Disappointing end to strong weekend for Plowman & Smith
Paddock Motorsport enjoyed what was perhaps its strongest weekend of the 2023 Intelligent Money British GT Championship season yet at Donington Park, even if the team was robbed of its best results of the year
Mark Smith and Martin Plowman were on course for their best-ever British GT result as a pairing, holding a place within the top seven before late contact led to a desperately unlucky puncture that set them back to 10th overall and eighth in the GT3 Pro-Am class.
Regardless, the Paddock Motorsport McLaren 720s GT3 Evo showed impressive pace over the Donington Park weekend, largely thanks to a huge team effort across Saturday.
Smith and Plowman identified an issue with the differential on their 720S GT3 Evo - something the team suspects had been worsening across the course of the year so far. The decision was made to skip much of Saturday practice in order to replace the differential and gearbox, something that breathed new life into the GT3. While the duo would start 11th in class on Sunday, the real breakthrough would come in the race.
Smith wasted little time in switching to attack mode, quickly picking off the McLarens of both lan Campbell and Mark Radcliffe, and then went on something of an overtaking spree. By mid-distance Smith had brought the #11 Paddock McLaren into a superb seventh place courtesy of a string of great overtakes and others hitting trouble around him.
A lengthy safety car - called to enable both the clean-up of a GT3 crash at McLeans and the necessary barrier repairs – limited Plowman's race time when the pair relayed with just under an hour remaining, the Paddock crew doing a great job in the frantic pit lane to get the car serviced and back out in sixth place.
When racing did resume for the final 25 minutes, Plowman lost a place to the flying BMW M4 GT3 of factory driver Dan Harper, but was successfully keeping the Enduro Motorsport McLaren of Marcus Clutton at bay with seventh place firmly in his sights. However, when a hit from the chasing McLaren punctured the right-rear and front right tyre,Plowman was forced to pit for repairs, dropping the car to 10th at the flag.
Mark Smith: " I loved my stint! I was pulling moves all over the place and the car felt superb throughout. The team did an amazing job with the gearbox and differential change, which just breathed new life into the car and I could really attack people. I got stuck behind [reigning British GT champion] lan Loggie and that sort of stunted our progress as I couldn't find a way past. It's a shame about the clash at the end, but it's part of racing. But hopefully we can press on from the gains we found this weekend and the results will come.
Martin Plowman: "When we finished 11th at Silverstone it felt like a mini win, but finishing 10th this time feels a bit more like a robbery! The team did a brilliant job with the technical changes we needed, and they really improved the car, especially for Mark, who drove a tremendous opening stint to make up so many places. I was just defending at the end when I got the hit on the right-rear, which punctured the tyre and from then there was nothing I could do.
Still, the team got the car back out and we grabbed some points. It's been a real team effort this weekend, we just missed that little bit of luck that could have made the difference.