Monster 43-strong entry all set for Silverstone 500

Monster 43-strong entry all set for Silverstone 500

BRITAIN’S BIGGEST SPORTSCAR RACE
 
Guest entries join 36-car full-season roster
Leung, Harper and Brown all bidding for back-to-back 500 wins
Entry list: Silverstone 500, Round 3
 

A capacity 43-strong entry assembles for the UK’s biggest sportscar race, the Silverstone 500, this Sunday when British GT stages its annual blue riband three-hour event.

 

The sprint format seen at Oulton Park’s season opener over Easter Bank Holiday Weekend makes way for an endurance spectacle in which strategy will likely play a significant role.

 

That was certainly the case last year when eventual champions Darren Leung and Dan Harper found a way to win despite starting 18th. Both drivers return this weekend, albeit on opposite sides of Century’s garage, as each bids to retain the coveted 1932 RAC Trophy.

 

But they will face fierce competition from the other multiple factory drivers and seasoned Ams that form part of the 24-strong senior class. Incidentally, that number matches last year’s Silverstone 500 GT3 entry, which was the most for any British GT race since 2014.

 

The event’s reigning GT4 class winners, Jack Brown and Optimum, are also back with the same McLaren Artura. Only one combination – Matt Topham, Darren Turner and Newbridge – have retained their class victory here. Two additions bring GT4’s total to 19 cars.

 

Sunday’s race is live on Sky Sports F1 and SRO’s GT World YouTube channel. However, British GT is always best enjoyed trackside where spectators will have an extra treat pre-race when the Red Devils Parachute Display Team drops in on the grid.

 


GT3: SUPERCARS AND SUPERSTARS AMONGST PACKED SENIOR CLASS

Barwell’s Lamborghinis stole an early march on their rivals by winning both races at Oulton. But with honours split between Collards Rob and Ricky, and Alex Martin and Sandy Mitchell – as well as two podiums for Ian Loggie and Phil Keen – the early championship situation remains tight up top.

 

That’s doubly true considering Martin/Mitchell – who lead their team-mates by five points – must serve the maximum 20 seconds of Compensation Time at their third and final mandatory driver change. Loggie/Keen have 10 extra, while Mark Radcliffe and Tom Gamble – who occupy fourth overall – will be stationary for 15 more after finishing second in race two at Oulton.

 

The Collards, then, look to be sitting pretty. It was at Silverstone, after all, where Rob clinched the British GT3 title with Barwell and Lamborghini back in 2020. This weekend marks his first appearance there since that day.

 

However, this season’s first points-and-a-half-paying round also represents an ideal opportunity for another contender to emerge from the current midfield. Take Leung and Harper, for example, whose 500 victory 12 months ago followed two sixth place finishes.

 

They had been due to make a one-off appearance together this weekend until Harper’s late full-season call-up with Michael Johnston. Instead, Leung – who is prioritising Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS and FIA WEC this year – has turned to another BMW factory driver, Dries Vanthoor, in his bid to become the first back-to-back overall 500 winner.

 

Nine Silver-Am crews feature amongst GT3’s ensemble. Early leaders Shaun Balfe and Adam Smalley also occupy fifth in the overall standings and, without additional Compensation Time, will likely trouble the overall victory contenders. Indeed, Balfe finished second at Silverstone last year, albeit with Mitchell and Barwell.

 

Meanwhile, Mike Price and Callum Macleod – a 500 winner back in 2019 – head to Silverstone after enjoying their best-ever British GT weekend together. Greystone GT’s Mercedes-AMG lies seventh in the standings and races without added Compensation Time.

 

The same goes for several expected big hitters who remain on single digit totals. They include Blackthorn’s Giacomo Petrobelli and Jonny Adam whose Aston Martin Vantage is now in Evo spec, Kevin Tse and Maximilian Goetz (2 Seas Motorsport), and John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello (RAM Racing).

 

Elsewhere, Simon Watts makes his first start of the year alongside Al Buncombe whose brother Chris shares Team RJN’s second McLaren with Jann Mardenborough. The former Super GT star and original gamer-to-racer – whose story was recently brought to the big screen in The Gran Turismo Movie – makes his first British GT start since 2012.

 

The extra entries continue with Sky Tempesta’s 296, which will spend most of 2024 contesting Fanatec GT Europe. Its driver, Chris Froggatt was Silver-Am runner-up last season, while Ferrari has been absent from British GT’s top class since 2020. 

