Jenson Button will make his GT3 debut during the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s blue riband Silverstone 500 race on November 7/8.
The 2009 FIA Formula 1 World Champion joins Jenson Team Rocket RJN co-owner Chris Buncombe behind the wheel of a McLaren 720S GT3 for the three-hour season finale.
The race – which will decide this year’s British GT Drivers’ and Teams’ titles – represents several firsts for the Sky Sports F1 pundit who also claimed Japan’s prestigious Super GT crown in 2018. Button has never raced for his own GT team, which he co-founded with life-long friend and business partner Buncombe in 2019, nor driven a GT3 car competitively. It will also be his first competitive appearance at the British Grand Prix venue since his final Formula 1 outing there in 2016.
Covid-19 restrictions will prevent spectators from attending the event. However, British GT and SRO Motorsports Group’s free and unrestricted livestreaming options ensure fans needn’t miss a moment of Button’s debut or the championship showdown, which falls outside of a Formula 1 weekend.
“This will be my first taste of a GT3 car but I’m really looking forward it,” said Button, whose entry is supported by Sky and Intelligent Money Private Clients. “It will be lovely to join our team and lining-up in the McLaren 720S with my best buddy Chris Buncombe. It’s great to come back and race on UK soil again – a big thank you to our partners that have made this possible.
“It’s a shame that this final round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship will be without the fans but I hope they will tune in to follow our progress!”
Buncombe, meanwhile, makes his first British GT start since the final round at Donington Park in 2018. He’s also a former Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup class champion but, like Button, has never raced the McLaren competitively. Both will sample the car for the first time during a private test session at Silverstone later this month.
“Jenson and I have spoken for a while about sharing a car together on track – we have done a number of off-road races together driving a spec Trophy Truck in the US but never driven together in a GT race,” he said. “It will be great to return to Silverstone and I’m hugely looking forward to trying the McLaren 720S GT3. Thank you to everyone who has helped make this possible, it’s a fantastic way to end the 2020 season.”
Jenson Team Rocket RJN’s new Pro/Am pairing joins the squad’s existing Silver Cup duo of Michael O’Brien and World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin who head to Silverstone as one of four GT3 title contenders.
Team principal Bob Neville added: “We are very pleased to be able to run a second car at this final race of the year and it’s brilliant to have a former world champion in Jenson with an endurance champion in Chris behind the wheel, both of whom are my partners in the team. We are also heading into this race with an outside chance of [winning] the British GT Championship with our Silver Cup pairing of Michael O’Brien and the World’s Fastest Gamer, James Baldwin, who will hopefully benefit from having such experienced team-mates.”
Further race-by-race entries for British GT’s three-hour #SilverstoneShowdown, which is expected to attract the largest grid of the season, will be announced in the coming weeks.
Watch the season finale live on the championship’s Facebook page and website, as well as SRO’s GT World Youtube channel, from 12:45 GMT on Sunday 8 November.
DID YOU KNOW?
Button scored his last victory at Silverstone while racing on British GT’s support bill in October 1999, one year before his Formula 1 graduation with Williams. The then-19-year-old also set fastest lap en route to a third British F3 win of the season.
ABOUT THE INTELLIGENT MONEY BRITISH GT CHAMPIONSHIP
For 28 years the Intelligent Money British GT Championship has been an intrinsic part of the UK’s national motorsport fabric. But, having undergone a number of changes throughout that quarter-century, it’s difficult to envisage an era more competitive than the current GT3 and GT4 format.
First organised by the British Racing Drivers Club in 1993, the BRDC National Sports GT Challenge (as it was known until 1995) featured grids of wildly different machinery loosely grouped into vibrant classes comprising sportscars and saloons.
Today, under SRO Motorsports Group’s guidance, British GT grids comprise 30-plus GT3, GTC and GT4 specification supercars tuned to varying degrees of race preparation. Both classes take their cues from road-legal models – examples include Aston Martin, McLaren, Lamborghini and Bentley – that have been developed specifically for the track.
GT racing is traditionally seen as an endurance discipline, and British GT honours that by mandating two drivers per car. Driver changes take place during pitstops, when tyres are also replaced and fuel added. Race durations vary and can last one, two or three hours.