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Plowman & Smith battle to points finish in British GT Season opener

Paddock Motorsport’s GT3 crew of Martin Plowman and Mark Smith produced a battling display to be proud of during the opening Intelligent Money British GT Championship round at Oulton Park last weekend. The Pro-Am crew showed their potential across Saturday’s free practice sessions, with Plowman and Smith registering times just outside the top 10, despite working through setup options. Mark Smith and Martin Plowman recovered from a tricky qualifying on Saturday to fight on to a brace of top-10 GT3 finishes on Easter Monday to bag championship points.

With a capacity 36-car entry, including eight world-class factory GT3 drivers, qualifying was always going to be a tight-run thing. Smith recovered from a spin in his session to put the GT3 15th on the grid, with unpredictable weather on the way for Monday’s races, there was plenty of scope to improve. As it turned out, the opening race of the weekend threw pretty much a full season’s worth of variables at the field across the course of a single hour, with multiple rain showers hitting the circuit and making tyre choice a gamble. Despite the challenge, the #11 GT3 crew made forward progress across two impressive performances. Smith took the wheel of the 720S GT3 and opted to start the race on wets from P15 on the grid. However, when the track began to dry, he pitted to switch to slick rubber, putting the car to the back of the order. Smith spent the remainder of his stint scything through the GT4 traffic and made it up to 12th in class when the official pit window opened, and he dived in to hand to Plowman. Still fitted with slick tyres, Plowman headed out and put on a charge, using all his experience to hang onto the car as the rain descended again. The showers caught many others out, but Plowman held on and even made a late dive past James Kell to snatch ninth at the flag. Race two was a calmer affair, with the entire grid opting for wet Pirellis as steady rain fell ahead of the race. Plowman started 13th but got his elbows out early, quickly picking off a handful of cars to run eighth. However, when Plowman pitted at mid-distance the car was blocked in the busy pit lane when Smith tried to re-join. That cost a couple of places, but when Smith did get out he put on a charge of his own, quickly making his way back up to eighth before engaging in a great battle with Shaun Balfe’s Barwell Lamborghini, despite being nudged wide at Hislops. Smith eventually worked his way past Balfe for seventh but was set back again when he was forced to take avoiding action by a car braking unexpectedly early in front of him. Regardless, eight was a superb result for his Oulton Park debut.

Mark Smith: “Wow, what a ride Oulton Park turned out to be! I’m really happy with how we finished the weekend and with my first experience of the track. I felt like we were unlucky with the tyres in the first race, but fortunately Martin made up of some of that and we still got some points. In race two I felt we both drove really well and could have been further up had somebody not braked a lot earlier than I expected. But I’m still really happy. I’ve already had a day at Silverstone, so I’ve got 40 laps in the book there already, so we’ll see what we can do at the next round.” Martin Plowman: “For the first weekend of the season I’m really happy. To see the progression we’ve made across the weekend, was really pleasing for me. When it rained, Mark Smith was man of the match for me. He’d never driven in the wet, never been to Oulton Park, yet beat some much more experienced drivers and had some really good pace. For me the car felt like it was on rails in that last race, and I could be really aggressive and make some great progress early on and that set up Mark to do his thing. There was no pressure on him, but people’s eyes lit up watching him chase people down like he did. It was superb.” The next round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship takes place on the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit on May 7/8.


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