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Paddock Motorsport’s McLaren crew od Mark Smit & Martin Plowman produced an impressive recovery drive during the latest round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Brands Hatch, with both the GT3 crew scoring a big haul of points. Mark Smith and Martin Plowman continued their upward curve by scoring sixth overall on the road in the #11 720S GT3 Evo, despite the car being both hit with a grid drop and severely delayed during a turbulent race start. A post-race time penalty for contact with a GT4 car would put them back to seventh in class, but that still represented their season’s best result. Saturday’s practice sessions were spent honing the GT3 to the 2.3-mile Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, and also getting Smith up to speed. The Californian had never driven the track and Brands’ lack of a pre-event test made it a steep learning curve. Qualifying was also a mixed bag, with Smith and Plowman initially putting the GT3 ninth on the grid, before being dropped five places following a red flag infringement in practice. But the race is where things would come good for the crew, as they managed to keep their cool despite scorching temperatures and more than a few incidents. When the lights went out contact between the Mercedes-AMGs of John Ferguson and Ian Loggie caused chaos through turn one, as Loggie’s car ended up broadside in front of Smith as the pack headed through Paddock Hill Bend. Smith was forced to brake hard and swerve to avoid damage, which he did successfully, but a gearbox glitch caused the car to stick in fourth gear which reduced it to a crawl up the hill before Smith could clear it and get going again. Now almost stone last, Smith faced a fight to get back into the mix, but the American driver put on a star performance to overtake the entirety of the GT4 field and then start to work his way through up the GT3 order. Smith’s determined recovery got him into an incredible seventh by the pit window when he dived in to hand to Plowman. Slick work from the Paddock crew got the car serviced and back out in fifth, just ahead of the Greystone GT Mercedes of Callum Macleod. Plowman defended hard from Macleod, but eventually lost out when he was caught in a collision with a GT4 car through Clearways. The clash delayed Plowman and allowed the AMG through. It also helped Sandy Mitchell’s Barwell Lamborghini to close in and eventually work its way past. It looked like seventh would be the limit, until the Greystone GT car ran dry of fuel on the final lap, leaving Smith and Plowman sixth at the flag. Even with the post-race censure being a setback, there’s no arguing that Smith and Plowman now have the pace to be knocking on the door of the big points scores. Mark Smith said: “That was a wild race! It’s been a challenge just learning the circuit but it’s been so fun. For the race my plan at the start was to just keep things clean as I knew some people would hit trouble early on, but I didn’t expect to see the Mercedes sideways in front of me! I had to swerve and then the car bogged down and got stuck in gear and it took me a few seconds to clear it, by which time I was dead last. After that I just pushed like mad to make up as many places as I could, and I had a blast doing it. The result is still a good one and we moved forward a lot this weekend.” Martin Plowman said: “I’m mostly pleased with how the weekend went. It’s a real shame about the penalty, but we still took home our best result of the season and Mark’s stint was just superb. Many drivers would have lost their heads after a start incident like that, but his pace was great and he pulled off a string of great overtakes to get us back into it. My stint was tough as I was defending hard from the Mercedes and Lamborghini for much of it until the collision. But we’ve certainly got a lot of positives to take away from this one.” The final round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship takes place at Donington Park on October 21/22.


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