Tolman Motorsport enjoyed their most successful race event to date at Snetterton last weekend with all three of their McLaren 570S GT4s, where they placed as the fastest McLaren in both qualifying sessions, dominated race one with a 1-2 finish, and claimed another podium, in the latter of the British GT Championship’s final double header of the season. The team came away from the three-mile long Norfolk circuit with a 42-point lead in the Team’s Championship standings, both the Pro-Am and Silver Championship leads, and the Warwickshire-based crew are now a mere 0.5 points away from heading the overall Driver’s Championship.
After a strong showing at the previous British GT round, Team Tolman were determined to get back onto the podium and add to their points haul from Rockingham. The double header format meant that each of Tolman’s six drivers would individually qualify for either race on the Sunday. David Pattison, Michael O’Brien and Lewis Proctor set the starting positions for race one, and race two grid positions were determined by Joe Osborne, Charlie Fagg and Jordan Albert.
Both qualifying sessions saw a Tolman Motorsport 570S sit as the fastest McLaren in the huge GT4 field. Lewis Proctor and Jordan Albert were the fastest of the Tolman Silver pairings in the #5 McLaren, qualifying P6 and P9 respectively. Michael O’Brien and Charlie Fagg felt somewhat disappointed with their P7 and P12 efforts. “I didn’t hook up a perfect lap” Fagg commented, “it wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t my best.”
The Pro-Am pairing of Pattison and Osborne also felt they had more to give in their qualifying sessions as the Am placed P6 in class, followed by Joe’s P2 in class and P5 overall. “Qualifying was just about above average. I was two and a half tenths off pole with a mistake on my lap, which was annoying!” the Factory Driver stated.
The star of the show in race one was, without a doubt, Pattison and his storming race start. The Gent made an eight place charge before reaching turn one, leaving the team and his Pro, wide eyed and open mouthed in elation. McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme drivers, O’Brien and Proctor, also made progress up the grid during the opening lap, both fending off the #10 Equipe Verschuur and #72 Track-Club McLarens.
On lap eight, a safety car period was called to recover the stranded #501 Balfe Motorsport McLaren. This period continued into the opening of the pit window, so almost the entire BGT grid, including all three of Tolman’s McLarens, dived into the pit lane to take their mandatory stop. The Tolman crew performed flawlessly, servicing all three machines before sending them on their way.
The #56 with Osborne at the wheel, headed back out on track in P2, just behind the #44 Invictus Games Racing Jaguar, who was soon penalised for a significantly short pit stop. However, the Tolman Pro wasted no time in making his way to the head of the GT4 pack, before #44 served it’s penalty.
Albert unfortunately lost out on track position before he had made it to the pit exit, due to being blocked by some of his GT4 competitors. Nevertheless, Jordan brought the #5 home in a solid seventh in class. Fagg in #4 did a stellar job to fend off the Academy Aston Martin, Parker Racing Mercedes and Track-Club McLaren for the entirety of the young gun’s stint. Charlie exited the pits behind the #53 UltraTek Nissan, however, this had an identical fate to the #44 Jaguar, which saw #4 sit behind the sister McLaren of Osborne for the final eight laps of the hour-long battle. Osborne and Fagg took the flag to give Tolman Motorsport their first ever double podium.
Due to the victory in race one, #56 would have to serve extra time in the pits, in the form of a 10 second success penalty, and the sister #4 was ‘gifted’ an extra seven seconds for its P2 finish.
Once again, all three Tolman McLaren’s progressed up the grid during the race two opener, however, this was halted due to a safety car being called before the leader began the second lap. The race resumed and despite a barrage of contact, Pro Joe made light work of the GT4s ahead and stuck his elbows out to take second position, before handing over to Pattison at the stop.
Both Jordan and Charlie did a superb job from the start, to avoid the carnage unfolding around them. “I made sure I showed aggression, but stayed out of trouble” Albert said, “I had to really avoid a few incidences to make sure I didn’t end our race early!”
The Tolman Trio made it to the half way mark, albeit with a few battle scars, and once again, the crew performed perfect pit stops. Despite the added time in the pits, David headed out in the lead, as the #56 had jumped ahead of the #43 Century BMW during the stop, and held on for a handful of laps, before being overtaken by team mate Proctor in #5.
