This weekend marks the start of British GT’s endurance season when 42 cars – the championship’s biggest entry since 2013 – assembles for its longest and most prestigious race: the Silverstone 500.
Three mandatory driver changes in as many hours helps ensure tactics as well as speed play a crucial role in deciding who lifts the historic RAC Trophy, which was first awarded at Brooklands in 1932. The longer format also means 1.5x points are available for the first time in 2019 following British GT’s shorter 60-minute sprints at Oulton Park and Snetterton.
GT3: BARWELL’S RAGING BULLS OUT FRONT
Four races down, five to go. It’s hardly believable that British GT’s 2019 campaign reaches its halfway mark when the chequered flag falls on Sunday. However, that maths is somewhat skewed by the first four one-hour races and 100 points being spread across this year’s two opening weekends.
187.5 points are therefore still available over the remaining five events, starting with 37.5 this weekend. And that will come as considerable relief for all those chasing Barwell Motorsport, which has made a lightning start in both the Drivers’ and Teams’ championships.
Its two Lamborghinis shared by Adam Balon/Phil Keen and Sam De Haan/Jonny Cocker comfortably occupy first and second in the Drivers’ standings after winning three of the first four races. Balon and Keen – who have snaffled 80 of the maximum 100 points available – achieved rare back-to-back wins at Snetterton where not even a 10s Pitstop Success Penalty could deny them. That same handicap is doubled on Sunday when the #72 Huracan must serve its extra time at the final mandatory driver change.
Both have won the 500 before: Keen outright with Barwell and Lamborghini in 2016, and Balon in GT4 12 months later. Doing so again this Sunday would also re-write a little bit of history, for no crew has won three consecutive British GT races since David Ashburn and Glynn Geddie in 2010.
De Haan and Cocker head to Silverstone 13 points behind their team-mates but with a five-second shorter Success Penalty to serve after claiming a second podium of the season at Snetterton.
Such has been Barwell’s dominance that De Haan and Cocker are 30 points clear of their nearest rivals, Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris, whose championship position owes much to victory in the season opener at Oulton Park. Further good results have slipped away through a variety of misfortune and incidents, neither of which JRM’s duo can afford this weekend at a circuit where they and Bentley won two years ago.
Parfitt Jnr and Morris head a tight bunch of five midfield crews covered by nine points. The second of them, Optimum’s Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis, have chosen British GT’s showpiece event over the latest round of International GT Open, where they are running a parallel programme. That will help their chances in the Silver Cup, which they currently lead, and also makes them Aston Martin’s best-placed contenders by a single point from TF Sport’s Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam who arrive at Silverstone fresh from clinching a first podium together.
Richard Neary and Adam Christodoulou (Team ABBA Racing, Mercedes-AMG) plus Dominic Paul and Ben Green (Century Motorsport, BMW) are right behind, while Andrew Howard and Marco Sorensen (Beechdean AMR) have slipped back after scoring just one point at Snetterton.
Following a frustrating opening round Balfe Motorsport’s new McLaren finally demonstrated its potential at Snetterton by claiming a podium, which has resulted in Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell collecting a 10s Success Penalty this weekend. That will make it very difficult for the 720S to maintain an incredible record established by each of its predecessors – the 650S, 12C and F1 GTR – which all claimed victories on their British GT debuts at Silverstone.
Defending Silverstone 500 winners Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim have found things much harder going in 2019, but the green shoots of recovery were in evidence at Snetterton where the Dane claimed pole position. It was a similar story at Team Parker Racing whose Silver Cup duo of Ryan Ratcliffe and Geddie scored their first outright podium together.
Elsewhere, WPI Motorsport belied its British GT3 inexperience by enjoying an excellent first outing at Snetterton. And things could get even better this weekend when Michael Igoe is joined by Lamborghini factory driver and reigning Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia champion, Dennis Lind.
Another Huracan joins the GT3 grid at Silverstone courtesy of JMH Automotive’s John Seale and Jamie Stanley, while G-Cat Racing’s new Porsche makes its long-awaited British GT debut in the hands of Shamus Jennings and Greg Caton.
And there’s further good news at RAM Racing, which welcomes back Ian Loggie who was unable to race at Snetterton following a cycling accident.
GT4: RECORD ENTRY MAKES RESULT TOO CLOSE TO CALL
Four winning crews. Four winning teams. And three winning manufacturers. Yep, GT4 has been its usual unpredictable self at the start of 2019! And with as many different constructors also triumphing at Silverstone over the last four years, as well as another record-breaking class entry, this season’s 500 looks set to be a belter.
