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The McLaren GT3 crew of Mark Smith and Martin Plowman put on a stunning show early in the race, with American driver Smith thriving in the rain and going toe-to-toe with some of the best GT drivers in the world in tricky conditions. Soon after though, the car would fall foul of bad luck on its strategy, leaving the pair fighting against the odds to make up time. The first flashes of Paddock’s potential around Silverstone’s fast sweeps came in qualifying, when Plowman set the eighth fastest time of the hulking GT3 grid, out-pacing drivers such as BMW factory ace Raffaele Marciello, long-term Aston Martin works driver Jonny Adam and reigning British GT champion Dan Harper. With the grid set on the combined best times of each driver, he and Smith would line-up for Sunday’s race 14th on the grid, knowing they had the pace to move forward.  With the grid forming up under persistent rain, the opening stages were played out behind the safety car, which left the door wide open for teams to experiment with strategy. While many opted to stop at the first opportunity, Paddock decided to leave Smith out for a long first stint, in the hope of him achieving the majority of his minimum drive time of 80 minutes early, so Plowman could be installed for longer later in the race. Smith thrived on the pressure. As the amateur drivers around him stopped to hand to their pros, Smith soldiered on and soon had professional racers swarming over the rear of the McLaren. Undeterred, Smith put up an epic defence, holding both Mercedes-AMG factory driver Maxi Goetz and Barwell Motorsport’s Ricky Collard behind for multiple laps, even running as high as second overall at one point. When Smith eventually did stop inside the second hour he handed to Plowman just as the tide of the race turned. Shortly after the stop, the race was neutralised, handing Paddock’s rivals the chance to gain chunks of time in the pits. Allied to that, Plowman was then caught behind the safety car for an entire lap, essentially losing a lap against those who enjoyed a faster stop under the yellows. From there on, it was an uphill battle, with Smith and Plowman ticking off the laps on their way to seventh in class on an outing that could have delivered more had it not been for misfortune. Martin Plowman: “It’s a strange one because I’m really pleased with everything that went on out on track, with the pace and feeling we had in the car, of the way Mark drove up against some incredibly quick factory drivers… it was all brilliant. But strategically everything that could’ve gone against us did. When we made our first stop, I got caught behind the safety car and lost a lap, and from that point we were fighting to stay in it. I took chunks of time out of drivers like Raffaele Marciello during my stints, so we have to be pleased with that, but it’s

been a tough weekend.” The next round of the British GT Championship takes place at Donington Park on May 25/26.


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