TF Sport Aston Martin pair Nicki Thiim and Mark Farmer (above) won British GT’s prestigious three-hour Silverstone 500 race on Sunday, ahead of the #33 Barwell Lamborghini crew Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw in second.
Jonny Adam and Flick Haigh completed the podium finishers in their #75 Optimum Motorsport-run Aston Martin while GT4 victory went the way of Aleksander Schjerpen and Jack Mitchell in the #43 Century BMW.
GT3: As It Happened
After a clean start (below) and first lap, Ricardo Sanchez in the polesitting #24 Nissan pulled out a gap of two seconds from Farmer, Loggie, Neary, Davidson, Johnston, Haigh, de Haan, Howard, Minshaw, Parfitt, Balfe and Mowle.
Rick Parfitt in the #1 Bentley was up to 10th from his starting position of 14th after just two laps, while Sanchez had stretched his advantage to over four seconds after four tours. An unassisted spin for Parfitt at Club on lap six dropped him to back of the GT3 ranks, while Sanchez continued to look comfortable up front, with the gap stabilising at around five seconds to Farmer in second place in the #11 TF Sport Aston.
Iain Loggie was the first of the GT3 runners to pit, coming in on lap 11 after about 20 minutes’ running for the first of three mandated driver-change stops to hand over the #7 Bentley to Calum Macleod. There was then a change of second place on lap 17, when Davidson in the Jetstream Aston tapped Farmer into a spin through Becketts. Davidson subsequently pitted to hand the car over to Maxime Martin.
Sam de Haan handed the #69 Barwell Lamborghini to Jonny Cocker on lap 19, with nearly 40 minutes of the race run; Andrew Howard relinquished the Beechdean Aston to Darren Turner around the same time. The stops were coming thick and fast now, with Derek Johnston handing the #17 TF Sport Aston to Sorensen shortly after.
Meanwhile out on track, Macleod had ended up in gravel in the #7 Bentley at the exit of Abbey after contact with a GT4 car (later managing to rejoin five laps down), while Martin was called in for a 10-second stop-go penalty due to Davidson’s earlier contact with Farmer.
Minshaw (to Keen) and Mike Brown (to Matt Manderson) were the next two to come in for driver changes, in the #33 Lamborghini and Ultimate Speed Aston respectively, while Balfe handed the #101 McLaren to Rob Bell.
Haigh waited later than most to hand the #75 Optimum Aston to Adam, while last-minute substitute Seb Morris, having started the 164-mile journey from his home to Silverstone at 11:30am, made it just in time to take over the #1 Bentley from Pariftt, who had recovered several places after his earlier spin and pitted from fourth.
With Richard Neary handing the Abba Mercedes to Adam Christodoulou, Sanchez, Farmer and Mowle were the last of the starting drivers to make their first pitstop, coming in at almost exactly the hour mark.
That left the order after the first round of stops (plus Jetstream’s stop-go) as follows on lap 31: Sorensen from Moore, Cocker, Keen, Christodoulou, Thiim, Adam, Turner, Bell, Morris, Buurman, Martin, Manderson.
Morris got up to ninth ahead of Bell as the second stint played out. Further up the field, a furious battle for second erupted involving Moore, Keen, Christodoulou and Cocker, with Thiim keeping a watching brief in sixth. Keen got into second under braking into Copse at the start of lap 38, while Moore lost another place later in the lap.
A spin for Cocker heading onto the Brooklands straight while trying to simultaneously attack Moore and defend from Thiim dropped the #69 Lamborghini out of the group shortly afterwards. Thiim then put Moore down another place at the same part of the track next time around, after which Moore pitted to hand the #24 back to Sanchez, complaining of a struggle to reach the pedals in the Nissan due to seat sliding back at the previous stop.
Cocker handed the #69 Lamborghini back over to de Haan after his earlier drama; there was then trouble for the Abba Mercedes, with Christodoulou pulling into the Wing pitlane after suffering apparent suspension failure. That promoted everyone from Thiim down up one place, with the Dane now running third behind Sorensen and Keen.