 

Full-season duo Radcliffe and Gamble are joined by a second crew – Andrew Gilbert and Fran Rueda – on the GT3 side of Optimum’s garage, RACE LAB’s McLaren featuring Lucky Khera and Euan Hankey finally makes an appearance after being forced to miss media day and Oulton, and the J&S Audi of Sacha Kakad and Hugo Cook is also back for the first of its scheduled appearances after taking RACE LAB’s place over the Easter weekend.


GT4: BROWN BIDDING FOR BACK-TO-BACK 500 WINS


History tells us that GT4’s pitstop regulations tend to favour Pro-Am crews in British GT’s longest format. Indeed, only once between 2015 and 2022 did a Silver entry manage to upset the odds. Victory for Charles Clark and Jack Brown at Silverstone last year therefore came as a surprise despite Optimum’s McLaren also showing impressive form in Oulton’s sprint races.

 

Clark has now departed for GT3 on the continent, but Brown, the team and Artura – as well as Zac Meakin – were just as effective on 2024’s opening weekend. They now sit fourth in the early standings behind three crews – two of which are Pro-Am – that must serve Compensation Time at their final pitstops.

 

The maximum 20 seconds goes to championship leaders Charles Dawson and Seb Morris who added a victory to their earlier second place finish on the opening weekend. Team Parker’s Mercedes-AMG underlined its status as a pre-season favourite but will have its work cut out to go back-to-back on Sunday.

 

Morris is, incidentally, a former GT3 class 500 winner. No driver has won both categories overall.

Another Pro-Am combination, Will Orton and Marc Warren, start the weekend third in points after theirs and Forsetti’s impressive debut at Oulton. However, it might have been even more rewarding without the stop-go penalty for a pitstop infringement that consigned them to fourth in Race 1. They will have 15 seconds extra this Sunday for finishing runners-up behind Dawson and Morris.

 

Their team-mates Mikey Porter and Jamie Day are also bang in contention after claiming the new Aston Martin Vantage’s first win on European soil. However, they and all other Silver crews will have additional time to serve in all three pitstops. A repeat victory, or even podium, is only likely with a fortuitous Full Course Yellow or Safety Car period, just as Clark and Brown benefitted from last year.

 

Neither of Academy’s new Mustangs had a chance to shine on the opening weekend. However, reigning champion Erik Evans and his co-driver Marco Signoretti still scored enough points to leave them fifth overall and without additional Compensation Time. 

 

The same is true of RAM’s Luca Hopkinson and Harry George who bagged a fifth place at Oulton, while Ravi Ramyead and Charlie Robertson – who finished Race 1 in the same position – will be amongst the leading Pro-Am contenders. 

 

Likewise their Century team-mates Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley who are inviting fans to join them live from 18:00 on Friday. The show, hosted from Jugo’s virtual studio by British GT commentator Joe Osborne, will feature special guests from up and down the paddock and look ahead to the upcoming weekend. Fans can pre-register now – and have a chance to win race day tickets – at www.racetosavelives.co.uk/fastertogether.

 

Matt Cowley’s title defence couldn’t have got off to a worse start after Paddock’s Mercedes-AMG failed to contest either race after blowing a driveshaft. But the omens for this weekend are a little better thanks to his co-driver Ed McDermott who claimed Pro-Am victory at the 500 12 months ago.

 

Meanwhile, the class’ two additional entries come courtesy of debutants Breakell Racing and French squad, CMR. However, while the former’s drivers Carl Garnett and Harley Haughton are also making their British GT bows, Freddie Tomlinson and Stuart Middleton were GT4 race winners at Snetterton last year and might also have tasted victory at Silverstone without a pitstop penalty.
 

SILVERSTONE 500 TIMETABLE
FRIDAY 26 APRIL
13:50 – 14:50: Test 1
16:30 – 17:30: Test 2

SATURDAY 27 APRIL
09:30 – 10:30: Free Practice 1
12:05 – 13:05: Pre-Qualifying
15:55 – 16:05: Qualifying 1 (GT3)
16:09 – 16:19: Qualifying 2 (GT3)
16:23 – 16:33: Qualifying 3 (GT4)
16:38 – 16:48: Qualifying 4 (GT4)

SUNDAY 28 APRIL
09:35 – 09:50: Warm-up
12:30 – 15:30: Race


LAP RECORDS
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: 115s | GT4: 145

Pitstop Compensation Time
20s – #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini (GT3) + #31 Team Parker Racing Mercedes-AMG (GT4)
15s – #27 Optimum Motorsport McLaren (GT3) + #47 Forsetti Motorsport Aston Martin (GT4)
10s – #6 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG (GT3) + #7 Forsetti Motorsport Aston Martin (GT4)

All GT4 Silver Cup entries must serve an additional 12s during their mandatory driver changes and carry 25kg of ballast.


 


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