MITCHELL & BALON WIN SILVERSTONE 500 IN BRITISH GT AS TOPHAM & TURNER DOUBLE UP
Barwell’s Sandy Mitchell prevailed in a tight late race scrap with Marvin Kirchhoefer to win the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s blue riband Silverstone 500 by just 0.5s with Adam Balon earlier today.
The Scot swept past Garage 59’s later-stopping McLaren as it exited pitlane for the final time and held his nerve to keep the German – who shared the guesting 720S GT3 with Alex West – at bay over the final 35 minutes. In doing so the Lamborghini factory ace also became the first two-time winner of the series’ showpiece event.
Just seconds later that exclusive club also included Matt Topham and Darren Turner who made it back-to-back GT4 class 500 wins with Newbridge and Aston Martin. The Pro-Am duo beat Century’s Jack Brown and Will Burns by 30s on the road before the BMW incurred a 40-second post-race penalty in lieu of a 10s stop-go for causing a collision.
Instead, Sennan Fielding’s late move on Matthew Graham helped Steller’s Audi and Richard Williams to finish second overall and first in Silver, while the Valluga Porsche that also featured Ross Wylie completed GT4’s top-three.
Back at the front, Nick Moss and Joe Osborne (Optimum McLaren) finished third, and Alex Malykhin and James Dorlin (Redline Lamborghini) overcame a drive-through to win the Silver-Am class in fourth overall.
Silverstone’s results will remain provisional until the result of Oulton Park’s second race is confirmed. However, any changes will not alter Silverstone’s GT3 or GT4 winners. Points will only be awarded once the results of both races are finalised.
GT3: MITCHELL AND KIRCHHOEFER LIGHT UP THE 500
With no pit windows and a maximum 100 minutes of drive time per driver the Silverstone 500 has plenty of scope for differing strategies. And that proved the case once again earlier today when Barwell and Garage 59’s path to first and second ebbed and flowed across the three hours.
Their battle, which began as a proxy war but came together in the final stint, owed something to a wild first 12 minutes when several front runners came to blows. They included the three Mercedes-AMGs run by 2 Seas, Abba and RAM that started third-fourth-fifth but were delayed – and in the former’s case, retired – at Club on lap one when James Cottingham and Richard Neary made contact and collected the unlucky Ian Loggie.
Malykhin also relieved Balon of the lead in the first five minutes but was subsequently pinged with a stop-go penalty for making excessive contact with the Lamborghini.
Behind, West picked his way through from 10th on the grid to run second before Morgan Tillbrook’s charging Enduro McLaren – which had already despatched Balfe’s Audi and Optimum’s 720S – also took second from the Garage 59 driver. He quickly closed down Balon but couldn’t find a way past before the Lamborghini made the first of its three mandatory pitstops after 45 minutes.
That meant Mitchell was now up against the Ams, albeit almost a lap behind but travelling faster. The caveat to that would be Balon going up against Kirchhoefer at the start of Barwell’s third stint before West had to contend with the returning Mitchell. And it was that respective pace of rival Pros and Ams that would ultimately hand Barwell a small but crucial advantage when Garage 59’s McLaren emerged from its final stop marginally behind the Lamborghini.
Setting a new GT3 lap record during his first stint suggested Kirchhoefer had the pace to pressure Mitchell, whose own best was just a fraction shy of the German’s. The McLaren certainly appeared to be the faster car over the final half-hour but couldn’t work an opening through the traffic. One final opportunity came and went as both drivers approached the final three corners, but Mitchell wasn’t to be denied and took the chequered flag just half-a-second clear.
Behind, Tillbrook’s long opening stint should have left Clutton in play over the final hour. But theirs and Enduro’s podium hopes were dashed when the McLaren’s fire extinguisher went off during the final pitstop. They were ultimately disqualified, albeit on a technicality, for completing 70% distance without serving their three mandatory driver changes.
Instead, Optimum Motorsport’s McLaren completed the rostrum after emerging as the fastest car from a group that ran long first stints. The team as well as Moss and Osborne, who were making a one-off appearance, enjoyed a trouble-free race on a day when several established outfits collected penalties.
One of those was Redline’s Lamborghini, which charged back up the order after serving its early penalty. Indeed, Malykhin and Dorlin – who started second – marked themselves out as future victory contenders by finishing 51s off the lead despite making one more pit visit. They also collected their first Silver-Am class win and, provisionally, second-place points.
