Race-winning pace for 2 Seas Motorsport at Donington Park season finale
The British GT championship delivered a grandstand finish to the season in a chaotic finale at Donington Park. The fiercely contested #DoningtonDecider saw 2 Seas Motorsport score a class podium for the pairing of former champion Graham Davidson and rookie Aaron Walker, while championship contenders Lewis Williamson and James Cottingham had to settle for a top-10 finish despite race-winning pace and a recovery drive back through the field three times.
The DK Engineering-liveried #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 arrived at round 9 of the championship with an outside chance of the title, but with proven pace and no success penalty to pay after the results from the last race. They were joined by the pairing of Aaron Walker – making his GT3 debut – and 2019 title-winner Graham Davidson, in his first start with the Mercedes-AMG.
Mixed conditions for the early practice sessions previewed what would become an action-packed and split qualifying session. With the risk of a rain shower hanging over the circuit as the session went green, the two cars left the pitlane shortly after the lead pack, in what would determine the end result. With both cars on strong initial laps, looking to challenge near the top of the timesheets, a heavy downpour in the closing sector of the circuit saw several cars caught out, skidding off into the gravel. With some cars having recorded laptimes in the dry before the rain, and cars now beached, the red flag was thrown prior to James or Graham registering a laptime, and the chance of a challenging for pole position now extremely unlikely.
After a further delay to the opening session, the pair completed laptimes, albeit now in wet conditions. With the top-6 spots all held by times set in the dry, James ended the session just inside the top-10, while Graham was P13. With the track drying out, but still slippery in the final sector, Aaron and Lewis headed out for the second session. Aaron completed his first qualifying to combine with Graham for P12 on the grid, while Lewis rolled the dice with tyres and gambled on running the slick tyre. Despite showing good pace, with the track still wet in places, the Scot was unable to take advantage of any additional grip usually offered by the slick tyres, lining up alongside the sister Mercedes-AMG in P13. Despite the setback, the title was still very much on the table, with the #4 was surrounded by the other title contenders who had also been caught out by the rain-affected opening session.
In stark contrast to qualifying, the race took place in warm and dry conditions, but with no less action from the off. A multi-car incident going through turn 1 involved three of the four title contenders, and James managed to avoid the chaos which unravelled. By the end of lap 1, he had gained six positions, leading his teammate on a charge through the field. His pace continued to improve lap on lap, running as high as P5 with Graham pushing him for position, before a Safety Car brought the field under control as the opening stint reached half distance.
On the restart, a small error by James saw him run wide at the old hairpin, collecting an advertising hoarding which blocked the front radiator, forcing him to make an unscheduled stop. His misfortune promoted his teammate, and Graham then moved into the overall podium positions as further issues saw two of the leading pack drop out of the race within as many laps. The remaining laps of the opening half of the race saw both cars fighting hard with James the fastest car on track. As the pit window opened, Graham had moved up an impressive 10 positions and held the Silver-Am class lead, while James had recovered to run inside the top 10, having still made up a nett four positions from his initial grid slot.
With Lewis and Aaron in for the final stint of the year, the pair set about working their way through the lapped GT4 traffic, before a Safety Car intervention closed the pack back up again. A penalty for Lewis following the restart would see a further visit to the pitlane, but both cars kept pushing as the clock ticked down, looking to close the gaps ahead. A series of quick laps by Lewis in the closing stages did see him pass his teammate just before the finish line, but a final lap penalty would see him lose the position at the line. As the chequered flag fell on the 2022 season, Aaron brought the blue and white #20 home for an impressive P2 in class on debut, leading home a double top-10 finish overall for the team.
The result sees James and Lewis finish 4th in the championship standings.
“A bittersweet weekend for the team overall. Naturally, we are disappointed not to have come away with the race result that James and Lewis certainly had the pace to achieve, but they have certainly had their fair share of bad luck all year, despite being consistently the quickest and most consistent.
“We were unfortunate with the qualifying situation, but we had a lot of positives with both cars putting up a great fight throughout the race, especially in the opening stint, with great drives by James and Graham. Aaron really impressed as well, making his debut against a very strong field, and fighting to a podium finish. Overall, it has been a great year, the team has done a great job and we have learnt a lot. I am extremely proud of how we have performed, and we sign the season off in a much stronger position than when we started.”
Isa Al Khalifa, 2 Seas Motorsport co-owner