Barwell Motorsport’s risky pit strategy paid off big time, as Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw took their first British GT Championship win this year in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3. In the GT4 class, RCIB Insurance Racing were in the right place at the right time to see their Ginetta G55 GT4 climb to the lead of the class.
The showpiece Silverstone 500 started under the safety car as heavy rain turned Silverstone from a race track to a powerboat circuit with Rick Parfitt’s Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 leading the field from pole around two safety car laps before the race went green for a three-hour blast with a mammoth 51 cars all competing in three different classes.
Before the safety car came back in, a number of teams decided to swap their Am drivers who started the race with their Pro counterparts set to deal with the monsoon out on track. Barwell Motorsport made full use of that with their fleet of Lamborghini Huracan GT3s with Richard Abra, Alexander Sims and Phil Keen all getting behind the wheel.
When the track finally went green, Rick Parfitt held station at the front of the field and set about his main task – fending off the advances of Derek Johnston’s #17 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage which was trying everything it could to get the lead.
Indeed, Parfitt should have taken a leaf out of teammate Ian Loggie’s book as he jumped up to fourth place in GT3, and Jack Bartholomew’s Beechdean AMR Aston Martin was a mover in GT4 as he got past Sandy Mitchell’s Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S for the lead of the class – a move done on the first very lap.
He said of the move after the race: “I got past on the way into turn one going around the outside and Sandy had a good start – a clean start – but potentially because of the GT3s braking quite early I saw the chance and in the wet the racing line is round the outside so I had a go and led the whole of the first stint.”
A lap or two later and Parfitt started dropping back a bit as he ran wide at the entrance to the Wellington Straight and Derek Johnston saw his opportunity and took it. After that, he hit problems again at the same place just a lap later as Will Moore’s Audi R8 LMS moved up to second, Lee Mowle’s AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3 claimed third, and Andrew Howard moved the #1 Beechdean Aston Martin up to fourth.
However, Lee Mowle sacrificed third not long after as he spun coming out of Becketts handing third place to the Motorbase Performance car of Phil Dryburgh who had dispensed of Howard a few corners previously.
There was a nightmare at the very front though as a rare mistake from Derek Johnston saw the TF Sport car pushed into retirement before they could even get themselves settled in.
Just over half an hour in, and the safety car was back out again as the rain kept lashing down. 30 minutes later, and a few pit stops rattled off, Liam Griffin found himself at the front in the #6 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini but not for long as Mike Simpson in the #32 Tolman Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3 was on fire and proceeded to propel the Ginetta into the lead.
What a lead it turned out to be, as Simpson went about setting race-best laps with a 2:21.174 set and immediately broken with a time that dipped below the 2:20s to solidify his leading position. Also on a charge in GT3 was the sister Ginetta of Luke Davenport who found himself cutting up the top ten and into fourth place.
However, while that car was going forwards, Seb Morris in the Team Parker Bentley was going backwards – a run over the grass on the way onto the Wellington Straight caused major damage to the front-right of the car and was limped back to the pits by an obviously disappointed Morris.
Closing in on the final hour of the race and a round of pitstops had shuffled the lead somewhat, with Luke Davenport leading from Beechdean’s Ross Gunn who couldn’t deal with Davenport’s lead out front – especially with the amount of traffic still circulating.
Ten minutes into the last hour and the safety car made its last appearance as a brief rain shower caught out a number of drivers – most notably Pete Littler who span the PFL Motorsport Aston into the wall on the run down to Church, putting an unfortunate end to what was a good race for him and Jody Fannin.
When the safety car came back in, there was just over 30 minutes of the race left and that was when Phil Keen decided made his move from fourth and onto the podium positions as he coped far better with slicks on the damp-in-places track. Following him closely though was Adam Carroll in the FF Corse Ferrari 488 who himself was setting pretty good laps on his slick-shod machine.
Just a couple of laps after the safety car, and thanks to some cars – notably the Ginettas – swapping to slicks later than the Barwell crew Keen found himself able to extend a lead of more than 5 seconds in just his first lead lap.
As he continued to pull away, the battle shifted to the positions just behind as Joe Osborne’s BMW Z4 GT3 slithered its way into contention for a podium place. With Carroll dispensed with for P3, the next challenge was Ryan Ratcliffe in the Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS who was acting like a cork in the bottle as his wet tyres started to burn out and slow him down. Using his experience through karting in the wet on slicks, Osborne started to gain time sector-after-sector and it wasn’t long before he was alongside and through into second place.
However, with Keen now 45 seconds clear in the lead it was apparent that the BMW would have to settle for second but he still managed to open up a good gap to Carroll who himself had wound up on the podium – the first for Ferrari and Marco Attard this season.
In GT4 the battle was a lot more complicated and it really was blink and you’ll miss it. Jordan Albert did lead after the final safety car period but a pit stop knocked them down a few places and the conditions caught out a number of others who tried to climb higher.
One man who wasn’t phased though was Robert Barrable, channeling the spirit of his rallying past he remained cool and calm in the RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta as he survived the melee to take victory with Nathan Freke – in the Century Motorsport Ginetta – trying his best to A) catch up to the Irishman and B) put enough distance between himself and Jordan Albert in the Baby Beechdean which was powering onto the podium.
There was disappointment for one car though – the Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S. It had run a solid race and was well in contention for a podium to go alongside pole position, but a mechanical fault on the last lap saw the car pull up on the exit of Copse and retire just one lap from the end of the race.
They’ll look to recoup and go again stronger at the next round though, which is at the fearsome Spa-Francorchamps with a two-hour race on Saturday 9 June.