After the second round of scheduled stops, Farmer led the race from Johnston, Haigh, Minshaw, Pariftt and de Haan. Johnston then lost two positions in quick succesion to Haigh and Minshaw, promoting them to second and third behind Farmer. Haigh then ran wide at Village, allowing Minshaw into second, with Johnston, de Haan, Howard and Balfe now running fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh – all of them yet to make their final stops.
De Haan was the first to do so, handing the #69 Lamborghini back to Cocker for the final 45 minutes or so of the race. Morris was now back aboard the #1 Bentley as well for that car’s final stint. Farmer and Minshaw pitted almost simultaneously on lap 65 to hand their cars back to Thiim and Keen respectively for a last-stint shooutout for the win. Despite the Farmer/Thiim car having an extra 10 seconds to spend stationary in the pits due to the pair’s Snetterton podium finish, the dueo emerged nose-to-tail, with Thiim crucially just ahead of Keen.
Haigh and Johnston pitted a lap later, with the latter car having to spend 20 seconds more in the pits due to its Snetterton win and therefore re-emerging with Sorensen at the wheel, but out of contention for the win (the Dane would set the fastest lap of the race in this stint, however). Thiim was 3.7 seconds up on Keen with 30 minutes left, ahead of Adam (two seconds behind Keen) and then Morris, Moore, Sorensen, Cocker, Bell and Turner.
The gaps remained finely poised as the clock wound down, with Adam (above) getting to within 1.2 seconds of Keen with 18 minutes left, but Thiim stretching his cushion ahead to 4.6 seconds at the same point. Fourth-place Morris was a further 10 seconds behind Adam – but this was a very strong performance considering his earlier dash to the circuit and the #1 Bentley having to start at the back of the GT3 pack.
Adam got ever-closer to the back of Keen’s Lamborghini and was still less than a second behind with just seven minutes of the race remaining. However, a passing opportunity never presented itself and they would cross the line in that order: Thiim 3.5 seconds ahead of Keen, with Adam third, Morris fourth, Moore fifth, Sorensen sixth, Cocker seventh, Bell eighth, Turner ninth, Buurman 10th and Manderson 11th. Macleod and Martin were 12th and 13th after their cars’ respective dramas, while the Abba Mercedes was the only non-finisher in GT3.
STOP PRESS: Post-race, the #1 Bentley of Parfitt and Morris was dropped two places in the official results as a result of passing under yellows. That promoted the #24 Nissan and #17 TF Sport Aston to fourth and fifth respectively.
GT4: Full Race Report
The GT4 element of the Silverstone 500 certainly lived up to its endurance billing and those teams that contested the podium (and the following two places) were the only ones not to suffer real problems. The spoils went to those who were able to push the hardest for longest, even if it did take the winning #43 Century BMW Motorsport crew rather by surprise! They ended up comfortable winners over the #5 Tolman McLaren and the #55 HHC Ginetta, the latter making up two places in a frantic last couple of laps after a relatively anonymous race up until that point.
It was a quite chaotic start to the race for the GT4 pack, spreading out across the track on the run into the first corner and leaving the #5 McLaren as the initial leader in the hands of Lewis Proctor. Finlay Hutchinson hadn’t fallen far from his pole position in the #10 McLaren, however, and after a squabble with the #61 and #62 Aston Martins he hauled the car back to the tail of #5 within five laps.
The three-hour format proved a real anti-climax to some teams. Pattinson’s #56 Tolman McLaren was a first-lap retiree with damage to his rear suspension (apparently after contact with the #77 Mercedes) and there were early mechanical problems of a smokey kind for Paul Vice’s #44 Jaguar, too, out after four laps. The #68 Toyota managed to lose its front-left wheel at Becketts and despite swapping out the entire front left corner it would retire after nine laps with a blocked oil line. The sister #86 Toyota was out on lap three with a gearbox problem.
With 17 minutes gone, Hutchinson took the lead into Stowe and Proctor was now having to look back to a different Aston Martin, the Super Racing example that had been guided very strongly up the field by Matthew George, picking off a few cars each lap.
Graham Johnson had managed to keep his #501 Balfe McLaren in the top six, too, but lining up behind him were the #42 BMW (Green), #53 Nissan and #4 McLaren of Fagg. Green got the move done at Copse corner just before the GT3 leader started lapping the GT4 leaders. Johnson then slipped to 10th, a circuit commentator reporting contact with Fagg’s McLaren after 26 minutes.
