The 2023 British Endurance Championship season kicked off with a thrilling battle at Silverstone circuit. Qualifying was held on a drying track before the sun beamed down and left the drivers with a completely dry track for the entire three-hour special.
A new rule change brought in for the 2023 season means qualifying must be completed by the amateur driver in a 10-minute session. The same driver will then start the race before handing over to the pro/co-driver later on.
The first of two three-hour races on the 2023 calendar saw a titanic battle between the PB Racing Audi R8 GT3 and the Blackthorn Mercedes-AMG GT3 with the Mercedes ultimately coming out on top.
Three entrants for the fastest class saw two GT3 runners compete against the howling Aston Martin Vulcan from Venture Innovations.
Pole position meanwhile would go the way of PB Racing by Enduro with their brand new Audi R8 GT3 Evo II for Peter Erceg and Marcus Clutton. Just 0.047s behind in second was the Blackthorn Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Claude Bovet and David MacDonald who have switched from their Lamborghini Hurácan Super Trofeo Evo II from last season.
After running through Copse two-abreast on lap one, Erceg swept across the front of the Mercedes to take the lead and the first lap of the three-hour enduro. Bovet meanwhile had his sights set on the back of the Audi and clinched the top spot just one lap later.
Glebs Stepanovs in the Vulcan meanwhile started down in thirteenth after a tricky qualifying in damp conditions. However, just two laps in and he made his way through into third position, a place he and co-driver Steve Tomkins would hold until the checkered flag.
Bovet had stretched his advantage to 7 seconds over Erceg before the New Zealander started his comeback, lapping a second a lap faster before making his move. With Erceg on his tale, Bovet caught up to the RNR Performance Ferrari of Chris Goddard who swept across the nose of the Mercedes heading through Copse. This baulked Bovet allowing Erceg to make a bold move through the inside of Maggots.
After their first mandatory stop, PB Racing then elected to complete a second stop and insert Clutton into the car at the halfway mark with a splash of fuel. Clutton emerged 90 seconds behind MacDonald with the latter yet to make his second mandatory stop. However, before MacDonald could make his second stop, the car was awarded a drive-through penalty for exceeding track limits.
Only a few laps later and he was back in the pits for his second and final stop of the race. He would emerge 4.8 seconds clear of a charging Clutton who just 5 minutes later was all over the back of the black and white Mercedes.
It didn’t take long before he saw an opportunity by making a bold move with just about an Audi’s width down the inside into the loop. Once passed, the Audi pulled away and looked as if it was heading for a comfortable victory. However, the strategy the team chose to play meant Clutton required a further stop for more fuel.
A stop he would serve with just 30 minutes remaining in the race, re-joining 10 seconds clear of the Blackthorn Mercedes. MacDonald himself was pushing having set his fastest first sector of the race in a frantic attempt to catch the black and orange Audi.
However, nothing is over until the checkered flag flies and unfortunately for PB Racing, this turned out to be exactly the case, as with just 16 minutes to go, the Audi was forced into the pits for a 14-second-stop-go penalty for a short mandatory pitstop.
Further drama ensued when just one lap after serving the penalty, the Audi returned back to the pits for what turned out to be a further penalty for incorrectly serving the previous one. With little time remaining, there was no coming back from this, paving the way for the Blackthorn Mercedes to take victory on Claude Bovet’s GT3 debut.
Clutton brought the PB Audi home in second whilst the Vulcan finished four laps down in third after a late oil pressure problem cost them valuable time.
Class B saw just the one runner for Silverstone. The Blackthorn Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo, unfortunately, didn’t make the start after technical issues ruled them out.
This left the RNR Performance Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo of John Seale and Jamie Stanley to wrap up class honours. Despite running a strong fourth overall in the early stages, power steering issues caused the car to stop on track just 30 minutes into the race.
Seale managed to limp the car back to the pits but would take no further part in the race as a power steering failure ended proceedings.
