TUCK CLAIMS BRITISH GT 2ND PLACE IN DEBUT SEASON!
After a nail biting end to the 2018 British GT Championship, Ben Tuck narrowly missed out on taking the British GT4 title in his rookie season by a single point. In a race that featured yet another appearance by the safety car and a penalty pit stop each for both Tuck and the championship leader, the provisional title swapped several times between them as they battled through the field.
Donington Park is a regular season finale across British motorsport and as such it often serves up thrilling title deciders where anything and everything happens and has spectators and commentators alike reaching for the calculators to work out who needs to finish where for the title honours.
The 2018 British GT Championship did not disappoint, especially for the two Century Motorsport run BMW M4 GT4s. Coming into the final round Ben Tuck and his partner, Ben Green, were lying second in the championship after Tuck made an heroic comeback drive in the #42 machine from 8th to 2nd in the second half of the previous race at Brands Hatch. That result brought them to within 10 points of the championship leader, Jack Mitchell in the sister #43 BMW, but also earned them a 15 second success penalty in the pits for the final round.
With 10.5 point advantage on offer for a win over second place, a victory would guarantee the title for Tuck and Green. Anything less would rely on Mitchell having to finish much lower down the order.
Tuck and Mitchell had already engaged in several thrilling qualifying battles earlier in the season, so Saturday was poised perfectly to kick off the weekend’s excitement in the fight for the all important pole position.
In the first qualifying session Tuck and Mitchell’s partners Green and McDonald went head to head, Green bettering McDonald by 1.5 seconds. In the second session Tuck pulled out an astonishing lap as the session ended to come out on top making their combined times good enough for pole position. Mitchell and McDonald qualified 7th putting Tuck and Green in prime position to claw back the 15 seconds extra delay they faced at the pit stop.
In cool but dry conditions, Green started the race and gradually built up a lead of around 10 seconds over the #43 BMW until a safety car was called, this time due to oil on the track. However there was limited scope for their title rival’s car to close up due to several other GT3 cars caught up in the following pack. After the safety car released the field four laps later, Green set about re-establishing the lead, finding the magic 15 seconds over their title rivals just before the pit stops.
After a clean but agonisingly long stop, Tuck rejoined the track in 6th and immediately put in laps a full 2 seconds faster than the #43 car in an effort to pull out enough of a gap to lead them after their pit stop. The strategy worked and the #43 emerged behind Tuck, setting up a title chase to overtake as many cars as possible before the end of the race, to make up the 10 point deficit to the title leaders.
However, 3 laps later the team were informed of an on track infringement committed before the pit stop which meant that Tuck would have to return to the pits to serve a 10 second stop/go penalty sinking their title hopes. Emerging from the pits for a second time, Tuck found himself down in 11th position. Refusing to give up, he set about making another epic comeback drive recovering a second every lap on the field. Fifteen laps later Mitchell in the #43 BMW was called into the pits for a 10 second stop/go penalty handing back a tenuous chance of the title to Tuck and Green.
Now the tables were turned and after the penalty stop with Tuck now in 5th, Mitchell emerged in 9th, seemingly outside of the running, meaning that Tuck was on course to take the championship by half a point from the #55 Ginetta crew ahead of him. But Mitchell could still take the title by making up one place if Tuck failed to improve on 5th. With less than 15 minutes to go, Mitchell claimed the all important 8th position leaving Tuck with a place to make to take the title back.
But with his next target several seconds away, Tuck needed the car in front to fall back quickly or for Mitchell to have a problem. As the seconds ticked away neither seemed likely and the chequered flag signaled the end of the road with Tuck crossing the line in 5th and Mitchell in 8th taking the title by 1 point.
The title chance was always tight given their 15 second penalty to overcome but to come within 1 point of victory was an impressive comeback. The result also handed Century Motorsport and BMW Motorsport the Team Championship Title and a Drivers Championship 1-2 in their first season together.
“Firstly massive congratulations to Jack, he’s had a great season and we pushed him as hard as we could,” said Ben after the race. “It’s also a brilliant result for Century and for BMW in their debut year in British GT with the M4. Today they gave me probably the best car I’ve had all season, it was perfect for my entire stint. We’ve had no reliability issues at all, the car and the way Century and BMW prepare it have been brilliant”.
“I fought for everything within my control today, but in motor racing there are things you can’t control and you’ve just got to deal with them” Ben continued. “I didn’t really know what the points situation was, I was just pushing as hard as I could just in case something was to happen in front of us or with Jack. It was only after the chequered that they told me there was 1 point in it”.
“We came into this year as my first full season of GT racing, with a new car, a new team and with no other testing or racing during the year, so to get 2nd in the championship against so many experienced professional drivers is something to be really happy about, especially because we were so close to taking the title. I think this year I’ve showed that I can turn up to a race and compete with the best.”
“I’ve got to say a massive thanks to everyone who has helped to make this happen – sponsors, partners, family and friends. They have all been so supportive and I’m pleased that our partners have really seen the benefits of all the successes we’ve had this year”.