Adrian Quaife-Hobbs has taken victory in a thrill-a-minute Silverstone 500 for the VonRyan Racing team after an Avon Tyres British GT Championship race full of incidents.
The action started at the very beginning of the wet three hour race as the pole sitting Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard spun at Becketts with the whole field behind him, allowing Gilles Vannelet in the #12 McLaren 650S to sneak through into the lead with Marco Attard following him through in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4.
Although, the second place spell for Attard was brief – Ahmad Al-Harthy was in the mood for a charge and decided the best course of action was to attack everywhere and he moved up to second place with a textbook move round the outside of Stowe – claiming the inside for Vale.
While all this was going on, the GT4 class was seeing action of its own as the Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage GT4 – driven by Jamie Chadwick – was tapped into a spin by one of the Academy Motorsport Aston Martins at the start of the second lap. Much like the sister GT3 car which had a spin of its own – the car was left stuck at the very back of the field.
Moving from the back to the front of GT4 and the pole sitting ISSY Lotus of Oz Yusuf couldn’t hold on to first place for very long as Terry Langley in the Quantamatic Racing Aston got past into the lead. Yusuf didn’t even remain in second for long as he ran wide at Village and dropped a handful of places to his grateful rivals.
At this point, it is worth noting that all of the above happened in the first ten minutes of the race and the remaining 170 minutes didn’t slow down at all.
Indeed just as the 10th minute ticked into the 11th, Jon Minshaw in the Team Russia by Barwell Racing with Demon Tweeks BMW showed the strength all the German cars had today and scythed past Liam Griffin in the Oman Racing Team Aston into fifth place.
Only a few laps later, Minshaw used the outside again to further his position as he overtook Triple Eight Racing’s Lee Mowle round the outside of Becketts and moved into fourth place.
The squabbling just behind the leader in GT3 allowed Gilles Vannelet in the #12 McLaren set fastest lap after fastest lap to pull away from Al-Harthy who was unable to keep up the same pace in the wet.
It took 20 minutes for the first retirement of the race as Ian Loggie in the Team Parker Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra retired the car at Village after gearbox issues.
Thankfully he pulled off track rather quickly so there was no major disruption and no doubt Minshaw was pleased with this as he passed the Ecurie Ecosse BMW at Brooklands for third place thanks to Attard being slowed by the Oz Yusuf down the Wellington Straight.
A bit further down the GT3 field, Andrew Howard was in ‘charge’ mode and took a step closer to reclaiming a place in the top ten as he snuck up the inside of Rick Parfitt going into Copse.
That seemed to be the calm before the storm as the safety car made its first appearance of the race just after the 30 minute mark after a collision between the #18 FF Corse Ferrari and the #17 TF Sport Aston Martin.
The incident started with the #17 – piloted by Derek Johnston – spinning of his own accord coming out of Stowe. He went to get going again, lurched forward, and had the front end smashed into by the #18 driven by Gary Eastwood. It doesn’t need to be said that both the cars retired after the shunt – a very disappointing result for both teams considering the pace they both had.
In the 30 minutes it took to clear up the debris/oil and the green flag coming out again, there was multiple dives into the pits by near enough all the field to chalk off one of their three mandatory pit stops in the three hour race and switch to slicks on a track that was drying rapidly.
One car didn’t come into the pits and that was the Trackspeed Porsche of David Ashburn. They stayed out until the second hour began and were leading for a time until Ashburn made an error when he went into the pits. That being, he missed his pit box. Realising his mistake, he stopped for a moment in the fast lane before numerous marshals waved him on and he had to complete another full lap before coming in – this time he found his pit box.
When the second hour got well and truly going, it was the RAM Racing Mercedes of Lewis Plato who was on a charge as he had a strategy that seemed to give him an initial boost on the rest of the field. He moved from fourth to second in the space of a lap and was at points the fastest man on track.
However, he was not as fast as the #11 22GT Racing car of Jon Barnes who had a lead of over a minute for much of the second hour and in no mood to let that slip.
Behind him, eventual winning pairing of Gilles Vannelet and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs was making moves of its own chasing down the #888 BMW.
Although, not to be outdone the GT4 field was also making hay as Jake Hill in the Porsche made mincemeat of Jake Giddings to take the lead in the category just after the halfway mark.
Closing in on the end of the second hour, the good work done by both the RAM Mercedes and the Demon Tweeks BMW came to naught as Alistair MacKinnon made a dive down the inside of Minshaw and hit his right rear.
That put the BMW out and earned MacKinnon a black flag and an order to take an early bath.
It may seem strange saying this now, but the race seemed to quieten down in the last hour – Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer were still comfortably leading out front and the ‘baby’ Beechdean continued its charge from last place to eventually wind up first in GT4 following the retirement of the Toyota GT86.
However, all that changed with 36 minutes of the race left to go as Mark Farmer bounced over the kerbs at Club, lost the back end, and hit the wall hard. What remained of the car – a lot of the front end was sheared off – was cleared off the track after Farmer was taken to the medical centre for a check over with only 20 minutes of race left to run.
The final sprint to flag saw Adrian Quaife-Hobbs cling on for dear life at the front to make sure that a hard charging Joe Osborne, in a very strong #888, didn’t pip him for the win.
In the end only half a second separated the two drivers, with Alexander Sims not having enough time to bridge the six-second gap ahead of him.
Daniel Lloyd eventually finished fourth in the car he shared with Al-Harthy with Jonny Adam dragging the Beechdean #007 into fifth place.
In GT4, Ross Gunn and Jamie Chadwick showed they are early title contenders with a second win on the spin – finishing a lap ahead of the Quantamatic Aston who themselves finished a lap ahead of Gavan Kershaw and Oz Yusuf in the ISSY Lotus.
Gunn, who led the charge in the Beechdean car for most of the second half of the race, told The Checkered Flag on the podium: “For sure it’s been a good run at the moment but nothing last forever so we just need to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard. The team have done it again today with an amazing job, the strategy was called and executed perfectly and we can’t ask for much more. At the start of the year I signed for this team and I had expectations but nothing like what it’s actually like. I’m so thankful to Andrew Howard and all of Beechdean and all of AMR.”
After the race, Vannelet – who is racing for Team AAI in the Le Mans 24 Hours and the related test day – was full of praise for the 650S, telling TCF: “It was peculiar because I’d just arrived from Le Mans and I was running with my helmet to get in the car two minutes before the green flag. It was exciting. I do like this car. I first drove it in Abu Dhabi in the 12 Hours, this new McLaren is very, very fun to drive, very adaptive for fast drivers and gentlemen drivers. It is better than the first McLaren, I did two championships with ART, the French and Blancpain Endurance and the first car was very difficult for the set-up but the new one is fantastic.”