2 Seas Motorsport converted pole position to a commanding Silverstone 500 victory, with a perfect strategy ensuring the Bahraini team secured the win on its return to the Intelligent Money British GT Championship.
In GT4, blazingly quick stints from Darren Turner secured his – and Newbridge Motorsport’s – first British GT victory having shared the top spot with Century Motorsport and Steller Motorsport throughout the three-hour encounter.
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Compared to 500s of the recent past, this mega-enduro around Silverstone proved to be a much calmer affair with strategy proving to be the biggest decider as teams gambled on whether or not a safety car would make an appearance – spoiler alert, it didn’t.
The 86 laps of uninterrupted running – a distance record – played right into the hands of the pole-sitting Mercedes-AMG GT3 of 2 Seas. Starting with a textbook opening stint from Hunter Abbott, the black and blue machine was pretty much always on top – except for a brief spell in the middle-hour in which a slightly different strategy from Dennis Lind in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini allowed him to move ahead.
The Huracán’s lead didn’t last for too long though, as the strategy swung back towards Abbott and Martin Kodrič, the latter not putting a foot wrong as he crossed the line with an advantage of more than seven seconds over the chasing field of GT3s behind.
Their nearest competition proved to be the two Barwell Motorsport entries, and despite running quick and issue-free stints, the crews were powerless to put the leaders under threat, instead, settling for securing maximum championship points instead as Dennis Lind & Leo Machitski did battle with Sandy Mitchell & Adam Balon – the 2 Seas car didn’t score points because of its round-by-round entry.
That Barwell had two cars in the podium places is a marvel of strategy and exceedingly quick pace after Machitski had a wicked 720-degree spin coming through Farm Curve which relegated him towards the end of the grid. Indeed, it could be argued that had it not been for the Russian’s spin, the #63’s pace towards the end of the race could have put it in contention for victory.
Instead, Lind found himself second with less than 15 minutes remaining and Mitchell’s green machine filling his mirrors. The reigning champion got himself close a couple of times but had to wait until the final lap for his decisive opportunity.
Heading through Maggotts and Becketts, Lind was baulked by the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang and lost pace on the run down the Hangar Straight. Mitchell pulled alongside going through the quick right of Stowe and pulled the move off at the following Vale corner.
Finishing second – but taking maximum points – avenges the pair’s non-score at Brands Hatch, and even third for Lind and Machitski continues their strong run after a podium at the season opener.
Fourth went the way of TF Sport’s Giacomo Petrobelli and Charlie Eastwood. The Aston Martin pair tended to be relatively dark horses, to be honest, a great start from Petrobelli kept the pair within the top five and then quality pit work – as you’d expect from multiple British GT champions – secured the position for them.
RAM Racing’s Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie finished fifth in their Mercedes. They were the highest placed of the drivers who gambled on a safety car to give them the opportunity for a free stop. They did their first stop with 70 gone, and then waited another 70 minutes to make their second – eight minutes later they completed their third and final mandatory having decided there wouldn’t be any interruptions.
That still gave them enough time in hand to relegate Beechdean AMR to sixth, after Jonny Adam lost time just before the halfway mark having tangled with Enduro Motorsport’s Marcus Clutton at The Loop. Clutton tried to go up the inside of the Aston and Adam closed the door, Clutton clipping the back of the Vantage and pushing it into a spin.
TF Sport’s second entry of Marco Sørensen and Bonamy Grimes took seventh just ten seconds behind after also running long before taking their final pitstop.
Sam De Haan and James Cottingham took eighth, the RAM Racing pair not quite having the same pace that had them running at the sharp-end last time out but they did finish ahead of Team Parker Racing’s Scott Malvern and Nick Jones, the Porsche racers having to serve a drive-through penalty during the race.
Balfe Motorsport’s Stewart and Lewis Proctor rounded out the top ten in their McLaren, ahead of WPI Motorsport’s Phil Keen and Michael Igoe. The Lamborghini pair have been tackling an unknown issue with their Huracán all weekend, which has robbed them of pace – the pair not particularly causing much trouble to the leading positions.
One of the notable retirees was the Team Abba Racing Mercedes of Richard and Sam Neary. The former took the opening stint and was right on the front-running pace, moving quickly up to fourth and then getting the better of Petrobelli to move into third. The pair came out of the pits in a strong position, but a compressor issue stopped Sam from being able to shift gear and forced the pair into retirement.
The race in GT4 boiled down to both raw pace and pit strategy as the top six teams all took on wildly different pit strategies to try and secure themselves victory at the longest race of the season.
Running very long in every stint were the team that dominated at Brands Hatch – Century Motorsport. The team’s BMW M4 GT4s were squeezing out every last drop of fuel as they gambled on a safety car intervention to give them a free stop and track position.
Despite making their final stop with 14 minutes to go and a handy advantage over the competition, an extra-long stop for the car of Gus Burton and Will Burns – thanks to minimum pitstop times, Silver Cup penalty and success seconds from Brands – pushed the erstwhile leaders down and off the podium, eventually taking fourth.
The second car of Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Chris Salkeld also ran a very similar strategy, which also didn’t benefit them as they found themselves mugged on the last lap by Charlie Roberton’s Assetto Motorsport Ginetta G56 which snatched fifth from the BMW – relegating the Brands winners to sixth.
Indeed, the race went the way of the teams who ran a more traditional strategy of running relatively equal stints for the Pro and minimising the time the Ams spent behind the wheel.
The biggest beneficiary was the Newbridge Motorsport Aston. According to Darren Turner ‘stand-out’ stints from Matt Topham – making his British GT debut – kept the Vantage well within contention before Turner himself turned the heat on his rivals.
Coming out the final stop with a slender two-second advantage over the Steller Audi – which was pitting early to try and get track position – Turner utilised his newer Pirellis to keep Sennan Fielding behind and cut through the traffic to take his first win in British GT, three years after his last silverware – a P2 at Snetterton behind the wheel of the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin.
To give them their due, Steller duo Fielding and Richard Williams put on a masterclass in the Audi of how an early first pitstop can translate into being right in the mix at the close, but the extra time they had to serve at every pitstop for being an all-Silver crew was always going to be a mountain to climb in their R8 LMS. They took second overall, and victory in the Silver Cup.
It was the lack of an additional time penalty that really benefitted the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK/Speedworks Motorsport Toyota GR Supra of John Ferguson and Scott McKenna. The latter benefitted from having shorter stops and proved rapid behind the wheel – despite a loose rear-view mirror having to be ripped off in the pits – to sneak into third after the final stops for the two BMWs.
Academy Motorsport proved to be a variable at the front of the GT4 fight but again tried to gamble on a longer strategy which didn’t pay off despite Matt Cowley and Will Moore both putting in consistently quick stints and pulling off some eye-catching overtakes. They finished seventh in the big Mustang, five seconds ahead of the Team Rocket RJN McLaren 570S of Michael Benyahia and Alan Valente, which faded as the race went on following a belting start from Benyahia who gained six places on the first lap.
Ninth went to the second RJN McLaren of Jordan Collard and James Kell, while the Cicely Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Dave Whitmore and Jake Giddings rounded out the top ten. That’s despite Whitmore colliding with the Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 of Brendan Iribe at Becketts as the latter was trying to lap the Mercedes.
There’s not long to wait for the next British GT round – the next race is at Donington Park in two weeks, July 10 & 11, with a two-hour encounter.
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