Indeed, the 43-point gap between GT3’s first and third place crews actually covers the top 14 in GT4 where one or two strong results have proven vital thus far. Top of the pile are HHC’s Callum Pointon and Dean Macdonald who added a second podium to their Oulton Park victory last time out at Snetterton. The duo arrive at Silverstone with a four-point advantage over fellow McLaren drivers Jordan Collard and Lewis Proctor who must serve the full 20s Success Penalty during their final pitstop on Sunday after winning Race 2 at Snetterton.
HHC, Tolman and McLaren’s early dominance continues with its two other crews occupying third and fourth. However, Tom Jackson and Luke Williams’ season has so far been one of utter consistency: they’re the only partnership inside the top-six to have scored in all four races, while James Dorlin and Josh Smith have mixed two podiums with a non-score.
Multimatic’s #15 Mustang looked unstoppable at Oulton Park where Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell bagged both pole positions, a victory and fastest lap. But although the latter also qualified up front at Snetterton, just 10 points from those two races has seen the Ford team’s full-season duo slip to fifth in the standings. They’re joined this weekend by the returning Chad McCumbee and Harrison Newey, who competes in Japan’s premier single-seater championship: Super Formula.
Meanwhile, just two points separate Pro/Am’s leading contenders after Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman (Beechdean AMR) leapfrogged Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien (Balfe Motorsport, McLaren) at Snetterton.
Matthew George, who lines up nine points behind the class leaders, will be pulling double duty this weekend when he swaps between Invictus Games Racing’s Jaguar and the new Aston Martin entered by Generation AMR SuperRacing, who make their first appearance since the same event 12 months ago. George will qualify the Aston Martin in the first GT4 session and also start the same car before alternating throughout the race.
One outfit desperate to bounce back after a disappointing result at Snetterton are Team Parker Racing whose reigning Pro/Am champions were less than two laps away from scoring a dominant victory. The late puncture that ultimately denied Nick Jones and Scott Malvern at least means they start Sunday’s race Success Penalty-free, although that will likely come as little comfort after falling agonisingly short.
They’re joined by two more Mercedes-AMGs. Fox Motorsport’s Michael Broadhurst and Mark Murfitt set the fastest Pro and Am times during Silverstone’s 2018 qualifying session, while ERC Sport makes the first of two British GT4 appearances this year with 2011 class champion Peter Belshaw and AMG factory ace Maxi Buhk.
Century’s BMW M4 won 12 months ago in the hands of Jack Mitchell, who went on to seal the GT4 crown. And the team will be desperate to kickstart its campaign at the same venue this year after showing flashes of pace in the first two rounds. The same goes for Optimum, Academy and TF Sport’s Aston Martin crews, while Track Focused’s KTM must overcome a five-place grid penalty following contact at Snetterton.
Elsewhere, reigning FIA Pure McLaren GT Series champion Mia Flewitt forms one half of the GT4 entry’s only Am/Am line-up. She’s joined by Stewart Proctor in Balfe’s second 570S.
Watch the #Silverstone500 live on British GT’s Facebook page, Twitter account and website, plus SRO’s GT World Youtube channel, this Sunday.
Equally, a selection of support races will be streamed live on britishgt.com/live throughout the day. It’s also the place where international fans can watch restriction-free coverage.
Saturday 8 June
09:30 – 10:30: Free Practice 1
11:40 – 12:40: Free Practice 2
15:40 – 15:50: Qualifying – GT3 Am
15:54 – 16:04: Qualifying – GT3 Pro
16:08 – 16:18: Qualifying – GT4 Am
16:23 – 16:33: Qualifying – GT4 Pro
Sunday 9 June
09:00 – 09:10: Warm-up
12:35 – 15:35: Race
GT3 – 1m59.725s – Marco Sorensen – TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 – 2018
GT4 – 2m12.263s – Jack Mitchell – Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 – 2018
Pitstop Success Penalties – GT3
20s – #72 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini – Balon/Keen
15s – #69 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini – Cocker/De Haan
10s – #22 Balfe Motorsport McLaren – Balfe/Bell
Pitstop Success Penalties – GT4
20s – #5 Tolman Motorsport McLaren – Proctor/Collard
15s – #97 TF Sport Aston Martin – Canning/Hand
10s – #57 HHC Motorsport McLaren – Pointon/Macdonald
All Pitstop Success Penalties must be served during the third mandatory driver change.
Minimum pitstop times (pit-in to pit-out)
GT3: 135s | GT4: 170s
All Silver Cup-entered GT4 cars will serve an additional 14 seconds during each mandatory pitstop and carry 20kg extra ballast. GT3 Silver Cup entries carry 30kg extra ballast but do not serve an additional pitstop time.