2 SEAS & NEWBRIDGE CLAIM BRITISH GT VICTORIES AT THE SILVERSTONE 500
2 Seas Motorsport’s Hunter Abbott and Martin Kodric paced themselves perfectly to win the 10th anniversary edition of the Silverstone 500 earlier today, while Matt Topham and Darren Turner prevailed in a game of cat and mouse to hand themselves and Newbridge Motorsport a first Intelligent Money British GT4 Championship victory.
Out front, the distance record-setting Mercedes-AMG took the chequered flag 7.2s clear of Sandy Mitchell who passed Barwell Motorsport team-mate Dennis Lind at Stowe on the final lap.
Steller Motorsport’s Audi initially led the GT4 class from pole but couldn’t quite overcome Newbridge thanks to Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding’s additional Silver Cup pitstop time. Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s John Ferguson and Scott McKenna also joined their Pro-Am rivals Topham and Turner on the overall podium.
A race with few incidents, dry weather throughout and no Safety Car periods also resulted in the most laps – 86 – completed in the Silverstone 500’s 10-year history.
GT3: ABBOTT AND KODRIC MAKE GOOD ON QUALIFYING PACE
Three mandatory pitstops, no pit windows and a maximum 100 minutes of drive time per driver leave space for several strategy avenues at the Silverstone 500. As such, the race’s true picture often only becomes clear in the fourth and final stint.
Except that wasn’t really the case at an overcast but dry Silverstone where 2 Seas Motorsport were in control for most of the three hours thanks to an opening stint in which Hunter Abbott established a 30s lead over the chasing pack before pitting after 65 minutes.
It might have been different without early retirements for two front runners. Brendan Iribe had just moved up to second when contact with Ciceley’s GT4 entry damaged his McLaren’s rear suspension.
Meanwhile, Richard Neary’s standout stint, which included a particularly eye catching move on Giacomo Petrobelli at The Vale, helped Team Abba Racingmove from 10th to third before their early first pitstop. But the family team’s hopes ended soon after when their Mercedes-AMG was sidelined by a gearbox issue.
Instead, Barwell’s #1 Lamborghini, TF Sport’s #38 Aston Martin and RAM Racing’s #6 Mercedes-AMG emerged as the most likely podium contenders.
But it was Barwell’s other Huracan that ultimately gave 2 Seas its only scare of the afternoon despite Leo Machitski’s high-speed spin on lap one. The Russian recovered superbly to bring the car back into contention before Dennis Lind was unleashed following an early first pitstop. Indeed, his relative pace to the starting Ams ahead helped him hunt down and pass Abbott’s co-driver Martin Kodric when the Mercedes-AMG re-joined after its first stop.
The advantage swung back 2 Seas’ way when Machitski climbed aboard earlier than his fellow Am, Abbott, and Barwell’s 10s Success Penalty for finishing third at Brands Hatch ultimately resulted in Lind starting his final stint 18s behind Kodric with just under an hour remaining.
The gap steadily decreased thereafter despite Lind’s attention switching to the sister Lamborghini shared by Sandy Mitchell and Adam Balon. The latter completed his opening stint in second place and the car remained firmly in podium contention throughout despite running an alternative strategy that saw Mitchell complete a shorter final stint. That might explain his relative pace to Lind who spent the final five minutes fending off the reigning champion.
That was until the pair encountered GT4 traffic at Maggotts and Becketts on the final lap, which allowed Mitchell to sweep around the outside at Stowe via a little wheel banging. What’s more, 2 Seas’ race-by-race status meant second place equated to maximum points for the #1 crew.
Lind was still pleased to pick up his second Sunoco Fastest Lap Award in as many races and move to the top of the championship standings with Machitski.
TF Sport’s Petrobelli and Charlie Eastwood were metronomically efficient en route to fourth, albeit 27s behind the winners, while RAM Racing’s Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie picked up third place points in fifth overall despite the latter losing time in the opening stint while avoiding Iribe’s spinning McLaren.
Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam didn’t quite have the pace of the front runners but survived a spin after being T-boned by Enduro’s McLaren and overcame a 15s Success Penalty to bank solid points in sixth overall. The Beechdean AMR crew also remain second in the standings.
TF’s second race-by-race Aston shared by Bonamy Grimes and Marco Sorensen finished seventh after starting 13th, while RAM’s James Cottingham and Sam De Haan won the Silver-Am class in eighth overall.
Elsewhere, Paddock Motorsport looked well set for a top-six finish on their British GT debut before a left-rear driveshaft failure side-lined Martin Plowman in the final stint.
GT4: NEWBRIDGE ENJOY DREAM DEBUT
Having marked themselves out as ones to watch early in the weekend, Newbridge Motorsport’s Matt Topham and Darren Turner enjoyed a dream Sunday after emerging on top of a four-way fight for overall GT4 honours.
Indeed, this year’s Silverstone 500 provided an intriguing GT4 battle featuring several different strategies. As such, the true picture only really emerged in the final few laps.
Having qualified an impressive fourth for their championship debut together, Topham and Turner gave themselves a strong platform to build on for the race, but their Aston Martin still had to overcome stout challenges from BMW, Toyota and Audi.
Steller Motorsport’s Richard Williams initially stole a march by leading the opening half-hour from pole to build a 2.5s cushion before stopping early to relay Fielding. In doing so, the Audi ran under the radar for much of the race by handing its rivals early ground in the hope of being faster during the final stint. And it very nearly worked out.
That decision also elevated Brands Hatch winners Will Burns and Gus Burton to the class lead, which is where they stayed for the bulk of the race. However, there was the small matter of their 20s Success Penalty from Brands to serve during their final pit visit, plus the extra time each Silver Cup entry must spend in the pits to equalise them with the Pro-Am crews.
These two factors pushed both of Century’s entries into two very long opening stints, in the hope of either pulling out a gap large enough to negate their penalties or by capitalising on any Safety Car interruption. Unluckily for them, none was forthcoming.
The other factor was the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Supra of John Ferguson and Scott McKenna. Ferguson endured a difficult opening stint, dropping back from his second-place starting slot to run inside the top-six before relaying to McKenna, whose superb second stint brought the Supra back into contention to add even more excitement into what was fast becoming a breathless final hour.
And then there was Newbridge. A strong opening stint from Topham allowed him to hand the Vantage across to factory driver Turner, who hunted down Burton’s BMW mid-race to pass for the lead, giving a clue of what was to come at the end.
Regardless, Century stuck to its long-running strategy and saved its final two pitstops for the last half-hour run-in. But, with no Safety Car in sight, even an advantage of a full lap couldn’t save them, and Burns and Burton could only watch from the pits as Turner sped by to assume the lead in the closing minutes.
But even then the drama wasn’t over. Williams and Fielding had done a superb stealth job with their early-stop strategy to ghost up the order, and Fielding ran just two seconds behind Turner in the final laps. The threat was there to punish even the tiniest mistake, but Turner called on all his experience to stay ahead to the flag and seal the fifth class win for a Pro-Am crew at the 500 in the last six years. Steller’s Audi had to be content with Silver Cup honours.
Strong second stints from both Ferguson and McKenna also helped the Toyota vault past Century’s #57 BMW to secure the final podium spot, as Burns and Burton were left to comfort themselves with the points for fourth place and an increased championship advantage.
Mark Sansom and Charlie Robertson drove superbly across the second half of the race to take fifth, a fine recovery following an early penalty for a pitstop infringement. Chris Salkeld/Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke were sixth in the second century BMW, with Gordon-Colebrooke pulling off a neat around-the-outside pass on Will Moore/Matt Cowley’s Academy Motorsport Mustang to steal the place late on.
Michael Benyahia and Alain Valente completed the top-eight in their Team Rocket RJN McLaren. The car made a blistering start to the race, with Benyahia making up five places on the first lap to run third early on.
British GT returns to its regular two-hour, single pitstop endurance format at Donington Park in two weeks (July 10/11).