued to build along with pace as the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 improved consistently across the early test sessions to the point where James was among the quickest Am drivers heading into the qualifying shootout on Saturday. This pace was quickly evident in qualifying as James immediately went quickest, before chipping away further over the following laps to improve the benchmark time. The session ended with a late flurry of activity and James improved yet again, delivering his best lap of the weekend up to that point. Despite narrowly missing out on the quickest time, the impressive pace set a strong foundation for Lewis’ qualifying run, and the Scot’s time combined to secure the team’s best qualifying result of the season so far, starting on the front row of the grid. Commenting on qualifying, James explained: “We made real progress in the early sessions, taking big steps forward and I felt much more confident heading into the quick-fire qualifying shootout. The laps felt really clean, and the final run was really nicely hooked up all the way around. I am still learning, and I know I am a bit cautious, but I didn’t feel there was much more that I could have given on my run to set Lewis up for, and he delivered a great lap to get us on the front row.”

A group of DK Engineering’s VIP visitors and sponsors joined the team on a sunny race day with garage tours and a grid walk enabling them to get up close and personal to the 30-car grid ahead of the 3-hour event. Off track, but no less desirable, DK also caused a stir with its selection of classic and modern supercars currently being offered by the sales team, including a restored Ferrari 250 SWB, one of only 49 right hand drive UK-supplied Ferrari 458 Speciale Apertas and the extremely limited MSO HS coupe from McLaren Automotive.

More determined than ever for a strong result, James took the start of the race and a bold move around the outside of turn 1 saw the yellow-and-red Mercedes make the clean pass on the pole-sitter for the race lead. From here, James looked to make the most of the clear track ahead while defending from the hard-charging McLaren, and he gradually extended the lead over the opening stint before a Safety Car intervention started a sequence of events which would play a large part on the outcome of the overall race result.

James handed over to Lewis from the lead, but the remainder of the field filed into the pitlane, boxing the newly-serviced Mercedes-AMG in its pitbox, undoing the work from the opening stint. Quick manoeuvring by the pitcrew minimised the time lost, but the lead had been lost during an extended safety car period. Undeterred, Lewis and James continued to show the strong pace and delivered consistently quick and clean laps as the strategies played out across the field. Firmly engaged in the overall race lead until the closing stages, the pair were able to concentrate on running their own race, and the chequered flag dropped to secure a season-best P2 finish for the team, and the first podium of the championship for James and Lewis in only their fourth event.

After collecting his first GT3 trophy, James added: “A great result and a really fantastic weekend all round. A big thank you to our guests and sponsors who joined us over the weekend, and to the 2 Seas Motorsport team. I’m really pleased to finally secure that elusive podium which we have been so close to at each of the rounds so far, and hopefully we can now build on this result moving forwards. I was slightly apprehensive at the start after the incident last time out at Silverstone, but I needn’t have worried as I managed to make a strong getaway and it was great, clean racing by everyone. I had hoped I could make the early move, but knew it was reliant on having the tyres and brakes up to temperature, and me being brave enough to go for it, so it was great to make it stick!

“After that, the early stint was great fun racing and battling with Morgan in the McLaren. We were unlucky with the first stop and the Safety Car call, and that set things up for the remainder of our race, but we showed we had the pace over the full race distance and kept the pressure on. I lost comms contact with the team during my second stint, but managed to run our own race and stay out of trouble, which was really important for us after the first few rounds. I’m super happy for the whole team that we could secure the result, especially as we have shown we had the pace to be near the front on the previous weekends, and now I am determined to show that we can deliver performance and results consistently.”

The next rounds of the championship take place over the weekend, 25-26 June, with two sprint races at Snetterton in Norfolk. Hopefully that elusive win is just around the corner.

Text courtesy of Dave Eden of XP2R Communications.

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