The qualifying session for the 2021 Intelligent Money British GT Championship Silverstone 500 has been claimed by 2Seas Motorsport on their return to the championship with a single Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO. The Anglo-Bahraini squad sealed the top spot in fine style, leading both the Am and the Pro sessions on Saturday afternoon on the Grand Prix circuit at the home of British Motorsport. GT4 pole position wasn’t as easily won, with the early session giving the advantage to the BMW M4 GT4 EVOs of Century Motorsport. The second session saw the Silver Cup pairing of Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding take the front row in class in just their second race back in the GT4 version of the Audi R8 LMS.
GT3: Abbott and Kodric Set Course for the Front Row.
The new to British GT pairing of BTCC star Hunter Abbott and GT World Challenge Europe front runner Martin Kodric opened their accounts in the series with an authoritative performance in their respective sessions. The 2Seas crew each claimed the fastest lap in their ten minutes to make a combined advantage of 1.706 seconds over the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3 of Giacomo Petrobelli and Charlie Eastwood.
Initially it was Petrobelli who stole the top spot in the Am session but he was promptly replaced by Brendan Iribe for Inception Racing by Optimum Motorsport who then lost out almost straight away to Hunter Abbott. The same pattern was repeated on the second flying laps, with Abbott proving categorically that the team’s decision to defect from McLaren to Mercedes-AMG over the winter was well made. The cars returned to pit lane for driver changes with the #14 Mercedes-AMG sitting a comfortable 0.565 seconds clear of the McLaren from Oculus VR co-founder Iribe.
A similar margin covered the seven of the top eight in the second session though from the off Kodric stated his intention emphatically. The Croatian hotshoe headed out on the circuit and uncorked two scorching laps which left all the other front runners scratching their heads. The #14 was 0.7 seconds clear at the top of the tables by the time Kodric called it quits, the combined times from the two sessions gave the black and blue Benz and even stronger position at over a second and a half to the Petrobelli/Eastwood Aston Martin.
A strong effort from reigning champion Sandy Mitchell saw Adam Balon‘s sixth upgraded to third place for the start of the longest race on the calendar. Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman took fourth place as the quickest of the full season Mercedes ahead of Iribe and his co-driver Ollie Millroy. Enduro Motorsport will be celebrating the outside of the third row in their McLaren 720s GT3 thanks to Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton, an amazing performance in only their second race in the class and against strong competition. Beechdean AMR, Balfe Motorsport, Barwell Motorsport and Team ABBA Racing rounded out the top ten.
The expected rapid pace from the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO of Michael Igoe and Phil Keen was pretty much in absence. Initially tipped as front runners in the championship fight, 16th place ahead of only G-Cat Racing and Simon Green Motorsport has to be a disappointing result. It does however mean that series debutants Paddock Motorsport, the new name running Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman‘s Bentley, series debutants Red River Sport entered in the second TF Sport Aston Martin for Bonamy Grimes and Marco Sorensen and Team Rocket RJN for class debutants Mia Flewitt and Euan Hankey can look at their starting points outside the top ten with a little more pride.
GT4: History Repeats Itself as Williams and Fielding Amaze at Round 2.
With GT4 the only class left in British GT where two silver drivers can race together, a close battle is the standard script. A near .8 second advantage at the front of the class was not what we expected going into the GT4 qualifying sessions. We should be used to Steller Motorsport not doing as ordered in the second round by now though, 2019 saw the pairing of Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding claim a victory on debut with the very Audi R8 LMS GT4 which carried the duo to pole position this weekend.
The opening session was actually topped by the BMW of Will Burns who along with Toyota Gazoo Racing UK‘s John Ferguson and Williams aboard the Audi enjoyed a session long scrap for the top spot. 9 one hundredths of a second saw the BMW on top at the end of the 10 minutes, with Chris Salkeld aboard the second BMW M4 8 tenths further back. It was Ferguson who really impressed though, entering the Silver Cup fight despite being an Amateur driver aboard the Toyota GR Supra GT4.
The second session was where the real work was done. Sennan Fielding should have been out-gunned by rivals given that he ranks silver to Scott McKenna, Charlie Robertson and Darren Turner‘s professional gradings. Indeed for the same reason we expected the Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke BMW shared with Salkeld to climb higher up the tables than it’s eventual seventh. Fielding refused to be outpaced though and went hard from the off, eventually placing a time just 0.075 seconds shy of the outright fastest GT4 lap of the day. McKenna won the session aboard the Toyota, but Fielding matched well to Williams to claim the pole.
Ginetta factory pro Charlie Robertson took the third fastest time in the session but when matched to Mark Sansom‘s 12th place performance from the opening session it only served to secure 5th place for Assetto Motorsport. The east Anglian team must be satisfied with that though, a team new to the championship, with a driver new to GT racing and a car which has never turned a lap in anger before the season started? Fifth on the grid at round 2 is impressive.
Between the Ginetta G56 and the Audi/Toyota front row sits the session one pole sitters from Century. Gus Burton grabbed fifth in the Pro session; again not bad for a silver cup entry but was outpaced by factory opposition. Fourth place for Newbridge Motorsport‘s Aston Martin, the sole Vantage in a class once dominated by the V8 rocket from Banbury, is worrying for the other runners given that this very chassis led most of the 2020 Silverstone 500 on strategy; and the second driver on that occasion wasn’t Aston Martin Legend, Darren Turner.
Fox Motorsport‘s McLaren 570s GT4 led home a solid block of Woking’s finest export. Nick Halstead and Jamie Stanley won out over McLaren DDP drivers Benyahia and Valente for the inside of the fourth row. The fifth row has Balfe Motorsport’s Jack Brown and Ashley Marshall ahead of the second Team Rocket RJN run DDP crew of Milner and Hayek who round out the top ten.
Will Moore and Matt Cowley must be scratching their heads, as should be the Car Gods with Ciceley Motorsport duo of Dave Whitmore and Jake Giddings. Ciceley have the ‘excuse’ of Whitmore’s inexperience; a get out of jail free card Academy Motorsport lack with the crew of their Ford Mustang. Both the big Ford and the Mercedes-AMG have both previously run very well on the long straights and flowing corners of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. We would have expected to see both cars further up the order ahead of the blue riband event in the British GT Championship calendar.