British GT #silverstoneshowdown Preview

The most prestigious race of the Intelligent Money British GT season will also decide 2020’s champions this weekend when four GT3 crews and five GT4 line-ups battle for their respective class titles at the #Silverstone500.

A season-high 38-car entry comprising 20 GT3, 13 GT4 and five GTC cars will do battle over three hours around the full 3.661-mile, 18-turn Arena GP circuit, which stages British GT’s season finale for the first time since 2011. Those numbers are especially impressive following a year like no other. Indeed, the total represents three more than the original pre-covid full-season entry, the most GT3 cars for a single race since Donington 2014, and the highest number of GTC models since Croft 2007.

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Photo Credit: Ian Cutting

McLaren will also set a new GT3 record should all nine 720Ss start Sunday’s race. The benchmark for a single model is currently held by Aston Martin’s first-generation Vantage (eight raced at Silverstone in 2014).

Importantly, the raft of race-by-race additions that have swelled Silverstone’s entry are not eligible to score points on Sunday. So, while the likes of Jenson Button will be battling for a standalone result, his final position has no bearing on the chances of his championship-contending team-mates.

Restrictions mean the race will be run behind closed doors, but fans needn’t miss any of Sunday’s action thanks to the championship’s free and unrestricted livestreaming options, which are complemented for the first time by live TV coverage on Sky Sports F1. BritishGT.com will also broadcast Sunday’s BRDC British F3, Porsche Sprint Challenge GB and Ginetta GT5 Challenge races.

Finally, championship organisers, with the help Of Mission Motorsport – the Forces’ Motorsport Charity – will hold a memorial service to mark Remembrance Sunday. The service will take place in the pitlane just prior to 11:00 with wreaths being laid by servicemen for the 3rd Regiment Royal Logistics Corp, Silverstone Circuit and by a representative on behalf of all teams and drivers before the entire paddock falls silent to observe a two-minute silence. Poppies will also feature prominently on every car’s windscreen banner – the area usually reserved for title sponsor, Intelligent Money.

Four crews head to the #SilverstoneShowdown with a shot at 2020’s GT3 crown. Some have been here before while others are experiencing the pressure for the first time. But it’s Pitstop Success Penalties that – perhaps more than any other factor – could prove decisive on Sunday.

We start, predictably, with the championship leaders. On the one hand Patrick Kujala and Sam De Haan, who came within a post-race penalty of winning the title last season, arrive at Silverstone six points clear of their nearest rivals. On the other, third place at Snetterton equates to a 10s Success Penalty that must be served during their third and final mandatory pitstop. RAM Racing’s Mercedes-AMG won at Silverstone last year but will likely need a slice of luck, searing pace or a combination of both to repeat the feat given its handicap.

Contrast that with Barwell Motorsport’s Rob Collard and Sandy Mitchell who are yet to finish outside of the top-six this year and compete penalty-free at Silverstone. As such, the GT3 title’s fate appears to be in their hands, for victory would be enough to overcome the current six-point deficit regardless of De Haan and Kujala’s result. Equally, a greater number of second-place finishes would also see them crowned champions in the event of a tie.

Their team-mates, Adam Balon and Phil Keen, arrive 11.5 points shy of top spot and carrying the full 20s Pitstop Success Penalty following a second win of 2020 at Snetterton. For once the odds appear stacked against Keen who has left each of the last four title deciders – the latter alongside Balon – empty handed. Barwell’s #72 crew have the added incentive of a Pro-Am championship to fight for – the duo are one point clear of Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman – but will be fully aware that an overall win would leave De Haan and Kujala no alternative but to finish second.

The outsiders in this year’s title race are Jenson Team Rocket RJN’s James Baldwin and Michael O’Brien who must win and hope other results go their way to have any chance of stealing the crown. Indeed, that unlikely – but not impossible – outcome requires De Haan/Kujala to finish no higher than ninth, Collard/Mitchell coming home seventh or lower, and Balon/Keen taking the chequered flag in sixth. Success Penalties provide a glimmer of hope for the McLaren crew who race without additional pitstop time to serve, although that scenario also applies to Collard/Mitchell.

The overall two best placed crews also lead the Silver Cup championship, which could yet be won by Jack Mitchell and Jordan Witt (2 Seas Motorsport) or Baldwin/O’Brien.

The rest of the 20-strong GT3 field features a mix of full-season, new and returning entries.

Naturally, hardcore fans and casual observers alike will be keeping a close eye on Jenson Button who makes his GT3 debut alongside fellow Jenson Team Rocket RJN co-owner Chris Buncombe. The 2009 Formula 1 World Champion can draw on plenty of experience outside of single-seaters but has had just one wet test day with which to familiarise himself with the McLaren. 

