+ Monster entry assembled for Coronation weekend
+ Series’ biggest grid in more than a decade!
+ Entry list: Silverstone 500
A bumper entry will contest the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s annual blue riband event this Sunday when 43 crews featuring no less than nine factory drivers hope to be crowned Silverstone 500 winners on Coronation weekend.
That overall number is the largest since 48 lined up at the same circuit 11 years ago, while 24 GT3s represents the biggest senior class gathering since Spa 2014. The total comprises seven race-by-race contenders ineligible to score points but eager to dethrone their 36 full-season subjects.
Oulton Park’s curtain raiser produced two standout sprint races won overall by 2 Seas’ Mercedes-AMGs, plus Academy’s #62 Mustang and RACE LAB’s new McLaren. However, the approach and rules change this weekend thanks to Silverstone’s three-hour endurance format that places a far greater emphasis on strategy. Sure, there are no pit windows, but each car must pit three times, drivers cannot exceed 100 minutes drive time, and any Compensation Time from the previous race must be served during the final pitstop.
SRO’s GT World YouTube channel has live qualifying, warm-up and race coverage, while the latter is also live on Sky Sports F1.
GT3: TWO KINGS AMONG MANY MEN
Fanatec GT World Challenge UK was how several seasoned observers described British GT at Oulton Park thanks to the influx of factory drivers battling for GT3 supremacy. One month on and a ninth – Ben Barnicoat is part of Inception’s one-off entry – joins a grid bristling with so much talent that it’s impossible to predict who will lift the 1932 RAC Trophy on Sunday afternoon.
2 Seas made the ideal start at Oulton where James Cottingham and Jonny Adam won on the latter’s 100th appearance before team-mates Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon triumphed in Race 2. Mirror image first and fourth places leave them tied on points at the top of the standings, albeit with the #1 crew having to serve 20 seconds’ Compensation Time on Sunday afternoon.
The team and Mercedes-AMG won at Silverstone two years ago, which suggests Cottingham – who was an unfortunate early retiree last season – and Adam will be firmly in the hunt again.
So too, you’d presume, will be Barwell and specifically Sandy Mitchell who last year became the first driver to win the 500 twice outright. He and Shaun Balfe should be firmly in the hunt given the team’s previous success at Silverstone.
Beechdean AMR, Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn all know consistency wins British GT titles and their Aston Martin was exactly that at Oulton where a last lap, final corner skirmish with Adam almost ended Howard’s nine-year victory drought. More solid points in Race 2 leaves the crew third overall but, crucially, without additional time to serve this weekend.
The same can’t be said of two more factory-backed entries – RAM Racing’s Mercedes-AMG and Garage 59’s McLaren – which have 15 and 10 seconds, respectively, for completing Oulton’s Race 2 podium. Raffaele Marciello vs Gounon in the rain will live long in the memory, as well as the Swiss driver’s near-miss at Shell Corner that almost ended in disaster. The #15 Mercedes-AMG also survived a stop-go penalty to leave Marciello and John Ferguson on the same total as Beechdean AMR’s crew.
Garage 59 narrowly missed out on victory at Silverstone last year but will have to overcome 10 seconds Compensation Time to have a chance of repeating that feat. Marvin Kirchhoefer set a new race lap record in 2022, suggesting the McLaren – albeit upgraded to Evo spec – he shares with Alex West will be at the sharp end for the majority of proceedings.
Ditto Century’s BMW that performed well at Oulton without achieving a stand-out result, although Dan Harper did qualify second and set Easter Monday’s fastest lap. His recent Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe podium at Monza bodes well for co-driver Darren Leung who makes his first 500 appearance this weekend.
Several potential front runners also have an opportunity to get their seasons up and running at Silverstone. Chief among them is Enduro’s Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton who suffered the highs – a podium – and lows – two accidents – at Oulton, while Team Abba Racing’s Richard Neary looked particularly impressive around the GP circuit last season.
His will certainly be one of the leading contenders in a Silver-Am class that has grown to eight cars this weekend.
RACE LAB’s Iain Campbell and James Kell took both class victories at Oulton to establish an early 17-point lead over Sky Tempesta’s Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt. Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha (Barwell Motorsport) are a little further back, while Abba’s father-son duo have work to do in fourth.
They’re joined on the full-season list from Silverstone onwards by Drivetac and James Wallis who graduate from GT4 with the same Mercedes-AMG originally solely earmarked for GT Cup. Newcomer Chris Hart partners the 17-year-old.
Greystone GT also joins the class for a one-off appearance with its International GT Open duo Andrew Gilbert and Fran Rueda, while Blackthorn’s BEC champions Claude Bovet and David McDonald – who won their main series’ three-hour season opener at Silverstone in March – make the first of what could become several British GT outings in a new Aston Martin.
Alex Martin and Charles Bateman’s previous-gen Team Parker Porsche completes Silver-Am’s octuplet. Bateman is a four-time British GT winner but hasn’t appeared in the series since 2012 when he finished third overall with United Autosports after taking victory at the 500.