Newcomers, Team HARD clinched pole position as Radical SR1 Cup champion Daryl De Leon and Ginetta Junior star Maurice Henry bested the reigning class champions of RNR Performance Cars by a whopping 3.5 seconds.
Admittedly this was in damp conditions which suited the Team HARD Audi S3 BTCC car better than the RNR Ferrari 458 Challenge.
The race on the other hand was completely dry which meant the Ferrari driven by Chris Goddard quickly dispatched the youngsters and set about pulling a gap to the Audi.
He did just that but just after one hour into the race, the Audi peeled into the pits with mechanical issues, ending their day prematurely.
This left Goddard along with Charlie Hand and Charlie Hollings to take an easy victory to kickstart their title hopes after narrowly missing out last season.
Team HARD meanwhile did have a second car in class which was the Porsche 991 Cup Car driven by Brad Thurston and Adam Hatfield. However, issues during the race left them languishing twelve laps down on the winning Ferrari.
A stellar qualifying performance saw Team BRIT’s Chris Overend and James Whitley take the class pole and fourth overall in their McLaren 570s GT4. They converted this into an early lead in class, even managing to fend off the Team HARD Audi S3 from Class C. But motorsport can be cruel at times and just 25 minutes into the race, the car stopped on track with an electrical gremlin.
Fortunately, Whitley was able to limp the car back to the garage where the team diagnosed and fixed the problem before sending the car back out. Despite being twelve laps down on their nearest rivals, the pairing completed the race, gaining valuable mileage in the new McLaren.
With the McLaren out of contention, MKH Racing’s Peter Montague assumed the lead in their Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and would stay there until the very end. Sharing with former World Endurance Champion, Stuart Hall the pair dominated and concluded the race a lap ahead of their nearest rivals.
Venture Innovations just so happened to be those rivals. Neville Jones and Chris Jones partnered once again with Matt George in the Mercedes-AMG GT4 to take second on their first full BEC campaign. George even broke the GT4 lap record around Silverstone with a 2:09.403.
Rounding out the podium was the Breakell Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Ameerh Naran with the reigning BEC champion Tom Jackson joining him on his 5-year mission to the Le Mans 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the Class D invitational category was won by One Motorsport and their retro-liveried Mercedes-AMG GT4. Ed McDermott and William Tewiah had a couple of spins along the way but managed to bring the car home in one piece
After his troubled 2022 season, Rhys Lloyd started 2023 in the best possible way with a class pole position, two seconds faster than second place in class.
The race start seemed to go ok for the Dragon Racing Opel Astra TCR, however, being judged to have been out of position at the start earned him an early drive-through penalty, re-joining in third position.
This left Jonathan Beeson in the Paul Sheard Autosport Audi RS3 TCR to take the lead with EDF Motorsport running in second with their Cupra Leon TCR. Ash Woodman was behind the wheel but couldn’t focus on chasing the Audi as a fired-up Lloyd was right on his tail. The Astra eventually made its way back through and would swap the lead multiple times with the Audi over the coming hour.
Lloyd handed over to Max Coates who set about bringing the car home for what looked like a likely victory until drama struck. A blown head gasket forced the Opel into retirement with just 20-minutes to go, leaving the Audi to retake its early lead once EDF made their final pitstop.
However, not even they could keep the lead as a 30-second stop/go penalty for an earlier transgression scuppered any chances of clinching victory.
After all the late race drama, EDF with Woodman and Martin Byford clinched another BEC class victory to add to their ever-growing tally. Beeson and George Heler brought the Audi home in second whilst Tony Prendagast and Keiran Griffin made a late race move on the T4 Motorsport Cupra to bring their JW Bird VW Golf back in third.
The SVG Motorsport Ginetta G55 was the only car to participate in the new Class G. Britcar Trophy winner, Owen Hizzey was joined by Scott Symons as they hoped to mix in with the GT4 runners.
Things were going well until a left front suspension failure occurred on the Ginetta with 45 minutes remaining. This forced the car into early retirement, a disappointing start to their 2023 campaign.
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