Orange peel away from championship rivals with two dominant wins at Silverstone
31 July 2022
Simon Orange and Michael O'Brien pulled off a perfect day as the GT Cup Championship put on another entertaining display at Silverstone, the home of British motorsport, to extend their lead at the top of the standings.
The Orange Racing pair were on unstoppable form as they took GT3 and overall wins in their McLaren 720S GT3 despite a typical British summer mix of sunshine and rain showers throwing in an extra challenge for the pair to contend with, but a bold strategy to start the Sprint race on slick Pirellis with a slowly drying circuit paid off handsomely.
Lucky Khera took a brace of GTC victories to maintain his own championship challenge, teaming up with David Macdonald to power their Lamborghini to the top in the Pitstop race.
Paddock Motorsport pulled off a remarkable display of dominance in GTH as they took a pair of one-two victories with Tehmur Chohan and Tom Roche twice bested team-mates Kavi Jundu & Adam Hatfield.
Tom Barrow maintained his 100% record across the weekend with another pair of GTB successes in his mighty BMW, while JMH Automotive won the GTA Sprint, but didn't finish the Pitstop race after an early incident.
With rain showers blustering around, setting an early banker lap was a must as teams looked to the skies wishing the rain away.
Ian Loggie was immediately setting a blistering pace, as he doubled up on his Group GT3 top spots by pipping Simon Orange to pole by 0.010sec in a hard-fought competition. They had no answer to Steve Burgess though, who started first in GTO and on the grid with a stormer of a lap in his Radical RXC.
James Webb also took a brace of poles, his GTC Lamborghini Super Trofeo on song in Team Webb's return to GT Cup after a couple of rounds out. Track Focused scored its second pole of the season as James Kell powered the team's Mercedes-AMG GT4 to the top of Group GTH. GTB continued to be dominated by Tom Barrow in his BMW 150 GTR, while JMH Automotive took GTA honours.
A heavy rain shower in the build-up to the first race of the day gave teams the perennial British summer headache - slicks or wets?
Simon Orange, starting in third, was the highest on the grid who elected to take what looked like the gamble of slicks. The Orange Racing driver was rewarded for his decision with a fine overall and Group GT3 win.
After a safety car for a first corner incident allowed the track to dry out significantly, the racing line was pretty much perfect for slicks and Orange used that to his advantage as he won by more than 16 seconds.
Despite pitting under the safety car to switch to slicks, Steve Burgess set the fastest lap on his way to first in GTO and second overall - overtaking Grahame Tilley on the last lap, the latter taking a well-deserved podium finish in GT3.
Electing to start on slicks paid off in stunning fashion for Paddock Motorsport, as Tom Roche headed a team one-two with Adam Hatfield close behind. Lucky Khera also took a slick-shod win in GTC, his first of the weekend as he continued to get up to speed in his Lamborghini Super Trofeo Evo2.
Tom Barrow continued his clean sweep of GTB, while Conor Flynn took the GTA honours in the JMH Automotive Ginetta.
Sunshine prevailed for a thrill-a-minute final race of the weekend, which was only decided on the penultimate lap.
Burgess' storming end to the Sprint race meant he was starting on pole, but he couldn't benefit from his position at the sharp-end as he had Orange and Enduro's Hugo Cook piling on the pressure from the very start.
For a time, he had the legs. But as the 50-minute enduro reached its halfway mark, the Radical driver found himself mugged twice in quick succession as first Orange and then Cook squeezed themselves ahead. It was all change again in the pits as Ian Loggie, serving less success penalty from the earlier race, leaped ahead of the battling leaders and assumed the lead of the race.
His position was far from secure as Michael O'Brien - taking over from Orange - set fastest lap after fastest lap as he sliced down the Ram Racing driver's advantage. Looming ever larger in Loggie's mirrors, O'Brien made the decisive move on the penultimate lap - ensuring a clean-sweep of the Group GT3 wins. Burgess secured the GTO win, with fourth overall.
GTH also proved a thrilling affair, as Paddock Motorsport once again secured a one-two finish. Good starts from Tehmur Chohan and Kavi Jundu meant they were in a fierce battle with Valluga Racing's James Wallis throughout the early running. Once Chohan and Jundu swapped for Tom Roche and Adam Hatfield, the McLaren pair closed ranks, with the latter passing Wallis' team-mate Sam Maher-Loughnan in the closing stages to ensure their second lock-out of the day with Roche & Chohan the winners.
A brace of victories also went to Racelab's Lucky Khera and David Macdonald after a faultless run in their Lamborghini to the top spot in GTC - edging out Jensen Lunn and Charlotte Birch in the Topcats Racing with HEX.com Super Trofeo.
Despite technical issues with his BMW 150 GTR, Tom Barrow maintained his 100% weekend record with a GTB win.
#26 Tom Roche
"The sprint race was perfect really, it couldn't have gone any better. We gambled on the slicks and then there was a safety car in the beginning and that kind of used up the time that the track was at its wettest. Got started and the track kept getting better, and the car kept getting better and better too. On the first warm-up lap, I thought we made the right decision round the first couple of corners but then on the Hangar Straight it was torrential rain and I thought 'oh no, maybe not!' Half the track was soaking and half was dry, thankfully the safety car helped get rid of the worst of it.
#20 Tom Barrow
"It was a really good race [the sprint], it was tricky at the beginning on the slicks - getting temperature in the tyres was very difficult. Bit of a shame with the safety car, the track was really coming to us and maybe with a few more laps I could have been further up the field. Saxon Motorsport did a great job putting the car together, and it was a great performance."
#4 Grahame Tilley
"I actually began to think I'd never get on the podium again! I've struggled a little bit getting used to the new car and worse than that, I'd never driven it before in the wet! So I was really nervous, but the car was great in the wet and I stayed on wets because it was the safest option. I think the quickest option was to pit for slicks, but it was a bit safer and I thought with the safety car coming out 'I think I can hang this out' but Steve just got me on the last lap. Thrilled to be up here and to be back up on the podium!"
#67 Michael O'Brien
"We couldn't have asked for more really, maximum points which sets us up brilliantly for the summer break and the final two rounds of the championship. Couldn't have gone better really. I can't take any credit for the Sprint win, Simon did a pefect job with that, managed the race really well and took his time to pick off the cars in front. The second race, he set me up really well. We had a few little niggles to deal with at the end but came through to catch Ian [Loggie] and got the win!"