The Avon Tyres British GT Championship touches down at Silverstone this weekend (May 30/31) for its annual blue riband three-hour endurance race. With both classes’ title battles finely poised, points-and-a-half on offer, and additional entries set to spice up the action, there’s every chance the former bomber base will deliver a knockout spectacle.
Three rounds in and the campaign still awaits its first multiple winners in either class. Six different crews have stood atop the British GT podium, although a glance back over recent Silverstone results suggests that might be about to change. Having said that there’s plenty of talent still to make its presence felt in 2015. So basically, what we’re saying is, ‘who knows?!’
One thing you can be sure of is Silverstone’s ability to attract additional entries. Two new manufacturers will be represented in GT3 thanks to the return of Porsche and Audi, contributing towards a total of 35 cars: 18 in GT3 and 17 in GT4.
So without further ado here are the runners and riders to look out for at this weekend.
GT3: HISTORY AND FORM FAVOURS ECURIE ECOSSE
Picking the current points’ leaders, Rockingham race winners and reigning champions to be in the hunt this weekend hardly requires a leap of faith. But it’s for another reason that Marco Attard, Alexander Sims and the Barwell Motorsport-run Ecurie Ecosse squad should be considered serious contenders at The Home of British Motorsport: their Silverstone record is second to none.
The Saltire-inspired BMW Z4 GT3 has featured on the podium here every season since first entering the championship in 2012 and notched up victory two years ago in the hands of Attard and former co-driver Oliver Bryant.
After a slow but steady start at Oulton Park, Attard and Sims returned to sparkling form at Rockingham last month where pole position, fastest race lap and victory helped propel them to the top of the standings. So who would bet against a similar outcome at Silverstone?
Beechdean AMR, that’s who. Not only has the combination of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam already tasted success at Silverstone’s Britcar 24 Hour race this year, but the duo – armed with their trusty Aston Martin V12 Vantage – can point to an equally impressive British GT record here.
Winners in 2011 and runners-up in the last two years, another podium and decent points haul is just what the pair require to get their campaign back on track. A victory at Oulton Park aside, Howard and Adam’s 2015 report card only features a DNF and seventh place thus far, a meagre return for one of the championship’s fastest crews.
Last year’s result also suggests that Oman Racing Team’s Aston Martins will once again be in the hunt. 2014 Silverstone race winner and eventual championship runner-up Ahmad Al Harthy endured a disastrous start to his campaign alongside new co-driver Daniel Lloyd before bouncing back strongly with second at Rockingham. Meanwhile, the speed and consistency of Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher in the sister Motorbase Performance-run V12 Vantage GT3 sees them occupy second in the standings, just a point behind the Ecurie Ecosse crew.
Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne’s assured start to the year has helped the Triple Eight Racing squad emerge as best of the rest behind the runaway top two, while a non-score at Rockingham dropped Gary Eastwood and Adam Carroll’s FF Corse Ferrari from second to sixth in points. The latter’s Le Mans Test Day commitments see Richard Lyons, who raced a similar 458 Italia in last year’s championship, substitute at Silverstone.
Others to watch out for will be the RAM Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 piloted by Alistair MacKinnon and Lewis Plato that finished fourth last time out, and Von Ryan Racing pairing Ross Wylie and Andrew Watson who are still to show their true potential. Indeed, the team arrives at Silverstone off the back of winning last weekend’s three-hour Blancpain Endurance Series race there.
British GT’s blue riband event has also attracted a number of additional entries and machinery. Regular fans will no doubt recognise the Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R of former champion David Ashburn who returns alongside a new face in the form of experienced Porsche racer Norbert Siedler.
And an Audi makes it eight different manufacturers represented in GT3 courtesy of Team Parker Racing, who are running cars in both classes this weekend. Ian Loggie links up with multiple single-seater champion Callum MacLeod aboard an R8 LMS ultra.