Both Pattison and Proctor did well to manage the GT3 traffic whilst fending off the #42 BMW, which had shown solid pace all weekend. Lewis held onto the lead until he began to feel the tyres of #5 starting to fall away and he ran deep under the bridge, leaving the Century BMW to get the switchback, who then ran Lewis wide at Bomb Hole to take P1. Proctor then held his station to give the #5, himself and Jordan their first podium of the year, in P2. David drove around the tyre wear to bring #56 over the line P2 in class and P7 overall. O’Brien had a strong stint in race two, which saw him make some great moves on the #44 Jaguar and #66 Mercedes and brought the #4 McLaren home in P6.
A thoroughly pleased Tolman Team are now fully focussed on the Blue Riband event, the Silverstone 500, where the British GT grid will compete in the longest race of the season. The three-hour charge will take place on the 10th of June and the crew and drivers are more than ready for the challenge.
Chris Tolman – Team Manager – “I’m absolutely over the moon with the whole team’s performance throughout the entire weekend. Zero problems. Zero issues. Each of the cars on the podium and we’ve taken the top step. We’ve exceeded our expectations and it’s more than I could have hoped for. I’m super proud of everyone.”
Charlie Fagg #4 – “Race two we started 12th, but I knew we would bounce back like we did in race one. We knew it was damage limitation, as we had to carry a seven second success penalty from our podium finish, but to come home in sixth was really good. One big reason why we achieved the podium in race one was the pit stop, we were only four tenths over the minimum time! It was a good weekend overall and I think if someone told me after qualifying that we’d get a second and sixth I would have taken that. Looking forward to Silverstone!”
Michael O’Brien #4 – “Overall a really positive weekend for us. The qualifying from my side didn’t quite go as planned. I had a fair amount of traffic on my two quickest laps. We had a good race one, we made quite a few positions off the start and we went on to score a solid podium finish. Race two we qualified slightly out of position. Charlie moved forward nicely in the opening and when I took over half way through, I just had to pick some cars off, it was a bit of a messy stint really.”
Jordan Albert #5 – “Qualifying went really well. I was only eighth on the grid but I was the second quickest McLaren and not too far off Joe which was promising. Race one was going really well, the end result wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but that made us really determined for race two. There was a lot of carnage at the start of the second race! I got a gap and pushed on, I saw Joe just up ahead so I knew my pace was good and that I was holding on to him for a while. Overall I was happy with my stint. The team did a good pit stop as Lewis went back out in P2! Going from having a bad race one to being on the podium in the second race was a really good feeling.”
Lewis Proctor #5 – “Qualifying was good. We both struggled to get the tyres working early on and the car needs that one lap hit to get the most out of them, and we didn’t find that. Race one didn’t go our way, but we showed solid pace and I had a good start. On to race two, Jordan put in some really good laps, solid pace, quicker than most of the other McLarens. We had a bit of an issue with my radio, and I had no communication for the whole stint! I climbed my way up to first, which at the time I didn’t know and I didn’t believe it when the team put out the pit board telling me so! I knew the BMW behind was going to be a lot faster and he got me fair and square, but I’m still really happy with P2. I feel we’re on a good wave of momentum for the next race at Silverstone.”
Joe Osborne #56 – “Really good weekend from start to finish. David got a monster start in race one and we lucked in a little with a safety car. I didn’t have to do much really so it was all about not making a mistake, which is actually harder than trying to do well! High stress for 30 minutes, hearing every noise, trying to bring it home. The window smashing was cool, I’ve never had that, but I saw on a movie what to do, so that was lucky! There’s so much work that goes on, I know the boys were at the circuit close to midnight on Saturday, working on the cars, making sure they’re right and it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s a proper team effort, on all fronts. It’s easy to get complacent that the cars should be reliable, but a lot of teams don’t manage that, so it’s a credit to Tolman that all three cars, in all sessions, finished without any issues. Race two was interesting, some contact at turn two, I was in the middle of three cars, so not somewhere you plan to be. Took a couple of big hits! The whole first lap was side by side taking hits, but I had some fun overtakes!”
David Pattison #56 – “Great weekend! Probably achieved everything we could have done. Race one was fantastic. My stint was good, had a great start and gained a lot of places and then held on! The team did an excellent job on the pit stop. Second race, I think we did about as well as we could have done. The 10 second success penalty did what it did. If we’d had those 10 seconds, we would definitely have had the class win and we probably would have had a podium, but it doesn’t matter. It feels like the season has finally started! I think the Pros don’t quite understand what a win really means to an Am. I will remember this, for as long as I have a memory that can remember anything, because it’s that important and it makes me quite emotional.”
Image credits: McLaren Automotive