Shaun Balfe and Adam Smalley took their first British GT Championship win for Garage 59 as they secured the RAC Trophy after winning a Silverstone 500 which was a thrilling display of alternating strategies and how to deal with showers rolling in and out throughout. 


In GT4, it was consistency and bravery with overtaking that allowed Jack Brown and Zac Meakin to convert their pole position to a magnificent win for Optimum Motorsport in their McLaren Artura. 


With a morning of rain making Silverstone a boating lake rather than a race track – and with a number of support races cancelled because of the conditions – it seemed almost fated that the dark clouds would give way for the start of the race, leaving a damp track that was bitterly cold – hardly a Spring race. 

With the track still pretty wet, the decision was made to start under the safety car and at the end of the very first lap the first roll of the dice was made with both Ian Loggie and Darren Leung electing to stop immediately. A lap later and a handful more decided to dive in for a splash of fuel and sets of new wet Pirellis – including both Barwell Motorsport Lamborghinis, often a sign that the strategy is a good one – Mark Lemmer’s squad has plenty of experience in winning this race. 

The track went green with 10 minutes of 180 ticked off, and it was hard to tell who was making the better choice – the cars that pitted early, or the crews that elected to retain track position. Two in the latter camp was pole-sitter Kevin Tse and Blackthorn’s Giacomo Petrobelli, who was flying in the team’s Aston Martin Vantage and eating into Tse’s early advantage in the 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3. 

Those who elected to stay out in the opening minutes had what appeared to be a stroke of good fortune as Harry George – in the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 – ended up in the Vale gravel trap after tangling with Ravi Ramyead. The first of a handful of Full Course Yellows was called for and gave a number of teams the opportunity to dive into the pits and take the first of three mandatory pitstops. 

One who didn’t stop was Petrobelli who, along with Paddock Motorsport’s Mark Smith, wouldn’t be swayed from what was obviously ‘Plan A’ and not deviating from trying to extend their stints. 

While that went well for Petrobelli, Smith was quickly hunted down by the two lap one stoppers – Leung’s co-driver Dries Vanthoor, and Loggie’s Pro Phil Keen – but didn’t go down without a fight and drove a pretty wide McLaren 720S GT3 as Vanthoor tried to push his way past. 

For Petrobelli, things were going pretty well until just before the end of the opening hour. Having been overtaken by a hard-charging Vanthoor, a spin at Village on an increasingly greasy track dropped him behind Keen and into third.

When Sandy Mitchell, another early stopper in the #78 Barwell Huracán GT3 Evo2, robbed Petrobelli of third it seemed as though Blackthorn would finally blink but it was only with 80 minutes gone that they finally pitted the Aston – possibly a record stint length in British GT. 

That was at the end of a second FCY with the RAM Mercedes again the victim of someone else’s error as it ended up once again in the gravel at Vale. Not pitting was Maxi Götz, who had taken over from Tse under the first intervention, and he cycled through to the lead. 

The deviating strategies gave him a lead that touched a minute come the race’s halfway mark, with Leung and Vanthoor sitting in second – 21 seconds ahead of Loggie, who retook control of the #6 2 Seas Mercedes-AMG GT3 from Keen. 

With 1h13m to go, Götz made the #18’s second stop and dropped to fourth, with Leung promoted into the hot seat with a lead of 37sec over the Rob & Ricky Collard Lamborghini which was fending off the attentions of Loggie for second. 

Leung, BMW given gold highlights as the reigning champ made his British GT return, seemed to be in the prime position and when he made his stop with 67 minutes to go, it looked as though Century Motorsport would be defending its Silverstone 500 win. However, drama was to unfold with Vanthoor confirming to the TV crew that an issue with fuelling meant the pair would need to make another stop. 

As strategies started to converge as the final hour came in hot, there was an unexpected factor thrown into the mix which caused chaos. Mark Radcliffe – in the Optimum McLaren which was a real contender for a podium as Tom Gamble tore his way through the pack – ran slightly wide coming out of Copse. Catching the run off he started to spin and clipped Alex Martin’s Barwell Huracán. 

Martin had to retire with significant but thankfully not severe damage, but Radcliffe wasn’t so lucky. Clipping the Lamborghini sent him off into the concrete wall on the outside of the corner, hitting it driver’s door first – he thankfully managed to get out the car unaided but the damage necessitated a lengthy FCY which then became a safety car as per the rules on ‘long FCYs’.

That, you might think, would be a perfect opportunity to take a stop. For some it was, with both Garage 59 McLarens – the Smalley/Balfe machine and the Marcus Clutton/Morgan Tillbrook entry – electing to take their final stops during the pause in proceedings. However, for some it was a significant disadvantage. With Keen and Götz running so long already, they were at risk of exceeding their maximum driver time and that meant Loggie and Tse couldn’t make their stops until close to the final 20 minutes to make sure they didn’t break the rules.

Strategy drama up front was entwined with drama for third which, in essence, would be the race lead once the top two took to pitlane. 

When the safety car came back in, there was a tangle of GT4 traffic causing all sorts of issues for Clutton, Smalley and Jann Mardenborough – the latter in the Team RJN McLaren 720S GT3. Having to pick their way through the slower machines going down the Hangar Straight and into Stowe, Clutton passed Smalley into Vale but Mardenborough snuck up the inside to take them both. 

Clutton had the bit between his teeth and set about trying to re-take Mardenborough. Running directly behind him into Village, he just overshot his braking and hit the back of the former GT Academy winner causing him to spin off. 

With Tse and Loggie pitting, Clutton moved into the lead but was given a stop/go penalty for causing a collision which – ironically – dropped him to fifth and immediately behind Mardenborough.

All of that was to the benefit of Smalley. Finding his path cleared he kept on putting in quick laps to open up a lead over Sam Neary – a remarkable drive from him and Dad Richard, the latter of whom appeared to be tapped into a spin at Copse early on in the running. The younger Neary was quite close to Smalley for a time, but the Duckhams-sponsored McLaren was quick and held on to take a hard-fought victory. 

The Nearys took second, rewarding the speed the pair normally always display but perhaps not with the luck their speed deserves. They were in the top 10 for the majority of the race, with great strategy from their Team Abba Racing crew making the difference.

You could say the same for the final spot on the podium, as Orange Racing by JMH completed a remarkable achievement as Tom Roche and Simon Orange rounded out a top three consisting entirely of Silver-Am crews. Despite a drive-through for speeding under an FCY, Roche and Orange avoided the majority of the issues that seemed to impact on cars around them to move up from seventh to third in the final 20 minutes.

Despite being spun, Mardenborough took fourth – top spot in the Pro-Am category alongside Chris Buncombe – with Clutton and Tillbrook rounding out the top five. 

Post race amendment! A time penalty for overtaking under the safety car dropped the Orange Racing crew off the overall podium – but still retaining their Silver-Am success – with Mardenborough and Buncombe taking their place on the overall podium. 


After qualifying, Jack Brown and Zac Meakin told GT REPORT that the main thing they needed to do was keep it consistent and avoid making mistakes and that’s pretty much what they did. 

The pair did lose a couple of places on the start but that’s possibly not too surprising as they took a cautious approach to the start in conditions that were still pretty tricky in their McLaren Artura. The machine that tended to be doing the best was the Ginetta G56 GT4 of Freddie Tomlinson and Stuart Middleton which had good speed down the long straights that make up a good chunk of the Silverstone track layout. 

Coupled with the Silver Cup time penalty in each pitstop – an additional 15 seconds compared to the Pro-Am entries – and it would take keen work and, as Meakin said after the race ‘great overtaking’ from Brown to pull back the time and put themselves in with a chance. 

Certainly the car doing well following the first round of stops was the #69 Mahiki Racing Lotus Emira of Stephen Lake and Nathan Harrison – indeed even the sister #20 of Ian Duggan and Gordie Mutch was up there thanks to both entries being Pro-Ams. 

Throw in the #29 Century Motorsport BMW of Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley and it seemed as though none of the Silver crews would get a sniff of the top spot such was the control the Pro-Ams were showing. 

However, it seemed as though the Pro-Ams were becoming masters of their own downfall. The #29 picked up penalties for a number of infractions both on-track and in the pits, while the #20 Lotus seemingly couldn’t release the limiter for a few seconds after the end of an FCY and lost a couple of places. 

The #69 too hit an issue not of its own making in the final 15 minutes as it spun coming out of Farm Curve to drop out of contention. 

Great work in the pits pushed the Optimum Motorsport crew back into contention and prodigious speed from both Brown and Meakin allowed them to grow a monstrous lead which was more than 90 seconds at the line. Mikey Porter & Jamie Day took the runner-up spot in their Forsetti Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage, the pair putting in a faultless race but not really able to fight for the lead with any conviction. 

The battle for the final spot on the podium – and the Pro-Am win – was a thriller. It seemed for the longest of times that it would go the way of Team Parker Racing’s Seb Morris & Charles Dawson but the former had to take avoiding action to avoid a spinning #69 Mahiki Lotus and that slight loss of time allowed Gordie Mutch to close in and start pressuring Morris for the class win. 

It was with just five minutes to go that Mutch made the move happen – a hard-earned reward for what was a great display of just how strong the new Lotus is, carrying on a great lineage for the Norfolk machines in British GT. 

Forsetti Motorsport took fourth overall and rounded out the Pro-Am class with Marc Warren and Will Orton, while fifth went to the final crew on the Silver Cup podium – the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang of Marco Signoretti and Erik Evans. The trophy was a just reward for a tough weekend for the Academy squad which battled technical gremlins with the sister #62 for most of the running. 

The next round of the British GT Championship is yet another three-hour race, this time at Donington Park at the end of May – 25/26. 


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