The tenth anniversary edition of the Silverstone 500 has been taken in emphatic style by 2Seas Motorsport. The single round entry dominated qualifying to take the pole yesterday and a combination of Hunter Abbott and Martin Kodric drove exceptionally to romp away at the front of the field. As a result, the Anglo-Bahraini outfit secures not only its first win in their new Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO but the prestigious and historic RAC Trophy. In the GT4 class victory went to Newbridge Motorsport, the team which led most of the 2020 Silverstone 500 only to lose out on pit strategy at the end. Amazingly, the result gives both amateur driver Matt Topham and GT racing legend Darren Turner their first victories in the intelligent Money British GT Championship.
GT3: Victory Assured but Points Hard Fought in the Top Class.
With a three hour race its hard to say that victory was earned on Saturday but for Hunter Abbott and Martin Kodric it’s almost true. After throwing down a serious marker in qualifying, Abbott shot off like the proverbial robber’s dog at the start of the race, building up an almost 30 second lead before eventually bringing the Benz to pit lane. Aided and abetted by two significant retirements in the first hour, most of the hard work was actually done by the amateur driver.
Those retirements, of Brendan Iribe‘s Inception Racing by Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720s GT3 and the father and son pairing of Richard and Sam Neary in the only older Mercedes-AMG on the grid, made the job a little easier. Iribe came to grief whilst lapping the Car Gods with Ciceley Motorsport GT4 Mercedes, the faster car suffering front suspension damage which called time on the race. Richard Neary however had the stint of his life in the Team Abba Racing Mercedes GT3, at times setting the pace and driving with a confidence and relaxed manner we’ve rarely seen from the longtime Am driver. He handed over to Sam Neary well in contention for a podium before gear selection problems stopped the most successful Mercedes-AMG chassis of all time in its tracks.
The biggest challenge to the 2Seas tsunami was Barwell Motorsport. Leo Machitski drove exceptionally well in the first stint, excepting of course the spin on lap one which would have dropped the Lamborghini fully to the back of the field if not for a similar rotation for class debutant Mia Flewitt in the Team Rocket RJN run McLaren GT3. An early pit stop to change over to Dennis Lind paid dividends, the ex-Lamborghini factory man carving his way through the field to lead the race outright through the three mandatory pit stops. Early gains from pitting a pro against the ams evaporated when the team returned to pit lane and installed Machitski again, going up against the likes of Kodric, Jonny Adam and Charlie Eastwood.
A highlight of the closing hour was the intra-team battle between Lind in the #63 Lamborghini and Sandy Mitchell who harried and eventually passed in the #1 machine he shares with Adam Balon. Que the looks of horror in the Barwell garage as the team’s two Lamborghini’s, fighting over the last two podium spots at the biggest race of the year, banged wheels at Stowe corner. With the 2Seas Motorsport machine a single round entry, the battle wasn’t just for the second biggest trophy but the biggest haul of points. 37.5 points for Mitchell and Balon goes a long way to repairing the damage from a less than spectacular Brands Hatch.
Dennis Lind claimed the fastest lap award, while he and Leo Machitski now lead the GT3 title fight.
Fourth place went to the round by round entry of Charlie Eastwood and Giacamo Petrobelli, who drove a consistent race to come out ahead of the full season entry from RAM Racing. Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie actually lead the race in places, and early on Loggie was one of the few who could match the pace of Hunter Abbott in the runaway blue and black Benz. With two single round cars ahead, the reigning Pro/Am champions secured points for third place in the overall title fight as a reward for their hard work. A relief no doubt as Loggie also barely missed the spinning Brendan Iribe early on, taking to the run off to protect the car at the expense of track postition.
Sixth overall and fourth in the points went to the Beechdean AMR duo of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR GT3 struggled at the start of each stint, disliking the new Pirelli rubber in favour of scuffed tyres, but when the car finally came on song it was a match for almost anything else on the track and the twice championship winning pairing kept the dream alive. Adam and Howard sit second in the title fight.
