Impressive Debut for Mark Smith in British GT
American driver Mark Smith made an impressive debut in the final round of the British GT Championship at Donington Park over the weekend despite having never been to the track or driven GT3 machinery before. Mark would partner experienced Pro driver Martin Plowman in the #11 McLaren 720s GT3.
After one test day on Thursday, it was into qualifying on Saturday. With rain threatening Mark managed one flying lap before rain hit turn one. Being one of the first cars to arrive at the turn on slicks he inevitably went into the gravel followed by several other cars. The session was then red flagged and the car recovered to the garage. Whilst the car was being worked on by the mechanics the session restarted but now with a wet track it was impossible for the cars to set a faster time and Marks impressive fourth quickest time stood.
Unfortunately, the rules in British GT are that you must complete a minimum of two flying laps in qualifying and subsequently Mark was given a harsh 10 place grid penalty.
Starting from P14 Mark immediately made up six places at the start after contact between the leading cars opened a gap. Mark continued to push making up ground and was getting faster each lap, putting in lap times just 8/10ths slower than the more experienced leaders. On lap 17 Mark was lapping the #5 GT3 McLaren when the slower driver turned in on the #11 as they entered the chicane sending both cars into a spin. With severe damage to the front left suspension Mark managed to get the car back into the pits where the team immediately set about repairing the car. A supreme effort by the team to repair major suspension damage was done and Mark was sent back on track to continue his stint, however now 28 laps down on the leaders it was an impossible task for the #11 car to make any improvement on position.
Martin Plowman Co Driver & Team Owner
“It was a real shame that Mark got clipped by a backmarker as we would have been on for a good result. The team were super impressed with Mark, given his minimal time in the car he showed he has real pace and his feedback and ability to set the car up were really impressive!”