Orange squeeze the most out of Snetterton sizzler with pair of Saturday wins
Tom Roche proved his credentials in emphatic fashion as he partnered with Simon Orange to lead a sweep of Saturday's running for Orange Racing Powered by JMH as the GT Cup Championship put on an action-packed opening day of racing at Snetterton.
Sun-soaked the Norfolk circuit all day as Rounds 9 & 10 tested the field to their limits, but it was Roche who came out shining. Pole by one-thousandth of a second was a taste of things to come as he fought off Hugo Cook and then James Wallis to take a pair of overall and Group GT3 victories.
GTH proved the strength of the Makehappen Racing squad as Chris Hart took pole and Sprint victory with team-mate Jon Currie joining him on the podium, then it was a two-three in the Pitstop Race as Feathers Motorsport denied the Mercedes squad a perfect day.
There was nothing to spoil Topcats' day in GTC as Charlotte Gilbert and new team-mate Gilbert Yates took both Group wins.
In GTO, Ian Loggie went from the back to the Group win in the Sprint Race for 7TSix, before Paul Bailey & James Dorlin christened the former's brand new Lamborghini with a Pit Stop Race victory.
With the track heating up, conditions couldn't be better for the grid to unleash ferocious runs with the two 15-minute qualifying sessions proving the perfect playground for the field to put down some blistering laps.
For most of Qualifying One, it looked as though Hugo Cook had the measure of the field in his Audi R8 LMS with a 1m45.356s proving an early benchmark that looked set to see him comfortably on pole. Tom Roche, though, was on a charge in the Orange Racing McLaren 720S GT3 Evo and put together a string of laps that gradually cut into Cook's advantage.
His penultimate lap proved the key and broke the beam with a time just 0.001s better to squeak the blue and orange machine onto the top spot.
GTH featured a three-way battle for the top between the two Makehappen Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4s of Chris Hart and Jon Currie and James Guess' Feathers Motorsport Aston Martin. Lap after lap, the trio bettered each other's efforts with the chequered flag eventually solidifying the final order - Hart besting Currie by 0.025sec.
GTO went the way of Paul Bailey, running out his brand-spanking-new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 which rolled out fresh from the factory just a few weeks ago. Charlotte Gilbert prevailed in the Topcats Racing Lamborghini Super Trofeo in GTC.
Round Nine was a captivating duel between Roche and Cook, who brought their battle from qualifying through to the 25-minute opening race of the weekend.
Reacting fastest from the start, the Orange Racing Powered by JMH driver pulled himself clear as Cook could only hang onto the coat-tails of the 720S as Roche blasted off around the Snetterton circuit.
Through traffic, Roche was able to pick the best lines to get himself past while the Audi was having to hang back slightly to find a comfortable gap to dart into. That dicing through the back-markers allowed the McLaren racer to build up a bit of breathing space and took the chequered flag with enough in hand to take his second victory of 2023.
Despite taking a precautionary run through the pitlane at the start, Ian Loggie put on a masterclass in the unrestricted 7TSix McLaren 720S to take the Group GTO victory in eighth overall.
Charlotte Gilbert converted pole to GTC success after a clean start in the Topcats Huracan set the foundations for an untroubled run to the flag. The same was true for Chris Hart, winning GTH in the Makehappen Racing Mercedes. He benefitted from passing a couple of GTCs at the start to build up a buffer, and then stretched his lead even further as Jon Currie battled James Guess for second in the Group - Guess ultimately prevailed.
Pit Stop Race
Saturday's 50-minute enduro continued Orange Racing's dominant run through the day, but Simon Orange and Tom Roche didn't have it all their own way as James Wallis & Sam Maher-Loughnan pushed them all the way to the flag.
From the start, Orange broke clear as Darren Leung - in the Invitational Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 - swept past Maher-Loughnan on the run into Brundle to take second.
Orange's advantage was short-lived, as Leung quickly planted the BMW on the wing of the McLaren but couldn't find a way through as Orange proved too canny to just gift the M4 the lead.
Come the pitstops and the extra time for Century being a new entry elevated Wallis into the lead having managed to get in and out of the pits a fraction quicker than Roche - who powered himself right onto the back of the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Wallis was hanging tough at the front, and it was only the slightest of errors that caused him to become undone. Through the long right of Coram, Wallis just dipped a tyre onto the dirty asphalt, and that sent him spinning onto the grass - handing the win, and a clean sweep, to the Orange Racing crew.
The Drivetac Powered by Track Focused duo recovered to take second, while Matt Topham and Marcus Clutton rounded out the GT3 podium for Enduro Motorsport.
Makehappen Racing was denied a brace of GTH wins as Tom Canning went on the charge in the Feathers Aston to power ahead of Stephen Walton and take a hard-fought win. Currie took third, as co-driver Phil Keen prevailed in a final stint scrap with Greystone GT's Michael Broadhurst
It was another comfortable ride for Topcats, as Gilbert Yates put in a faultless opening stint to allow Charlotte Gilbert an easy run to the GTC victory. Paul Bailey and James Dorlin rounded out the winners with a debut win for Bailey's new Lamborghini in GTO.
#2 Charlotte Gilbert
"It was fantastic, I hoped I would get the win but it was just a case of making sure I didn't make any mistakes. We knew we were going to pace ourselves because what I wanted to do was get a clean start and not make any mistakes. Thankfully it was a clean start for everybody pretty much and I knew if I could through the first few corners I knew I'd be alright and be able to create a bit of a gap. Luckily it went according to plan and we got the win!"
#69 Chris Hart
“Managed to get a good start, I always like the first lap so I managed to get my head down in the first couple of laps. I got past some of the GTC cars and backed them up into the guys behind a bit which managed to give me a bit of a gap. Pleased for Jon [Currie], he needed some good luck, shame he couldn't break James to get the 1-2 but he did a great job in qualifying - I had to work really hard to pip him to that one!"
#67 Tom Roche
“I could have done better on my out-lap, I lost a bit of time. But then the car felt good and I was just coming back, coming back, combing back and a bit luck really that James went for the pass round the outside of Coram which is always going to be difficult and I think he just got a bit of dirt on his tyres and just spun. The day couldn't have gone any better, really enjoying driving it and thanks to Simon for letting me out in his toy!"
#28 James Dorlin
"Nice to be asked to join the team alongside Paul to replace Ross Wylie for this weekend with his other commitments. It's always nice to jump back in a Lambo, it's been since September last year since I drove last so it's great to be back and it's nice to see that I've not forgotten how to get round the lap! It's gone well so far, and we'll work together and hopefully bring home another good result tomorrow for his championship fight."View all news