British GT drivers maintain Sunoco Challenge pace at Spa
British GT’s leading Pro and Am drivers kept up their pursuit of the Sunoco Whelen and 240 Challenge leaders at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, with just a handful of points now separating this year's championship contenders from their rivals competing in other series.
Indeed, both Challenges - and the quest to find 2018’s Daytona 24 Hours prize drive winners - are now incredibly close as the season ticks towards its conclusion.
Whelen: British GT4 Pros fill positions second-to-fifth
A comparatively poor weekend for long-time leader Colin Noble Jnr seven days earlier presented British GT’s Pro drivers with a wonderful opportunity to reduce the LMP3 Cup pace-setter’s lead at Spa-Francorchamps.
The gap between Noble Jnr and his nearest challengers, British GT4 Silver Cup team-mates Alex Reed and David Pittard, now stands at 2.57 points. That’s 0.96 more than before the weekend despite the Lanan Racing duo claiming second in Race 1.
But new GT4 championship leaders Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton both made ground on their Whelen rivals after finishing third and second in Saturday’s two races. The latter remains fourth in the standings but is now just 3.25 behind Noble Jnr, while HHC Motorsports co-driver Tregurtha is 5.5 points further back having moved up seven places to fifth.
All four GT4 Pro contenders were hampered by Charlie Fagg and Matthew Graham’s race-by-race Maserati entry winning both rounds at Spa, without which HHC and Lanan’s crews would have claimed a victory apiece.
But while Reed, Pittard, Middleton and Tregurtha all remain in Whelen contention, several other potential winners fell by the wayside at Spa. Matt Griffin scored zero points after his Ferrari was withdrawn following a practice accident, Adam Mackay endured a weekend of mechanical woes and Mike Robinson recorded a solitary fourth place.
All of that has helped Matt Bell move up two places to sixth, 11.13 points behind LMP3 Cup title rival Noble Jnr, with Stuart Moseley now 1.5 marks further back in seventh. Robinson slips to eighth and nearly 20 points adrift of top-spot, while co-drivers Jack Mitchell and James Littlejohn are the first of British GT3’s Pro contingent in equal ninth.
Griffin has dropped to 12th after losing 17.87 points, while Mackay - who began the weekend 10 points behind Noble Jnr - is now 27 adrift of the leader.
Click here for the complete Sunoco Whelen Challenge standings.
240: Hawkins survives as GT3 Am rivals circle
Jessica Hawkins continues to lead this year’s Sunoco 240 Challenge standings but now by just 0.57 points after Mini Challenge and British GT went head-to-head at different circuits over the same weekend.
The R50 Cooper championship challenger travelled to Brands Hatch with a 2.96 lead over British GT3 Am Rick Parfitt Jnr who was competing at Spa-Francorchamps. Both endured tougher than usual outings: Hawkins’ third and two fourth places saw her 240 Challenge score drop by over 10 marks while Parfitt Jnr’s pole position and fastest Am lap limited the damage caused by finishing fifth and seventh.
Hawkins’ new average score of 95.45 is therefore just over half-a-point more than Parfitt Jnr's who shares second with GT3 Am championship rival and Spa race winner Jon Minshaw.
Two more Mini Challenge entrants emerged as serious 240 contenders at Brands Hatch where Matt Hammond pinched the R50 Cooper lead from Hawkins. Three victories, two fastest laps and one pole position boosted his average 240 score by more than 10 to leave him just 2.72 points shy of top-spot in fourth. JCW championship leader Brett Smith also picked up big points for claiming three second places, two fastest laps and a pole position and now sits fifth, 5.03 marks behind Hawkins.
Both Mini Challenge contenders’ progress has come at the expense of Shane Kelly who’s slipped from fourth to sixth, while Alasdair McCaig remains best placed of LMP3 Cup’s Am drivers in seventh. Jacopo Sebastini and Bradley Smith are next up having benefitted from leading British GT4 Am Graham Johnson dropping 12.61 points and four positions from sixth to 10th.
Click here for the complete Sunoco 240 Challenge standings.
What are the Sunoco Challenges?
The Sunoco Challenges provide an accurate assessment and comparison of performances across multiple championships during any given season. Points are awarded for qualifying and race results, including fastest lap, which are then converted into an individual average score for each competing driver over the course of a full campaign.
That means each race weekend offers drivers an equal chance to climb and drop down their respective Sunoco Challenge table. It also ensures that performances are taken into consideration across an entire season while placing less emphasis on one-off or unfair results.
As in previous years this season’s Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion will win a fully funded drive aboard a Whelen-sponsored sports-prototype in the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Meanwhile, Sunoco’s 240 Challenge champion will contest the 240-minute Daytona support race held over the same January weekend at the wheel of a Sunoco-liveried GT4 car.