George then took second place from Proctor at Abbey, an impressive run from 16th on the grid. Balon then had an off at Becketts in his Track-Club McLaren due to a front puncture and brought it back in slowly, opting for an early change to Euan Hankey with just half an hour gone. Hankey wouldn’t even complete that stint, though: the car was retired in the same spot in his hands after just 25 laps.
With half an hour gone, the first BMW entered the top five, Green’s #42 showing stronger pace than Wood’s #61 Aston Martin. He was right on the tail of the #62 car, too, while Kelvin Fletcher’s Nissan made it a four-car train.
The train was somewhat derailed however when Green took as tight an inside line as he could at Copse, practically tipping the car onto its outside wheels and somehow held on all the way into Maggots and Becketts with Will Moore refusing to concede in the #62 Academy Aston Martin. Both were on the limit and the cars squirmed, the Aston Martin clipped the grass, losing the place to the BMW, #61 and Fletcher’s Nissan. Charlie Fagg had also brought his #4 McLaren into the fight, taking the place off #62 at Stowe with 42 minutes gone.
That would be it for Fagg, though, his next target was Fletcher’s Nissan and the two had a drag race the whole length of the Wellington Straight and neither wanted to brake, Fletcher was on the racing line, to the outside at the left-handed Brooklands, but he had to start turning at some point and when he did the cars touched, launching the rear of the McLaren into the air and down to a heavy landing and out of the race in the gravel.
Fletcher pitted immediately in what appeared to be a planned stop and rejoined. The car picked up a two-minute penalty, presumably for the contact, which seemed rather harsh to these eyes. They recovered to take the Pro-Am win in GT4 and sixth overall.
With the first leading stops completed, it was still McKay in #10 ahead of Holder’s #144, Jonck in #61, Plowman in #53 (before their penalty) and Mitchell in #43. The #5 and #42 were running a longer initial strategy and when the order shook out it had gained a pattern in that a pair of McLarens (McKay from Albert) led a pair of Astons (Jonck and Nicoll-Jones), then a pair of BMWs (#42 from #43).
With 1:50 to go, the rise of the BMWs was seemingly inevitable, Tuck moving up fourth place in #42 and Mitchell to fifth, but things were certainly stabilising. Just after the halfway point McKay and Jonck pitted. Jonck said after the race that he had been having brake problems throughout and they elected to change pads before his final stint, so that was a two-minute setback at their pitstop, but not as big as what looked like an engine failure on Hangar Straight right at the end of the race with only six minutes left.
A few minutes later and Albert, Nicoll-Jones and Tuck pitted. The order of the pitters was then #10 (Hutchinson) ahead of #61 (Wood) and #5 (Proctor), #42 (Green), #62 (Moore), #144 (George). The #43 stayed out longer though and Mitchell was running an impressive pace. He stopped several laps later (as did #55) and Schjerpen took over the BMW.
Hutchinson now had a fine lead of around 30 seconds, with 1:10 to go, but Wood in second had Proctor and Green in close attendance. Then it was Moore, Schjerpen and Pointon, until George got a 10-second stop-go penalty for a pit-lane infringement. Closing in on the last hour, Green passed Proctor and Wood to take second.
The #5 was the first of the lead bunch to pit with still an hour to go, so Albert was in to the end. There was drama for the leader, though, the front right was smoking heavily on #10 and the front suspension had collapsed. The team confirmed after the race that they weren’t aware of any contact, but that was the end of an impressive race for Equipe Verschuur.
The BMW #42 was now in the lead, ignoring the #501 that had still only stopped once. It had a lead of 8.5 seconds over Wood, Schjerpen was five seconds further back and Moore a further three seconds seconds back. Pointon was a full 14.1 seconds back at this point. The #501 Balfe McLaren then stopped coming out of Copse with only 48 minutes to go and still having done only one stop. Whatever the long-game strategy was, it was over, the car got going again momentarily but retired after 56 laps.
Both Academy cars stopped with 47 minutes to go and the pad change dropped #61 out of contention. