Written by Cameron Gale, Edited by Sameena Khan
Dan Harper's late move on two-time Silverstone 500 winner Sandy Mitchell gave Century Motorsport the historic RAC trophy in the British GTs blue ribbon event, the Silverstone 500.
In GT4, Optimum's Charles Clark and Jack Brown prevailed after Raceway's #56 Ginetta was black-flagged late in the race for failing to serve its stop-go penalty.
A Safety Car in the final hour and drive times conspired to leave Barwell's Lamborghini out front at the start of the final stint despite Shaun Balfe handing over to Mitchell in 11th. But Harper – whose car had started 18th – wasn't to be denied in a wheel-to-wheel battle that demonstrated both drivers' factory status.
The third overall went to Optimum's Mark Radcliffe and Rob Bell, who were top-eight contenders all day and vaulted to the sharp end during the last three Safety Car periods. It was an incredible turnaround for the #27 crew, who sustained heavy damage in opening practice. Optimum's efforts to repair the car and claim GT4 victory earned them the Intelligent Money Team of the Weekend Award.
Barwell's Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha finished sixth overall and won the Silver-Am class.
Further back, One Motorsport's Ed McDermott and Mikey Broadhurst further underlined the 500's unpredictably by finishing second overall in GT4 and winning Pro-Am despite their Mercedes-AMG facing the wrong way on lap one.
Academy Motorsport's Matt Cowley and Erik Evans completed the class podium.
GT3: CENTURY STAKES ITS CLAIM
Strategy is a crucial element of the 500, and this year’s race was no exception, even if Barwell’s decision to prioritise Balfe’s drive time didn’t quite deliver an unexpected win.
The #78 Lamborghini spent most of the opening two hours hovering around the outer reaches of the top-10 and some way behind the likes of Team Abba’s pole-winning Mercedes-AMG, Inception’s McLaren, both 2 Seas Mercedes-AMGs, Beechdean AMR’s Aston Martin and Century’s BMW which emerged as the leading contenders before the first round of pitstops.
They were triggered after just 15 minutes when a Safety Car was required for debris scattered by a combination of Garage 59, Team Parker and RACE LAB, whose McLaren had nowhere to go when Alex West tagged Nick Jones.
Andrey Borodin briefly led at the restart after Greystone GT elected not to pit. However, he was quickly overhauled by a pro contingent now headed by James Cottingham's replacement Jonny Adam who jumped Sam Neary in the stops. However, 2 Seas' other entry – shared by Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon – was less lucky after it was blocked and lost additional time due to a faulty wheel gun.
Back at the front, Adam initially pulled clear of Neary, who lost second to Ben Barnicoat soon after the restart and then dropped behind Ross Gunn and Harper within two corners before pitting soon after.
However, he wasn't the only Mercedes-AMG struggling as Adam dropped back into Barnicoat's clutches. The Scot lost the lead on Hangar Straight when he was boxed in by traffic and was down to fourth before the end of the same lap.
This is where strategies diverged a little, ultimately proving Inception's undoing. For a while, the likes of Beechdean, 2 Seas and Century elected to pit and therefore increase their Ams' drive time, but Barnicoat remained behind the wheel. That helped build the car's advantage but prevented Brendan Iribe from ticking off his minimum drive time.
The American climbed aboard just before a second Safety Car period – again for debris – bunched the field. Iribe immediately shot clear along with Morgan Tillbrook, whose Enduro team had followed a similar strategy to Inception. In contrast, the likes of Howard, Cottingham, Leung and Radcliffe cleared the GT4 traffic.
However, the intervention of a lengthy Safety Car period following a significant impact between Team BRIT’s recovering McLaren and an unsighted Simon Orange turned the race on its head.
Barwell’s crew – who was 11th then – had just entered their driver change window to pit at the very first opportunity while their rivals circulated at a slower speed. Mitchell rejoined well down the order but steadily picked up places as the Am drivers ahead completed their minimum stint lengths and stopped.
Inception and Enduro’s chances were effectively ended by Iribe and Tillbrook having to wait longer than anyone else to complete their stints.
Instead, Mitchell started up front when racing resumed with 28 minutes remaining. Adam was initially second but was muscled aside by Harper, who’d already passed Bell. And it would get worse for 2 Seas soon after when a stop-go penalty for Cottingham’s earlier contact with a GT4 car dropped the Mercedes-AMG out of contention.
Instead, all eyes were on the big red BMW, soon tucked behind the leading Lamborghini. Harper had passed Marvin Kirchhoefer at Brooklands during his opening stint. After dummying down the outside, he attempted a similar move on Mitchell with 12 minutes remaining. The Scot’s late braking kept the M4 at bay. Still, he was powerless to prevent the switchback into Luffield, allowing Harper to draw alongside and complete the move into Copse.
