The fifth round of the 2023 GT Cup championship came from ‘The Home of British Motorsport’ at Silverstone Circuit. Extremely mixed conditions gave many drivers a headache throughout proceedings but also provided some unusual results once the rain finally fell.
Meanwhile, it would be Paul Bailey who once again dominated GTO to clinch four group victories and further bolster his championship lead over the J&S Racing Audi R8 GT3 EvoII of Hugo Cook and Sacha Kakad.
With a few of the GT Cup teams dovetailing British GT programs, a few cars were absent from Silverstone due to being shipped back from Portimao just one week ago. This meant a slight decrease in numbers for Silverstone but this didn’t stop the teams and drivers from giving it their all.
7TSIX meanwhile had repaired their McLaren 720S GT3 Evo after Snettertons dramas and were back but with a revised lineup. Ferrari Challenge UK Coppa Shell 2022 runner-up Paul Rogers partnered with multiple 2023 GT3 winner, James Wallis for his first outing in a GT3 other than his usual Mercedes.
However, it was an on-form Tom Roche in the Team Orange McLaren 720s GT3 Evo who clinched pole for Saturday’s sprint race and looked set to take victory until a 10-second penalty was applied to his race time. He remained in the lead and had started to gap Hugo Cook behind him but contact with the sister car of Russ Lindsay put both out of the race on the spot, gifting the win to Cook with Wallis following behind in second. Adam Knight meanwhile picked up a podium on his debut in the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
Saturday’s endurance race saw complete redemption for Roche and co-driver Simon Orange. The pair managed to convert pole position into their fifth group victory of the season once again with Roche fending off a charging Cook in the closing stages. Wallis and Rogers rounded out the top three with their second podium of the day.
Sunday’s sprint race saw a complete change of conditions from the sun-soaked track of Saturday. Light rain began to fall just prior to the start of the race which prompted Sacha Kakad to stop for wets at the end of the formation lap. He was followed in by the Greystone GT McLaren 720s GT3 Evo of Andrey Borodin and both set about charging through the field as the rain progressively worsened.
Meanwhile, the slick-shod runners of Simon Orange and Paul Rogers struggled for grip and started to fall behind the GTC and GTH runners who benefitted from their lack of aero dependence despite also being on slicks. Meanwhile, Kakad was over half a lap behind but caught at a rate of over 10 seconds per lap initially before the worsening conditions truly played into his favour. With just 5 minutes remaining he had caught and passed both Rogers and Orange and set about chasing down the overall race leaders. He couldn’t quite catch the leading pair but managed an admirable third position and most importantly, the group victory.
Orange managed to hold onto second albeit over a minute behind the wet-shod Audi. G-Cat Racing’s Greg Caton clinched the final podium placing whilst Borodin claimed the fastest lap of the race and pole position for the final race as a result.
With Borodin on pole for the final endurance race, all eyes were on the Estonian to see how he fared after a tricky season thus far. He initially managed to hold off Kakad and a pair of rapid GTC cars in the wet conditions before ultimately dropping back thanks to a mid-stint spin. Kakad himself had dropped behind the GTC runners but once he pitted to install Cook into the car, the front runners were quickly dispatched. However, Hugo couldn’t take it easy as his weekend nemesis of Roche was quickly catching at a rate of knots.
Unfortunately for the McLaren driver, a repeat of yesterday’s victory was not possible as he ran out of time finishing just 1.9 seconds behind despite starting 10 places behind on the grid.
Borodin meanwhile picked up his first podium of the season as his pace combined with co-driver Ed Pead’s great recovery put them back into contention.
It was a tricky weekend for the GTO runners. Richard Chamberlain returned to the fray in his Orange Porsche 935, albeit briefly. He was tapped into a spin at the first corner of Saturday’s sprint race by group rival, Chris Murphy which caused terminal damage to the Porsche. Post-race comments from Chamberlain regarding the extent of the damage mean his season could be over with two rounds still remaining.
Paul Bailey meanwhile suffered no such troubles and once again swept the weekends running with four victories from the four races. An inspired decision to pit for wets at the end of the reconnaissance lap to the grid prior to Sunday’s sprint race paid dividends as he came home over a minute clear of his nearest rival.
Chris Murphy enjoyed a successful weekend with a pair of second-place finishes coupled with two third-place finishes, further boosting his way up the championship standings.
Meanwhile, the National Motorsport Academy brought their Lotus Evora GTE out to play for the first time in years. Whilst a few teething issues were experienced throughout the weekend, Jay Shepherd performed admirably to match Murphy’s results with two-second places and two-third places.
An invitational entrant for Silverstone came the way of FF Corse and one of their many Ferrari 488 Challenge Evos. A driver pairing of James Owen and Tom Flemming worked wonders as the Ferrari Challenge Europe competitors surged to a clean sweep on home soil. Flemming himself competes in the Pro class over in Europe and faces such competition as Thomas Neubauer, Josef Král and even ex-F1 driver, Adrian Sutil.
A clean sweep of not only their group but an overall victory featured in Sunday’s mixed tyre sprint race. Flemming shadowed fellow Ferrari racer, Dan de Zille for the opening laps but then boldly made his move into Copse and pulled a 25-second margin over the second-placed car.
De Zille in his own Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo shared the car once again with his father Graham and they powered onto three-second places and a third within their group in another successful weekend for the Ferrari Challenge UK regulars.
Group championship leaders, Topcats Racing meanwhile clinched three podium placings in their Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo thanks to Charlotte Gilbert and the returning Gilbert Yates. Team Orange meanwhile claimed the final podium after a difficult Saturday finishing third in Sunday’s sprint, only three seconds behind their sister GT3 teammate.
GTH saw a breakthrough weekend for Greystone GT’s Phillip Carter. Not only did he and co-driver Michael Broadhurst push their McLaren 570s GT4 to complete a clean sweep of podium placings, but Carter took his first GT Cup victory in Saturday’s sprint race with a great defensive drive to win by just 0.8 seconds.
Charles Dawson made his return after an injury sidelined him for the early part of the season and he immediately was on the pace, pushing Carter hard in the opening race to grab a second position. In the endurance race, he and co-driver Seb Morris would go one better bringing their RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 home for yet another class victory after success at the season opener back in April. They would round out their weekend with one final podium finishing in third during Sunday’s wet endurance finale.
Meanwhile, after a disastrous Saturday, Morpheus racing Chris Hart and Stephen Walton outclassed the GTH field on Sunday, winning both races in dominant fashion whilst the sister car of Jon Currie and Phil Keen wrapped up a third-place finish of their own during Saturday’s endurance before a heavy accident at the vale chicane finished their day early during Sunday’s sprint.
Feathers Motorsport wrapped up the final podium place with a third-place finish in Saturday’s sprint before a heavy accident with the Paddock Motorsport McLaren 570s GT4 in the endurance ruled both cars out of the rest of the weekends running.
The penultimate r0und of the 2023 GT Cup championship takes place from Donington Park on the 16/17th of September in what is scheduled to set up a thrilling title finale just three weeks later.
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