British GT's Silverstone 500

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Round three of the 2015 British GT Championship was at a rather wet Silverstone circuit at the weekend for the three hour spectacular dubbed the Silverstone 500.

With pre race 'casualties' being the withdrawal of the Edwards sisters Stratton Motorsport prepared Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 and the replacement of James Harrison within the #62 Academy GT4 car with team boss Matt Nicoll-Jones that still left eleven #TeamAMR cars spread across the GT3 and GT4 classes.

Quantamatic Racings Terry Langley and Mike Hart returned to the GT scene having had their V8 Vantage GT4 partially rebuilt following Langley's very scary double roll over at Rockingham just three weeks earlier. The team even sportingly placed some 'this way up' stickers on the side just to prevent any future 'misunderstanding'.

For those who took part in the Friday test it must have appeared that snorkels and flippers were the more appropriate set up but come the two official free practice sessions on Saturday morning it was fortunately back to slicks, reduced aero and an opportunity to set the car up for qualifying and the 3 hour race itself.

Leading the qualifying field in the GT4 class were the two Evolution Academy drivers of Ross Gunn and Jamie Chadwick in the #407 Beechdean AMR in P3 followed by the #71 Quantamatic car in P6. Over in GT3 the #007 Vantage of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam led the way nearly a second ahead of the chasing McLaren 650S and BMW Z4's . The two Oman Racing cars then completed the top six.

Come the Sunday morning warm up session the track was extremely wet and most teams down the pit lane only completed siting cum system checks of no more than 2-3 laps with the quickest car, the #2 Oman Racing Vantage of Ahmad Al Harthy and Dan Lloyd clocking a lap time over twenty seconds slower than they did in FP1.

At about half past twelve and with just a single green flag lap behind the safety car Andrew Howard would lead the 35 car field through the final complex at Luffield and over the start/finish line to start the race on the rain soaked track. The spray coming off the leading cars was incredibly thick leading to what must have been near zero visibility conditions for the cars behind. Coming into Becketts the first time round #007 Vantage GT3 would spin itself out of the lead and down to the rear of the GT3 field but at least there was plenty of time left on the clock for the team to make amends.

In GT4 the sister #407 Beechdean also didn't fare so well coming into Copse on the start of lap 2. An incomplete move on one of the #61 Academy Aston Martin V8's by Jamie Chadwick left the scenario of not fully passing the car on the inside before she had to turn into the corner leading to the inevitable coming together on the inside rear causing the #407 to spin out harmlessly onto the run off area.

Picking up the pieces it wasn't long before both the #407 and #007 Beechdean's were picking off the places to make up for their earlier errors.

A bit further back the TF Sport teams two AMR Vantages were trying to settle down into their initial stints. The #27 Andrew Jarman/Jody Fannin car was still having a few performance issues arising from its overnight engine change not to mention an early tyre issue. The sister #17 car of Derek Johnston and Matt Bell were to fare no better with a spin at Stowe that resulted in the Steeldeck liveried car being unavoidably collected by the #18 FF Corse Ferrari putting an immediate end to both car's race.

The Safety Car period for this incident together with the drying track conditions allowed other cars like the 22GT Racing Vantage GT3 of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes amongst others to move, almost unnoticed up the leader board. As the race progressed, their out of sequence driver line up would ultimately let the team to take the outright race lead as those around them changed, unnecessarily as it turned out, onto more wets. The teams somewhat brave choice to fit slicks at their subsequent pit stop also allowed then to retain the race lead.

Coming into the final hour of the race the 22GT Racing Vantage was still maintaining around a fifteen second lead to the chasing field with Farmer at the wheel. The team were looking good to stop the car for their third and final stop with about forty minutes to go.

Back in GT4 the leading bunch were yo-yoing between themselves as pit stops were being taken, some with success time penalties being added but all of that helped to add to the racing excitement between the squabbling Beechdean, Quantamatic and Toyota cars.

With only just over forty minutes or so remaining and with Jon Barnes getting suited and booted in readiness to get in the 22GT Vantage and for reasons yet unknown the #11 Vantage GT3 was seen on camera to collide very heavily with the inside pit wall along the International Straight. From what could be seen on camera it was obvious that the car was out of the race but there was still concern within the team garage for the welfare of the driver. Fortunately Mark Farmer was later seen to make his own way to the attending ambulance before a check over at the circuit medical centre.

The resulting Safety Car period and final sprint to the line would end up being between the two McLaren's, two of the BMW's, the #007 Beechdean and the two Oman Racing Vantages but alas at the flag, the podium was to end up being devoid of any Aston Martin Team for the first time this year.

That, thankfully wasn't the case in GT4 where the #407 Beechdean pairing of Ross Gunn and Jamie Chadwick pulled off yet another impressive but somewhat unexpected race win with the #71 Quantamatic crew of Terry Langley and Mike Hart in a mightily impressive and richly deserved second.

The British GT series now takes a few weeks off before the next round at Spa Francorchamps on the 11th July.

Photo credits - Richard Leach / 22GT Racing

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