GT4: CHADWICK AND GUNN FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS
Just like their senior Beechdean AMR colleagues competing up front, Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn will start amongst the favourites for GT4 glory after a dominant victory last time out at Rockingham and against-the-odds Britcar 24 Hours win here in April.
The youngsters, just 17 and 18 respectively, were the class of the field aboard the #407 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge around Rockingham’s banking en route to slashing their championship deficit to leaders Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, whose Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 could finish no higher than fifth. The gap sits at just 2.5 points after three rounds.
Much like GT3, the front two crews enjoy a healthy advantage over a chasing pack headed by Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw. After a tough time at Rockingham the pair will be hoping to return to the sort of form that helped their ISSY Racing Lotus Evora win on the opening weekend at Oulton Park. Likewise Quantamatic Racing duo Terry Langley and Mike Hart whose Rockingham weekend was over almost before it even began thanks to an event-ending qualifying accident.
David Pattison and Luke Davenport’s consistent start to the year behind the wheel of their Tolman Motorsport Ginetta has them hovering three points behind the Evora crew, while a podium for reigning class champion Jake Giddings and JWB Bird Motorsport co-driver Kieran Griffin has helped them move up to fifth.
With three races already gone, last year’s Silverstone GT4 class winners Adrian Barwick and Bradley Ellis could do with recapturing the sort of form that propelled them to third overall in the final standings. The Twisted Team Parker pairing won by more than a lap 12 months ago but find themselves only 11th in points ahead of this weekend’s race after failing to score at Rockingham.
In an effort to cement their lead atop the Teams’ standings Optimum Motorsport will field a second Ginetta this weekend piloted by Alistair Barclay and Charlie Hollings.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS?
Fans with or without a ticket and members of the media are invited to #GetOnTrack after this Saturday’s qualifying session by running, walking or cycling Silverstone’s 3.66-mile GP layout in aid of automotive industry charity, BEN, and Racing4MND. Registration opens at 17:00 in the SRO Club in Silverstone’s National Paddock (opposite Race Control).
This Sunday’s British GT round, along with its support bill, will be broadcast live on Motors TV (Freeview 71 & 240, Sky 447 and Virgin Media 545) from midday.
Lap records: Silverstone GP (3.6604 miles)
GT3: 2m03.885s – Joe Osborne – Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3 – 2014
GT4: 2m16.016s – Ricardo Van Der Ende – Ekris BMW M3 GT4 – 2013
Mike Lynch, Avon Tyres Technical Manager – Motorsport, runs the rule over Silverstone.
“Silverstone is our longest race of the season at one of our fastest tracks. The high speed layout and abrasive track surface will lead to the greatest wear rates that we are likely to see this year. However, the new-for-2015 tyre has been optimised to perform more consistently in these conditions. We can expect faster lap times and the racing to be even closer than last year.”
Dry = Medium. The new-for-2015 British GT-spec tyre has been designed for the widest possible ambient temperature range (effective for track temperatures ranging between 10 and 40°C). The tyres themselves will reach temperatures of around 110ºC.
Wet = Soft. This is to ensure maximum security and confidence for all drivers and especially those less experienced racing in GT3. These typically operate in temperatures of 50 – 60ºC.
Pressures start at around 1.4 bar and reach 1.9 – 2.1 bar in three to five laps.
SILVERSTONE 500 WEEKEND SCHEDULE (BST)
Friday 29 May
15:15 – 16:15: Official GT Test Session
Saturday 30 May
09:30 – 10:10: Free Practice 1
10:10 – 10:30: Bronze-only Practice
12:10 – 13:00: Free Practice 2
15:35 – 15:45: Qualifying (GT3 Am)
15:48 – 15:58: Qualifying (GT3 Pro)
16:00 – 16:10: Qualifying (GT4 Am)
16:14 – 16:24: Qualifying (GT4 Pro)
18:00 – 20:00: #GetOnTrack for BEN and Racing4MND
Sunday 31 May
09:30 – 09:40: Warm-up
12:20 – 15:20: Silverstone 500