One of the biggest British GT Championship grids ever assembled prepares for take-off at Silverstone’s former bomber base this weekend as part of the series’ blue riband three-hour, 500-kilometre event.
A 51-strong entry comprising GT3 and GT4 cars is set to do battle around the Grand Prix circuit on Sunday in what could prove a pivotal skirmish in both of this year’s title races thanks to a maximum 37.5 points being on offer to the victors.
Oulton Park’s two one-hour races a fortnight ago threw up some interesting results, which will likely play a part in determining the outcome this weekend. There’s also the added uncertainty of additional GT3 (a class total of 18) and GT4 cars (16), as well as the GT4 European Series entries (17) which, despite not counting towards the British GT result, will be involved in their own race on track at the same time.
GT3: CAN ANYONE CHALLENGE BENTLEY’S PARFITT JNR AND MORRIS?
With TF Sport’s dominant start to the season ended at Oulton Park who would bet against a fourth different winner in five rounds? Team Parker Racing, that’s who, after the outfit finished third and then overcame a pit-stop success penalty to score Bentley’s maiden British GT victory last time out. Three podiums in four outings make Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris the form crew heading to Silverstone, although they’ll again have to overcome a success handicap – this time totalling 20 seconds – if they’re to make it consecutive series victories.
Standing in their way are Barwell Motorsport’s two full-season Lamborghini Huracans, a model that claimed pole position during Silverstone’s recent Blancpain GT Series round. It also scored a maiden British GT win during the opening race at Oulton Park thanks to Liam Griffin, who’s joined for the first time this weekend by 2015 series runner-up Alexander Sims. With no pit-stop success penalty to serve you can expect the #6 machine to be a serious victory threat, while the sister car driven by Oulton pole position pairing Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen should also feature prominently.
TF Sport’s three-race winning streak, which began at last season’s Donington finale, came to an end at Oulton where Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam were instead content to score two solid results. The championship leaders enjoy a 21.5-point advantage over Griffin heading to Silverstone where the Aston Martin crew will be keen on returning to winning ways. Should they do so Adam will equal the record for most number of British GT3 victories, which stands at 11.
Alasdair McCaig and Rob Bell finally enjoyed a trouble-free run at Oulton to secure theirs and Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse’s first podium of the season. A 15-second success penalty aside, the pair should go well again this weekend at a circuit where the McLaren 650S GT3 has already achieved great results, including an overall British GT victory last year.
Reigning GT3 champion Andrew Howard and his GT4 title-winning co-driver Ross Gunn lie sixth in the standings after a solid if unspectacular start to the season aboard their Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Silverstone therefore offers the Beechdean AMR pair an ideal opportunity to make progress, especially given that Gunn dominated last year’s race in the junior category.
AmDTuning.com’s pit-stop strategy and subsequent display of superb defensive driving helped Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne to score their first rostrum of 2016 at Oulton. Anything inside the top-six at Silverstone would be an excellent result for the crew whose BMW Z4 GT3 has always been good on the brakes but traditionally lacked the straight-line speed required this weekend.
Elsewhere, a raft of fresh GT3 entries will be making their presence felt. Experienced FF Corse pairing Marco Attard and Adam Carroll give the all-new Ferrari 488 its championship debut, while both Team Parker Racing and Barwell Motorsport each field an additional Bentley and Lamborghini. There’s also an extra Aston Martin V12 Vantage on the grid courtesy of MB Motorsport.
In the Teams’ championship just 9.5 points separate early leaders TF Sport from reigning champions Barwell Motorsport, while Team Parker Racing’s second entry could also help them close the gap from third.
GT4: WILL JOHNSON AND ROBINSON PRODUCE ANOTHER OPTIMUM PERFORMANCE?
How the British GT4 contingent ‘race’ against their European counterparts could have a big impact on the result this weekend, even if on current form one crew stands head and shoulders above the chasing pack.
PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport’s Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson sealed both pole positions and race victories at Oulton Park to take their tally to three of each in the opening four rounds. The 2015 class runners-up must therefore overturn a maximum 20-second success penalty during their final pit-stop at Silverstone, but that can’t be discounted given they and their Ginetta G55 achieved a similar feat during the second race at Oulton.
