British GT Live From Silverstone: Who Can Tame Barwell's Raging Bull?
British GT’s annual blue riband event – the Silverstone 500 – promises plenty of cut-and-thrust multi-class action around the Home of British Motor Racing this weekend. With the season reaching its halfway mark and the maximum 37.5 points up for grabs, there’s no better time for GT3 and GT4 title contenders to stamp their authority on this year’s championship.
A total of 30 cars – that’s 11 GT3s, 18 GT4s and 1 Invitational entry – are expected for this Sunday’s three-hour, 500-kilometre race around Silverstone’s 3.66-mile GP circuit. But which of those will be standing on the podium’s top step this Sunday afternoon?
That four different manufacturers currently occupy the top five positions in this year’s drivers’ standings emphasises the diversity that exists within British GT’s senior class.
However, in truth, there’s one crew, team and car that has stood head and shoulders above their rivals so far in 2017. Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen have dominated the first half of this season, and it’s difficult to look past their Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini when weighing up likely victory contenders at Silverstone.
Their #33 Huracan GT3 would have won four of the first five races were it not for a pitstop infringement during Snetterton’s second race, but that misfortune has only strengthened their hand for this weekend’s three-hour enduro in which the maximum 37.5 points are up for grabs. Finishing outside the top-three two weeks ago means they head to Silverstone – where they also won 12 months ago – without a pitstop success penalty, which could prove vital come the end of Sunday’s race.
23.5 points further back, and heading three crews within nine points of each other, are Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris whose similar lack of pitstop handicap could make them Minshaw and Keen’s nearest challengers this weekend. Their Team Parker Racing Bentley claimed pole position at the same venue last season and looked like a nailed-on podium finisher before terminal damage ended those hopes. Neither driver can afford to slip up this weekend if they’re to make a dent in the Barwell crew’s championship lead.
Hot on their heels are reigning champions Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam who claimed their first win since Rockingham 2016 at Snetterton, which also helped the latter to finally equal British GT’s GT3 wins record. On the one hand it was a much needed points haul, but on the other has resulted in the TF Sport crew incurring a 20-second success penalty this Sunday. Overcoming that, even at this stage of the season, might ultimately prove crucial to successfully defending their title.
Barwell’s second Lamborghini has also impressed throughout 2017 thanks to three second place finishes in the first five races. The third of those, sealed at Snetterton, ensures Liam Griffin and touring car convert Sam Tordoff head into this weekend with a 15-second success penalty, which they’ll first have to overcome before thoughts turn to finally claiming a place on the top step.
Next up is Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin’s Spirit of Race Ferrari, a car that could be the dark horse this weekend. The pair came close to winning at Rockingham, the only endurance race staged so far in 2017, while an FF Corse-entered 488 GT3 also finished third overall at Silverstone last season.
Another team that cannot be discounted is Macmillan AMR whose all-Silver-graded pairing of Jack Mitchell and James Littlejohn has grown in confidence and speed as the season has progressed. The need to balance their Aston Martin’s performance against Pro/Am pace means they’re likely to star in the early half of Sunday’s race, while the longer stints – compared with British GT’s one-hour sprint format – and lack of a pitstop success penalty will also play into their hands. Worth keeping an eye on.
Elsewhere, expect TF Sport’s second V12 Vantage driven by Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes to be in the mix despite its 10-second pitstop success penalty, along with Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod’s Bentley, which has only shown flashes of its potential so far. AMDTuning.com’s Lee Mowle and Ryan Ratcliffe also looked stronger at Snetterton, while the entry list’s second Mercedes-AMG usually driven by Richard Neary and Martin Short moves from Am/Am to Pro/Am with the addition of a third driver, 2016 Nurburgring 24 Hours winner Adam Christodoulou.
One of Century’s Ginetta G55s is also back on the grid, with Aleksander Schjerpen joining Charlie Robertson in the #19 entry.
Whoever triumphs this Sunday will have the added bonus of lifting the ‘RAC Trophy’, which will be awarded to a British GT winner for the first time at Silverstone. The trophy was originally awarded at the Brooklands 500 in 1932 but will now be engraved with the names of each British GT winner since the Silverstone 500 began in 2012.
Source: SRO/British GT Championship