And his isn’t the only Parker-run 911 on the list. Nick Jones and Scott Malvern are racing in Europe this year but will make a one-off British GT appearance with their new 992-spec Porsche.
GT4: ALL TO PLAY FOR AFTER WIDE-OPEN OULTON
GT4 promises to be every bit as competitive as its headline-grabbing counterpart this season, and especially if Oulton is anything to go by. With two of this year’s nine races done just one point separates the top-four crews after the weather turned British GT’s opening round on its head.
Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones beat their Academy colleagues Erik Evans and Matt Cowley in the season opener thanks to an inspired decision to start from the pitlane on slicks despite track conditions suggesting otherwise. The Mustangs surged through the field before #62 benefitted from fortuitous Safety Car timing to steal a lap on the rest and cruise to victory.
However, that result yielded the only points of Moore and Nicoll-Jones’ weekend. They travel to Silverstone level pegging with Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley who gave their RACE LAB team and the new McLaren Artura victory on debut in Race 2.
Theirs is one of three Pro-Am entries in the early top-seven, which also features Raceway’s Michael Crees and Tom Holland, and Century’s Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato. This trio’s performances at Oulton, where Holland beat Plato to Race 1’s final podium place on the line, bodes well for Silverstone where Silver crews carry additional weight and remain stationary 14 seconds longer per pitstop. It’s one of the reasons why Pro-Am pairings have won the 500 every year since 2018.
Gough and Wrigley’s chances will be restricted by their maximum Compensation Time. However, barring any mishaps and based on Oulton’s results you can expect both the #55 Ginetta and #22 BMW to be in contention once strategies unwind after the final pitstops.
The same goes for both Mustangs, which race without Compensation Time. Cowley and Evans start just a point behind their championship-leading team-mates and level pegging with Optimum’s Jack Brown/Charles Clark who bagged a double pole at Oulton. The latter also set fastest lap but will have 15 seconds extra to contend with at his and Brown’s final stop.
That’s five seconds longer than DTO’s Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge who complete the Compensation Time collective thanks to third place at Oulton. Both drivers made impressive debuts on their opening weekend and will surely feature in the championship shake-up down the line.
Pre-season favourites Josh Miller and Seb Hopkins are also in that bracket despite Oulton not exactly going to plan. Nevertheless, R Racing’s 17-year-olds remain in contention after salvaging a fourth place finish. No additional time leaves them as one of the more obvious Silver candidates to end Pro-Am’s stranglehold on this race.
They’re equal on points with former champion Dan Vaughan and his Team Parker co-driver Zac Meakin who scored top-10 finishes in both races last time out. The same applies to Century’s second BMW shared by Michael Johnston and Chris Salkeld whose Pro-Am rivals Kavi Jundu and Tom Rawlings (Paddock Motorsport) will also be a threat given their shorter pitstops.
The addition of two race-by-race entries and Drivetac’s move to GT3 means 19 cars contest the class this weekend.
David Holloway and Bradley Ellis have made several appearances in Century’s Aston Martin since 2021 and finished on the Pro-Am podium at Silverstone last year. They return hoping for more of the same in a sub-class boasting 10 entries this weekend.
Another, Simpson Motorsport’s BMW, features Cypriot Vasily Vladykin who finished second in class with the same team and car at the Dubai 24 Hours earlier this year.
Elsewhere, Darren Burke joins Harry George at Enduro.
Friday 5 May
13:50 – 14:50: Test 1
16:30 – 17:30: Test 2
Saturday 6 May
09:30 – 10:30: Free Practice 1
12:35 – 13:35: Free Practice 2
16:00 – 16:10: GT3 Q1 – LIVE
16:14 – 16:24: GT3 Q2 – LIVE
16:28 – 16:38: GT4 Q1 – LIVE
16:43 – 16:53: GT4 Q2 – LIVE
Sunday 7 May
09:35 – 09:50: Warm-up – LIVE
12:20 – 15:20: Race – LIVE
GT3 – 1m58.304s – Marvin Kirchhoefer – Garage 59 McLaren 720S GT3 – 2022
GT4 – 2m09.861s – Sennan Fielding – Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4 – 2022
PITSTOP SPECIFICS – THREE-HOUR RACES
Three driver changes must occur during the three hours. There are no pitstop windows but each driver cannot exceed 100 minutes cumulative drive time. Any Compensation Time accrued at the previous event must be served during the final mandatory pitstop.
Mandatory Pitstop Times (pit-in to pit-out)
GT3: 135s | GT4: 165s
Pitstop Compensation Time
20s – #1 2 Seas Motorsport & #29 RACE LAB
15s – #15 RAM Racing & #90 Optimum Motorsport
10s – #88 Garage 59 & #36 DTO Motorsport
All GT4 Silver Cup entries must serve an additional 14s during their mandatory driver changes and carry 25kg of ballast.