Bonamy Grimes and Marco Sorensen took seventh place on the track in their single round entry run by TF Sport on behalf of Red River Sport. James Cottingham and Sam de Haan took the Silver/Am class victory in the RAM Racing round by round machine, well earned for sure but no doubt aided by the woes for the Nearys. The Team Parker Porsche and Balfe Motorsport McLaren of Nick Jones and Scott Malvern and Stuart and Lewis Proctor respectively rounded out the top ten. Indeed the Proctor McLaren should have finished much higher up the order after Lewis Proctor made a statement with two exceptional passes on Buurman and Adam, only to cede the places with a drive through penalty for track limits in the final hour.
The welcome to the party race for Paddock Motorsport, running the Bentley Continental GT3 for Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman had all the promise you could hope for until late in the race. The failure of a driveshaft robbed the duo of a top six finish, and top four points, with less than an hour on the clock. It was the closest the race ever came to a safety car, but the amazing marshals effected a push recovery under the protection of double waved yellows.
That inspired decision by race control meant that for the first time in the 10 year history of the Silverstone 500, the race went green from start to finish and the leader clocked up 506.625km in the three hours of the race. It’s a record distance and the first time the race has ever reached the 500km target.
GT4: Newbridge Victorious in Thrilling Strategy Led Tussle.
It’s hard to believe that one of Britain’s most successful GT and Endurance racing drivers has never won a race in the premiere British GT racing category. Until today it was true however, the three times Le Mans class winner and former ELMS champion Darren Turner had never won a race in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship.
And what a race to win!
It was a thriller from the off with strategy playing a real part in deciding the outcome. The first half an hour of the race was led by Richard Williams aboard the Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4. An early pitstop surrendered the lead to Century Motorsport and left the lone Audi out of the limelight for much of the three hour race. The gamble was on a long stint by Sennan Fielding, which almost paid off, only two battles in the entire 30 car entry were closer at the line than the fight for the top spot in GT4.
Much of the bulk of the race was led by the BMW M4 GT4 EVO of Will Burns and Gus Burton. The Brands Hatch victors looked unstoppable at the head of the field, pushing both the pace and the fuel window throughout. They had a mission on their hands with the Silver Cup ballast of 20 seconds in the pits plus the success penalty for their results in Kent of 15 seconds meaning the #57 BMW would be stationary for almost three minutes at the final pit stop. As the Burns headed to the lane to hand over to Burton for the last time it was clear they hadn’t done enough, they exited half a minute off the lead in class and were half a minute off the lead as the chequered flag flew.
Toyota Gazoo Racing UK also wanted in on the action. A second place start hinted at the pace of the only Toyota GR Supra GT4 in the field, but the opening stint saw John Ferguson fighting hard to stay in the top six as he dropped down the order early on. Handing over to Scott McKenna saw the car re-assert its claim on a podium spot in another strong performance from the Speedworks run effort.
Really though all the eyes were locked on the Matt Topham and Darren Turner piloted Aston Martin in the second half of the race. A brutal hunting down of Gus Burton, a silver, by Darren Turner, a factory pro, in the middle stint of the race hinted at the pace in the sole GT4 Aston Martin in the field. Come the end of the race, Burton and his co-driver Burns could only watch on from the pit box as the #27 machine sped past during their longer mandatory service. The Audi of Steller Motorsport also got the pass for second done while the BMW languished in the pit lane; only Fielding could stop a DT victory and he fell three and a half seconds short of the target.
Toyota Gazoo Racing UK claimed the bottom step of the overall podium.
The Assetto Motorsport Ginetta G56 GT4 of Mark Sansom and Charlie Robertson took fifth place behind the erstwhile race leader. It was a strong result for the new machine from Yorkshire given a stop and go penalty early on for a pit stop infringement put them on the back foot and with a job of work to do if they were to get back in contention. Matt Cowley looked set to claim sixth place until Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke put an impressive move around the outside to steal the place away for the second Century BMW. Racing room was asked for and given, respect between the two GT4 protagonists well on display.
The McLaren Driver Development Programme duo of Allan Valente and Michael Benyahia took eighth despite running third early on, ahead of their Team Rocket RJN team mates Jordan Collard and James Kell. Despite an eventful race which saw them involved in contact early on, Dave Whitmore and Jake Giddings rounded out the top ten aboard the Car Gods with Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes.
The next round of the 2021 Intelligent Money British GT Championship comes from Donington Park in two weeks time.