Their championship lead currently stands at 19 points over Jack Bartholomew and Jordan Albert who endured a difficult outing two weeks ago but nevertheless emerged with at least something to show for their travails. Rockingham’s race winners can also tap into the same data that propelled their Beechdean AMR Aston Martin to GT4 victory at Silverstone last season in the hands of Gunn and Jamie Chadwick.
Meanwhile, RCIB Insurance Racing have adapted well to life in GT4 after scoring their second and third podiums of the season at Oulton. William Phillips and Jordan Stilp lie third in the standings as a result of their race one rostrum and should be a threat again this weekend with no pit-stop success penalty to slow them down. Aaron Mason and Rob Barrable also celebrated finishing third on their first outing together and will be hoping to build on that momentum at a circuit both know well.
Ebor GT’s fan favourite Maserati MC GranTurismo also bagged its maiden British GT4 podium at Oulton where Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton stormed through to finish second in race two. And with the car expected to go even better at Silverstone thanks to its long straights and fast corners, look out for the Italian stallion (the Maserati, not Marcus!) up at the sharp end once again.
The same should apply to Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse’s young guns, Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell, whose McLaren 570S has been a consistent podium threat this season, albeit without – as yet – having a result to show for it.
But perhaps Optimum’s biggest threat will come from Century Motorsport’s Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke. The pair find themselves only sixth in the standings after twice being denied likely victories during the previous two race weekends. The lack of a pit-stop success penalty comes as a welcome bonus in their efforts to return to the podium at Silverstone.
Simpson Motorsport will also give Porsche’s new-for-2016 Cayman its British GT debut in the hands of Nick Jones and Scott Malvern, who won Oulton Park’s Sunoco Fastest Race Lap of the Weekend Award aboard the team’s stand-in Ginetta.
As in GT3, the British GT4 class welcomes a number of familiar faces to Silverstone. Reigning Teams’ champions Academy Motorsport are back with a single Aston Martin V8 Vantage for Dennis Strandberg and Matt Nicoll-Jones, while Fox Motorsport’s 2014 and ’15 pairing of Paul McNeilly and former GT4 champion Jamie Stanley also make a popular return.
Don’t forget this Sunday’s race is live on Motors TV from 12:30 BST.
BRITISH GT LAP RECORDS: SILVERSTONE GP
GT3 2m03.599s, Jonny Adam, Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, 2015
GT4 2m16.016s, Ricardo van der Ende, Ekris BMW M3 GT4, 2013
BRITISH GT SILVERSTONE 500 TIMETABLE
Saturday 11 June
09:30 – 10:30: Free Practice 1
12:10 – 13:00: Free Practice 2
15:40 – 15:50: Qualifying GT3 Am
15:54 – 16:04: Qualifying GT3 Pro
16:08 – 16:18: Qualifying GT4 Am
16:23 – 16:33: Qualifying GT4 Pro
Sunday 12 June
09:35 – 09:45: Warm-up
12:50 – 15:50: Race (Live on Motors TV)
PIT-STOP SUCCESS PENALTIES
20s – Parfitt Jnr and Morris (#31)
15s – McCaig and Bell (#79)
10s – Minshaw and Keen (#33)
20s – Johnson and Robinson (#50)
15s – Hoggarth and Eaton (#60)
10s – Mason and Barrable (#75)
Click here to download the Silverstone 500 entry list
PIRELLI TYRE INFORMATION: SILVERSTONE
Tyre-wise, Silverstone will be the most challenging circuit British GT has visited so far in 2016, but it’s also one Pirelli knows well. The layout gives both high top speeds and high loads through the many fast sweeping corners. Tyre energy input is very high in general, and the surface is abrasive, particularly on the older parts of the circuit. All of these factors, alongside the fact this is the first three-hour race of the season, mean the teams will have to think about their tyre usage strategy in the race.
Indeed, while tyre performance has contributed to GT3 lap records being broken at every track visited so far this season, their durability was also demonstrated at Oulton Park last time out where many teams chose not to change tyres.
This might be Pirelli’s first season supplying British GT but a three-hour endurance race at Silverstone is nothing new for the P Zero DHC tyre used in the GT3 category. This product – like the DH tyre for GT4 – has already been proven in GT racing worldwide, including in the Blancpain GT Series which visits Silverstone for a 180-minute endurance race every year.