2021 did not start well for British GT newcomers Enduro Motorsport.

Despite Marcus Clutton finishing P2 in GT3 Pro qualifying at the Brands Hatch season-opener, the brightly coloured McLaren made the earliest of exits, spinning-out on the approach to Westfield during the pre-race formation lap.

It must have been a dark moment for Morgan Tillbrook on his series debut. But the true test of motor racing is not how you win; it’s how you lose, and how you then pull together and work your way towards to the top.

Marcus Clutton proved Enduro's potential by qualifying P2 in GT3 Pro on the team's debut at Brands Hatch

For Enduro, the drama continued well into the season.

In Round 2 at Silverstone, an ambitious move by Clutton on Jonny Adam resulted in damage followed by retirement. A well-earned P4 at the first Donington round could have signalled the start of the team’s ascent, but they missed the trip to Spa, then missed the opportunity to take a drive-through penalty at Snetterton (for a pit-stop infringement) which saw the #77 McLaren black-flagged and disqualified. Yet despite this series of rather unfortunate, self-inflicted events, it was clear that the car, the team and the drivers were developing the pace and promise that showed they deserved better.

From promise to pointless at Snetterton when the team failed to obey a drive-through penalty

If the race to the podium was going to happen anywhere, Oulton Park appeared to be ‘most likely’.

The 720S is neither the most agile, nor outright quickest car on the grid, but around the tight, twisting Cheshire cambers, it’s torquey, grippy and consistent, making it perfect in defence and probing in attack. Tillbrook qualified an excellent P3 and should have been able to resist the pressure from the Mercedes-AMGs and Lamborghinis stacked-up behind: I still don’t know what caused that momentary loss of adhesion. Tillbrook is convincing in his role and doesn’t yield to pressure. He knew that Michael Igoe was right in his mirrors but he also appeared to have his measure. I’ve seen him defend fairly and firmly for lap after lap, and then break free to mount his own campaign. But whatever it was, for that splittest of seconds, the back end gave-up, rotating the car onto the grass and out of contention.

Tillbrook looked to have the measure of Oulton Park

All that was left of 2021 was the ‘Donington Decider’. A demanding, rain-affected, three-hour test of endurance.

Tillbrook & Clutton were fast from the start, heading the timing sheets for Practice 1, and then lining-up on the grid in P2. The race itself was only seconds old when pole-sitter, Michael Igoe, found himself heading for his first off-track excursion. The subsequent mellee causing Tillbrook’s tailing McLaren to take avoiding action whilst inviting Richard Neary’s Mercedes-AMG to steal the lead, and the RAM Racing car of Ian Loggie to close right-in. Loggie is old-school, uncompromising and as hard as nails, but try as he might, Tillbrook’s defence remained solid until the pair came into traffic and he found himself blocked, opening the door for Loggie to take the place and hunt the win.

Leading the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT of Ian Loggie & Yelmer Buurman at Donington

That could have been it. There were five cars racing for the title (four after Igoe beached his Huracan) and despite Tillbrook’s pace, it was clear that there were battles he wanted to avoid;

which he did, by staying ahead of the pack whilst keeping the bright pink Mercedes in sight until the handover.

The Nearys entered and left the pits with a sizeable margin, but P3 last time out meant that the RAM Racing car had to endure a pit stop success penalty, instantly promoting Clutton into the heat of the chase with both cars rejoining just meters apart. Straight away, Loggie’s teammate, Yelmer Buurman, set about closing-down the leader but Clutton stayed with him, launching the McLaren at every opportunity and quickly forcing the Dutchman to switch from attack to defence. Buurman did all he could, holding the tightest of lines into the hairpin, but Clutton timed the switchback to perfection to earn P2: The battle for the lead was about to begin.

Marcus Clutton hunts down Sam Neary in the race for the lead at Donington

Sam Neary is a story in his own right; a remarkably fast young man who has transformed his family’s team from hopefuls to pace-setters. But this wasn’t going to be his day.

Remember how I said that at Oulton Park, the McLaren was consistently grippy? It was here too. Despite the challenges of a cold, damp track, its response to whatever Clutton asked of it was both immediate and inch perfect. Before long, the two were duelling for the lead. Twice, Clutton carried speed onto the Melbourne loop, but twice, Neary held firm, perfectly placing the Team Abba car to block the McLaren’s escape. But on the third occasion, Clutton could see traffic ahead and forced the Mercedes out of the exit and into the path of the Tollman Bentley. Using every pound of torque that the 720S could muster, he raced alongside and then, elbows out, held his nerve to take the lead as they headed onto the pit straight.

From here, it was just a case of managing the gap, first from Neary, and then from Buurman. What had started with a spin before the race had even got underway at Brands Hatch ended with a victory at the finale. Sadly, the pit wall cheering frenzy wasn’t to be, the race being stopped under a red flag just a few minutes from the end. It might not have been the storybook finish that the team had hoped for, but it wasn’t far from it.

Winners on parade; the GT3 McLaren and GT4 Mustang

At the time of the 2019 Donington Decider, Enduro Motorsport didn’t even exist. And yet two years on, Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton would climb onto the podium as British GT’s newest race winners. It’s a partnership in the truest sense of the word.

Neither of these two would be there without the other, which leads me to a damp and blustery February morning at Snetterton. Sitting in the garage are two GT3 McLarens. One is straight from the factory, brightly liveried and looking every bit a title challenger. The other, with a race-winning pedigree that began back in 2019 in Balfe colours, had been stripped of its coat, yet was warmed-up and ready to play its part in its most important campaign yet.

If you're looking for twists, turns, long straights and a splash or two of rain, Snetterton in February is the place to be
Finding grip through the Wilson hairpin

I was asked not to photograph the new car, the livery having not yet been launched, but I can tell you that it’s stunning. But that’s not what this feature is about.

It’s about a team that started the year as rookies and ended by winning one of the most important races on the GT calendar: It’s about a team that is hungry for more, and it’s about a car that is just about everything a GT3 car should be.

Ever since I first saw Marcus Clutton in a KTM, over a decade ago, it was clear that given the right opportunity, he was destined to join the league of extraordinary racers. With Morgan Tillbrook by his side, I’m going to say that this time is now. And for Tillbrook too, because despite what some might say, you cannot buy success in British GT; you have to earn it. Tillbrook learned a hard lesson at Brands Hatch, but he’s worked relentlessly to play his part and build his role. Now, together again, they’re preparing for a title challenge that I’m going to suggest is going to be one of the closest and best that we’ve seen for a long time.

8,7,5,3,3,3 - Morgan Tillbrook's qualifying positions in his rookie British GT season. Expect even better in 2022
Sweeping into Murrays