It was a season finale which lived up to the billing, as 2 Seas Motorsport looked to double up on the success already achieved, hoping to add the Drivers’ title for 2023. However, despite the best efforts of the Bahraini-British setup, the results went against James Cottingham, as the #4 DK Engineering-backed Mercedes-AMG driver finished as runner-up, in what is only his second full British GT season. Teammate Ian Loggie signed off as reigning champion with yet another standout performance to score a further top-5 finish, cementing fifth place in the championship, racing alongside Jules Gounon.
The weekend’s track action opened with the weather being a major talking point. The practice sessions saw both pairings running well, as they bult on the experience from the season’s earlier visit to the Midlands’ circuit. Qualifying then took place in drying conditions, but tyre choice, and the ability to keep heat in the slick tyres on a wet, patchy track, were key to delivering a good laptime.
With the track slowly coming into the slick tyre window, laptimes were steadily improving, as several cars went off the drying line and ended up off track. Ian managed the conditions particularly well, and as the session came to a conclusion with a red flag, the Scot showed his experience as the quickest of the slick-shod runners in P3. James also improved across the session to set up his championship challenge one row back on the grid in P5. With a clearer dry line, but still far from perfect conditions for the slick tyres, Jules and stand-in driver Philip Ellis took on the second qualifying session. Both Mercedes-AMG drivers delivered impressive laptimes, improving with each subsequent lap, and as the flag dropped, the pair had reinforced their teammates earlier efforts. James and his title rival were closely matched, just a row apart at the front.
A clean start saw Ian consolidate his starting position, while James quickly made a move and slotted into the slipstream of his teammate. The pair ran in formation before an extended Safety Car intervention in the opening laps brought the field under control. On the restart, Ian was immediately battling for position, involved in a three-car fight for the podium positions, while James briefly lost ground to the leaders. Ian continued his fight, cleanly negotiating his way through traffic, making two bold moves on the same lap to move up to P2, while James got caught as the leading GT3s made their way through slower backmarkers. With James’ title rival leading the pack, a further incident initially saw a yellow flag caution called, before the Safety Car was scrambled once again to bring the field back together with less than 10-minutes before the pit window.
As the race returned to green flag running, the GT3 leaders entered the pits for the driver change. Jules returned to the track holding the race lead in the #1 Mercedes-AMG, while a the success penalty carried over from the last round meant Philip rejoined in P8, but crucially ahead of the rival for the championship. Shortly after the pitstop cycle, a stranded car meant a third Safety Car intervention and, as racing resumed, Jules ran wide, relinquishing the lead. He quickly recovered to regain one of the lost positions, but his teammate’s championship challenge was a dealt a severe blow when a drive-through penalty was given after it was determined that a pass had been made under the melee of yellow flag conditions prior to an earlier Safety Car.
Both crews then worked hard to stay in the fight in the closing stages, while watching the challenger climb up the order. Philip, making his British GT debut, was running with similar pace to the leaders and gained several positions as he recovered from the penalty, while Jules continued to fight for a top-5 result. At the line, Jules claimed P5, with Philip moving into P10. The result saw James finish as runner up in the championship by 12.5 points.
“A tough weekend, but every team member gave it everything. The weather certainly added some extra spice to proceedings for qualifying, to slightly shuffle the order, and it kept things interesting! Then the race was one of the most exciting of the whole season, with action up and down the field. We knew we had to come out and get a good result against a strong rival for the championship, but it just wasn’t to be this year. All four drivers did a great job all weekend, and the whole team pushed to the very end, and didn’t give up. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved today, and over the whole season. The British GT Championship is one of the most competitive GT3 championships at the moment, so to take the Teams’ title, and for James to finish as runner up in only his second full season of GT3, are very impressive. Now it is time to look at what we can do better, and keep pushing.”
Isa Al Khalifa, co-owner, 2 Seas Motorsport