PREVIEW: 2018 British GT R4 Silverstone 500 – GT3 class

by Jean-Paul Hackett

British GT returns to the venerable Northamptonshire venue this weekend for the only three-hour race of the season; the Silverstone 500, points-and-a-half plus the historic RAC Trophy are both up for grabs.

Also up for grabs is another chance for crews to take control of their respective GT3 and GT4 championships, something that is yet to happen in either class this season.

The Silverstone 500’s prestige has attracted several new entries, with 14 GT3s joining the 22 GT4s scheduled to compete this weekend. The newly-resurfaced 3.661-mile Arena Grand Prix Circuit is also expected to produce faster lap times than in previous years.

Five races, five different winners. That’s the state of play in the GT3 category as the second half of the 2018 campaign begins. But, with almost as many points available for the final four endurance races as those already completed, there is still every opportunity for nearly every entry to mount a championship challenge.
Indeed, the top seven teams are separated by less than the 37.5 points available for victory this weekend.

Credit: SRO – Jakob Ebrey

Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman’s full points haul at Rockingham has helped them retain top spot, in spite of two tough races at Snetterton. The ERC-Sport duo saw their championship lead slashed to just 4.5 points by Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen (Lamborghini) who, just like their Mercedes-AMG rivals, won’t serve a pitstop success penalty on Sunday.

Credit: SRO – Jakob Ebrey

Three rostrums in as many events see Beechdean AMR’s Darren Turner and Andrew Howard sitting 12 points behind the championship leaders. A thrilling battle for victory at Snetterton might not have gone the latter’s way, but it proved the two-time champion had lost none of his determination. Now Howard and Turner will have to work hard this weekend if they’re to overturn a 15s success penalty at a venue where they finished third together as long ago as 2010.

Credit: SRO – Jakob Ebrey

TF Sport’s drivers dominated the Snetterton meeting, and all four should be a threat again at Silverstone where Aston Martin claimed pole position last year. The second race victory at Snetterton ensures Derek Johnston and Marco Sorensen must serve the full 20s success penalty at the first of their three mandatory pitstops, while team-mates Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim, who bounced back into championship contention with a win and podium, have a 10s handicap.

Optimum Motorsport’s Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam have so far failed to match the promise they showed during the opening round at Oulton Park, while a problematic race for Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod at Snetterton has consigned Team Parker Racing’s best placed Bentley crew to seventh.

Team Parker Racing’s other car features reigning champion and 2017 Silverstone 500 winner Rick Parfitt Jnr who, together with Ryan Ratcliffe, would dearly love to keep hold of the RAC Trophy that he and Seb Morris won last season.

Credit: SRO – Jakob Ebrey

A first British GT podium last time out for Graham Davidson and Maxime Martin mean Jetstream Motorsport’s Aston Martin can’t be discounted either, while the returning Team ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG also features recent Silverstone podium finishers in the form of Richard Neary and Adam Christodoulou. The latter also ensures that eight GT3 factory drivers will start this year’s race after Balfe Motorsport’s McLaren 650S GT3, driven by Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell, was confirmed following its Snetterton sabbatical.

Look out for a wildcard appearance from Ultimate Speed’s Aston Martin, which guarantees a season-high of 14 GT3 cars that will take to the grid this weekend.

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