Back on top as 2 Seas Motorsport takes Portimao victory
The Intelligent Money British GT Championship headed to the Algarve for its annual overseas race event, as 2 Seas Motorsport looked to build on a strong opening half of the season. James Cottingham and Jonny Adam would eventually convert a front row start into a third race win of the season for the pair, while season regular Ian Loggie was joined by Phil Keen, as the reigning champion scored important points with a P6 finish.
James Cottingham and Jonny Adam arrived at the circuit leading the standings, while Ian was one strong result behind, and looking to the experience of the driver with the most race wins in the championship, Phil Keen, who substituted for his regular teammate, Jules Gounon. Both pairings looked to be in the mix as qualifying got underway, as James provisionally topped the timing screens with Ian joining him on the front row. The following laps would see times improve and, despite James’ impressive efforts to improve, he was pipped to pole as the clock ran down. A perfectly hooked up lap by Ian in the last moments would surpass everyone, however, and the #1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 ended the session fastest. The Pro qualifying session would prove as hard fought, and the combined times saw Jonny narrowly pipped to the top spot, with Phil hot on his heels in P3.
Starting in extremely warm conditions, both pairings knew they would face a challenge for a strong result, with success penalties to serve after their podium results at the last event. James and Ian held position off the start, but both were looking to make the necessary progress in the early stages, and the top-three pulled out a gap to the chasing pack before an early Safety Car intervention saw the team make a strategy call to switch for the pro drivers. Jonny and Phil rejoined the track, running in formation behind the pole-sitting McLaren. The pair set about running their own races as other teams worked on different strategies, working through the slower GT4 traffic which had not stopped.
A further Safety Car period, just after the 30 minute mark, gave the team had a chance to switch the drivers back, and James and Ian were reinstated to continue the battles. Quick work by the team got the cars in a lap ahead of the others in the lead pack, and then the race ran under caution for an extended period with the order now very mixed up as strategies were in play. James was wasting no time when the track went back to green, and the restart lap saw him firmly engaged in the fight for position ahead. A bold move around the outside of two cars lasted several corners, and saw the #4 DK Engineering-backed Mercedes-AMG gain a position before having to drop into line at the end of the long start-finish straight. Undeterred, he continued the fight over the following lap and eventually made the pass, before issues for cars in the lead pack would see him progress back into the podium positions. Ian continued to fight through traffic, and would move up from P7 as he continued his stint, following James in climbing up the order.
James was quickly on to the back of the race leader, and became engaged in a multi-lap battle, as he looked to find a way past. After several efforts, a well-judged move started around the outside of turn 11, and sheer determination made the pass stick as he exited turn 13 to take the race lead. From here, James set out building a gap to minimise the effects of the success penalty, which would be served at the next pitstop. Sensing an opportunity ahead of the next stop, Ian also fought his way through the field, firmly in the fight for the podium positions. Ian made a series of bold moves to keep his progression on track, closing in on second place, while James capitalised on a clear track ahead as he pulled out a sizeable gap to the chasing pack. Ian’s charge would be cut short, however, as he made the pass for P2, when he was handed a drive-through penalty for track limit infringements. This saw him drop down the order, but with 75 minutes remaining for a recovery effort.
The team was the first to pull the trigger among the leaders, on the final round of pitstops, with Jonny and Phil back in for the final stint. James’ pace in his closing laps had pulled out a gap which more than offset the success penalty, meaning the #4 was still in a strong position. A shorter success penalty for the #1 provided a slight gain as Phil retook to the track, and the fight was on for a top-10 position. Just as the final pitstops were coming to an end, a further Safety Car period was called to deal with a GT4 incident, which would set things up for a grandstand finish with little over 60 minutes of the three hours remaining.
Still holding the lead, Jonny managed the final restart well, pulling away from the chasing pack, while Phil continued to make progress as several of the leaders were handed penalties. The pro drivers were both on the front foot, and as Jonny posted the #4’s quickest lap of the race, Phil made further passes to secure important points for Ian’s championship run. At the line, Jonny was 4 seconds clear of the battling pair behind, while Phil had recovered well to claim sixth.
The result saw Jonny claim a record-equally 19th championship race win, now level with his teammate Phil Keen. This win extends the lead for him and James at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, while the points scored across the two cars leave 2 Seas Motorsport needing just six points to secure the Teams’ title, with two rounds to go.
“The whole team were absolutely faultless this weekend, from start to finish. To arrive here knowing both cars had success penalties to serve during the race, we knew it would be a challenge to score a decent result, especially as we expected safety cars and incidents. So, to finish with a race win and a top-6, is a huge achievement all round. Both cars showed great pace across all sessions, and all four drivers were in the fight throughout the whole race. Big congratulations to James and Jonny for the race win – they were the class of the field today, and an amazing achievement for Jonny to equal Phil’s race wins record.”
Sh. Isa Al Khalifa, co-owner 2 Seas Motorsport
“An amazing result. This was probably the race I was most apprehensive about for the whole season, as it is a very technical track, and I was aware of how tough the conditions would be with the heat. The whole team did a great job to give us a car with strong race pace. We were quick from the start, and immediately in the fight for the lead. Then our strategy window just opened when the Safety Car came out, which we managed to play to our advantage. It was great to be able to make some progress on the restart, and then the battle for the lead, but I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. I eventually made the move stick, and could then just get my head down and focus on giving us the best possible chance to overcome the success penalty. Jonny then did what Jonny does, delivering another great drive to score a fantastic result, and we had a clean run and kept out of trouble. A big thank you to 2 Seas Motorsport for giving us such a strong car, and a huge congratulations to Jonny on his milestone result. “
James Cottingham, #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3, 2 Seas Motorsport
The penultimate round of the season takes place at Brands Hatch, over the weekend 9-10 September. Jules Gounon will rejoin Ian in the #1 entry, while Phil Keen will switch sides of the garage, deputising for Jonny in the #4, as James looks to keep his championship charge going.