Elsewhere, last year’s Silverstone 500 winner Loggie should be amongst the front-runners with Buurman. RAM’s Pro-Am partnership lies seventh in the overall championship – the best placed entry without a victory so far this season.

Out-going champion Jonny Adam arrives at a British GT finale in the unusual position of not battling for a title. Instead, the Garage 59 entry he shares with Alex West is one of four Aston Martins competing in the top class. The others include FIA WEC star Charlie Eastwood who joins Andrew Howard at Beechdean AMR, and TF Sport’s reigning GT4 champion Tom Canning who makes his long-awaited British GT senior class debut with Giacome Petrobelli.

Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell are also stepping off the side-lines and into the cockpit for their first domestic appearance of the season. Balfe’s McLaren looked every inch a victory contender at Silverstone in 2019 before a faulty door latch ended their charge, while their last outing at Donington 14 months ago yielded the team’s first overall victory for 16 years.

Elsewhere, Steller’s Audi returns after missing the previous round, and Team ABBA’s Mercedes-AMG is also back after chassis damage prevented Richard and Sam Neary from contesting either of Snetterton’s races. 

GT4

Just 2.5 points covers the championship’s top-two contenders ahead of what promises to be a thrilling GT4 #SilverstoneShowdown between TF Sport and HHC Motorsport. While five crews retain a mathematical chance of winning the title, it’s Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan, and Jordan Collard and Patrik Matthiesen who arrive there all-but locked together at the top.

Both are subject to Success Penalties – Collard and Matthiesen the maximum 20s, Caroline and Vaughan 15s – which must be served during the final mandatory pitstop. Over a three-hour race the five-second difference is more likely to made or lost on track, leading to a straight shootout for the class title between the two.

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Photo Credit: Sam Nudd

But that’s not quite the whole story. For waiting in the wings is TF Sport’s other Aston Martin crewed by Patrick Kibble and Connor O’Brien who find themselves 13 points adrift of their team-mates. That sounds like a lot, and especially so with a 10s Success Penalty to serve. However, a third victory of the season would force Caroline and Vaughan to finish second, while Collard and Matthiesen would lose out on countback even if they finished as runners-up.

It’s a different story for Matt Cowley, joined for a second time aboard Academy’s Mustang by Will Moore, and HHC’s other McLaren shared by Gus Bowers and Chris Wesemael. Neither crew carries a Success Penalty but both must win to have any chance of overhauling Caroline and Vaughan. The latter are 37.5 points behind – the same amount awarded for victory – so the title could be claimed on countback subject to all other contenders suffering a disastrous afternoon. Cowley, meanwhile, trails the current leaders by 30.5 points.

The largest GT4 entry of the season features several more candidates who could spoil the party for any one of the title protagonists.

Speedworks’ Toyota remains win-less this season, albeit not for a lack of trying, and should be amongst the front-runners again in the hands of Sam Smelt and James Kell. Likewise Mia Flewitt and Euan Hankey who will have a bona-fide Pro-Am battle on their hands against several non-points-scoring race-by-race entries.

Two of them – the McLarens of Jan Klingelnberg and Warren Hughes, and Lars Dahmann and Charlie Hollings – share Balfe’s garage with Flewitt and Hankey. There’s also the intriguing prospect of 2019 Silverstone winners Nick Jones and Scott Malvern returning to the class with their Mercedes-AMG, as well as a new-look line-up in Century’s #42 BMW which now features Rob Wheldon alongside Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke.

The addition of a third Aston Martin, entered by MSL Powered by Newbridge Motorsport, adds further spice to the campaign’s most competitive GT4 field.


GTC: BACK WITH A BANG!

GT3 and GT4 has dominated British GT entry lists for the past decade or so despite the GTC class – reserved for one-make ‘Cup’ cars – remaining a viable option. That changes at Silverstone where, in terms of pace, the five GTC entries will slot in between their two more prevalent class companions.

Both Team Parker Racing-run 911s are usually found in Porsche Carrera Cup GB where Justin Armstrong, 2013 GT4 champion Ryan Ratcliffe and Karl Leonard all currently compete. The odd one out is Tim Bridgman who last contested a British GT round, also at the wheel of a Porsche, in 2011.

Maranello’s contingent also features plenty of returning British GT drivers. 2014 GT4 champion Ross Wylie is part of the event’s only three-driver crew, which includes Lee Frost and newly-crowned Ferrari Challenge GB champion Lucky Khera, while John Dhillon and Phil Quaife join forces with the team headed up by Aaron Scott. Another GT4 champion, 2010 winner Jamie Stanley, shares FF Corse’s example with Laurent de Meeus.