Both Stuart Middleton and Matthew Graham earned podium finishes at the opening two rounds of the 2017 British GT Championship on Easter Monday.
Middleton, from Ashington, and Graham, who lives in Stocksfield, both had strong results in the GT4 class of the UK’s largest GT championship at the Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire.
The 17-year-old Middleton, who was runner up in the 2016 Ginetta Junior Championship, has stepped up to the GT4 class this season partnering former rival Will Tregurtha in a Ginetta G55 GT4 spec car run by Harrogate based HHC Motorsport.
Meanwhile 20-year-old Graham has begun his second season in the championship, teaming up in 2017 with experienced driver Marcus Hoggarth in a McLaren 570s GT4 following a season in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 last year.
Race one saw Middleton’s car line-up on pole in the GT4 class with teammate Tregurtha beginning the 60-minute race – both teammates must take part in each race and swap midway through the event.
The weather in race one wasn’t ideal for any of the drivers in the 27 car field, but once Middleton got into the car he was able to continue the work begun by his teammate and earn a fantastic second place behind class winners Adam Balon and Adam Mackay as the duo’s rivals hit issues as the race progressed on a drying track in changing conditions.
Graham meanwhile finished a respectable 11th in class in the first race of the day as both he and teammate Hoggarth got to grips with the new-for-2017 570s GT4. The solid result was backed up by the fact that Graham had been announced to drive the car just days before the event over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
Race two saw both Graham and Middleton taking the start in their respective cars on a now dry track. Graham showed his pace throughout his stint and handed over to Hoggarth with the car still in a competitive position and was part of a fantastic seven-car battle at the front of the class as the pit window opened.
Despite finishing the race fourth as they crossed the line, Graham and Hoggarth would eventually be given second place in the class as two of the crews in front of them were given penalties for pit-stop infringements after the race and would drop behind them as a result.
Middleton and Tregurtha would also benefit from the penalties handed out to the drivers in front of them and would back up their podium in race one with a fine fourth place in the second race of the afternoon.
The British GT Championship takes place over nine races which vary between one and three hours in length and visits circuits across the UK.