Abba’s Mercedes-AMG survived its lap one contact with 2 Seas to finish fifth on the road and third of British GT’s full-season, points-eligible entries. However, evidence of a post-race parc ferme infringement resulted in Richard and Sam Neary’s exclusion.
That elevated another guest entry, 2 Seas’ second car shared by Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam, to fifth. Their Mercedes-AMG was another of those to run long first and short final stints.
Provisional third place points and sixth in the overall classification went to Assetto’s Bentley featuring Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha, while WPI’s Lamborghini recovered from a penalty to finish seventh overall. Greystone GT’s McLaren completed the revised top-eight after a damaged splitter compromised its afternoon.
GT4: NEWBRIDGE GO BACK-TO-BACK AT SILVERSTONE
Matt Topham and Darren Turner produced a textbook performance to secure their second Silverstone 500 victory in as many years, as the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin crew ran out convincing winners in the seasonal showpiece.
Having won this three-hour event on their British GT debut together last year Topham and Turner again produced a masterclass of pace and consistency. They also used their Pro-Am pitstop advantage to full effect to emerge on top of a four-way fight for honours that only settled down deep inside the final hour.
The timesheets show that Newbridge were initially victorious by the best part of half-a-minute, but that only tells a fraction of the story as the Pro-Am pairing were put under constant pressure by a variety of different strategies deployed by their Silver Cup rivals after a turbulent start to the race.
Richard Williams took the start in the pole-sitting Steller Audi but was immediately under pressure from Will Burns’ Century BMW, Josh Miller’s R Racing Aston Martin and Marco Signoretti’s Academy Mustang. The order was shaken up when Williams and Miller made contact, an incident that sent the Audi spinning off the track and earned the R Racing team a 10s stop-go penalty. Shortly after, Signoretti was caught in a tangle with a GT3 car and lost his own chunk of time. And Jordan Collard also looked like joining the fight at the front in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Supra until a rear-right puncture – and subsequent damage from it – put the car out of contention.
Through all the drama came reigning GT4 champion Burns, who led the opening stint convincingly in the BMW M4. In reaction to the early off, Steller switched Williams and Sennan Fielding to short opening stints, allowing the Audi to claw back time on lower fuel and fresh tyres. It also meant the car ran out of sync after making two stops around the first hour.
In contrast, three cars opted to run long opening stints: Burns, Ross Wylie’s Valluga Racing Porsche Cayman, and Topham who enjoyed a superb opening hour to hang on to the lead pack and bring Newbridge’s Aston as high as third before finally diving into the pits to hand to Turner. And this is where the race began to turn…
As a Pro-Am pairing, each stop Newbridge made would be 14s shorter than that of a Silver Cup crew. So, with Turner installed for a long middle stint on fresh tyres, the Aston began to make sizable progress, carving into the early advantage of the Silver crews around it and eventually snatching the overall lead just before the second driver swap inside the final hour.
With Topham only requiring a short stint he just had to keep things neat and tidy against the Silvers to stand a chance. And after doing just that Turner then emerged with a handy and winning advantage over the Burns/Brown BMW.
Century’s crew also looked set for a comfortable second but were then hit with a 40-second post-race penalty for causing a collision, which dropped them to fifth.
The fight for third on the road but, as it transpired, second in the classification turned out to be a corker that went right to the wire. Steller’s off-beat strategy brought Fielding up to fourth in the closing minutes and right on the tail of Matthew Graham in the Valluga Porsche, which had led the middle portion of the race thanks to Wylie’s long opening stint.
Fielding eventually found a way past into Vale to snatch third overall and second in the Silver Cup order, before being bumped up to second and the class win due to the #90 BMW’s penalty. Graham/Wylie likewise took third in the amended result.
Academy’s Mustang finished fourth after a strong performance from Signoretti and Matt Cowley. Chris Salkeld/Tom Rawlings were sixth in Century’s other BMW, just behind the penalised sister car, while Seb Hopkins and Jamie Orton came home seventh in the Team Parker Racing Porsche despite having to serve an early stop-go for a short pitstop.
The three-hour format continues next time out at Donington Park, which hosts round four of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship on May 28-29.