Behind, 2 Seas’ penalty elevated Bell to third after his co-driver Radcliffe had made several eye-catching moves across both stints. Optimum’s McLaren took the chequered flag just half a second behind Mitchell.
Bell held off Beechdean’s Aston, one of the losers in the drive-time shake-up. Gunn was undeterred, though, and passed Raffaele Marciello in the final half-hour to salvage solid points for himself and Andrew Howard, who looked set to score a podium before the last Safety Car period. Indeed, Gunn underlined their potential by setting the fastest lap.
RAM Racing will be pleased with fifth after John Ferguson and Marciello’s afternoon was compromised by damage sustained on the way to the grid.
Just 0.021s separated Barwell’s second Lamborghini, shared by Sansom and Tregurtha, and Inception’s McLaren on the line. However, Iribe and Barnicoat were ultimately classified 10th after collecting a post-race 30-second penalty due to a drive-through exceeding driver stint length.
Seventh went to 2 Seas’ Loggie/Gounon, who has slipped to second in the early drivers’ standings behind new leaders Leung and Harper.
Greystone GT’s Mike Price and Callum Macleod completed the top eight ahead of GT3 debutants Drivetac, Chris Hart and James Wallis.
GT4: CLARK AND BROWN KEEP IT CLEAN TO SCORE BIG FOR OPTIMUM
Optimum Motorsport’s Charles Clark and Jack Brown ran out GT4 winners in a topsy-turvy Silverstone 500, where keeping things clean was the best strategy.
Having lined up second on the grid courtesy of their combined times from second practice, Clark and Brown ran consistently at the sharp end of the tightly packed GT4 field, eventually emerging as clear winners when their closest rivals fell foul of a string of penalties.
While Team Parker Racing’s Zac Meakin and Dan Vaughan dominated the category during a soaked Saturday, the bone-dry race day turned the tables. The Porsche duo could never build on their pole position, falling back to seventh at the finish and leaving the way clear for others to strike.
Clark was the first to find a way through, passing the Cayman early on and leading the way until the field was jumbled by the appearance of the first Safety Car at the 15-minute mark. Then, as much of the field opted to pit with the race neutralised, the #56 Raceway Ginetta of Stuart Middleton and Freddie Tomlinson stayed out to assume a comfortable lead on the road. Still, the crew would run as outliers for the remainder of the race as they gambled on another Safety Car later on, playing them back into the mix.
And they got it when a second caution period was required to clear debris and appeared to provide a window for Raceway to gain a stop back effectively. However, when Middleton took over from Tomlinson and tried to rejoin, he drove through a red light at the pit exit. While he beat the Lotus Safety Car round, the stewards saw it dimly; they handed the car a 131-second stop-go penalty (essentially a total GT4 lap time penalty to negate the lap they’d gained).
So, while Middleton/Tomlinson led comfortably on the road, the penalty hanging over them kept the race much closer than it appeared. Things got even tenser when a third and final Safety Car was called for the crash involving Aaron Morgan and Simon Orange. Both drivers escaped injury, but the lengthy clean-up bunched the pack ahead of their final round of stops.
Tomlinson continued to lead on the road, but the car was eventually black-flagged for not serving its stop-go penalty, dropping the drivers out of the running, the long caution period also proved a setback for the Silver Cup crews, who would have to serve longer mandatory stop times than their Pro-Am counterparts.
When the order worked out and running resumed for the final 30 minutes, Brown found himself well clear – courtesy of the car’s consistently strong pace and ability to stay out of trouble – with Michael Broadhurst and Ed McDermott’s Motus One Mercedes-AMG running a surprise second, despite the car facing the wrong way earlier in the race after a spin. With the Pro installed, Silverstone specialist Broadhurst did enough to hold off Matt Cowley/Erik Evans’ Academy Ford Mustang to secure a superb second overall and the Pro-Am win.
Bradley Ellis and David Holloway’s Century Motorsport Aston Martin survived a bash from James Cottingham to finish fourth overall ahead of Josh Rowledge and Aston Millar’s DTO McLaren Artura. Some outstanding work from Lewis Plato – who even enjoyed a spell in the outright race lead at one point – helped the Century BMW he shares with Carl Cavers to sixth overall and the final step of the Pro-Am podium.
R Racing’s challenge was set back by a drive-through penalty for straying beyond track limits, leaving Seb Hopkins and Josh Miller’s Aston Martin ninth before another penalty post-race caused the position to fall again.
Another early contender was RACE LAB’s McLaren, driven by Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley. However, having featured right at the sharp end early on, a stop-go for contact hurt, and the car was then sidelined entirely by a technical issue late on.
The Intelligent Money British GT Championship continues at Donington Park on May 27-28.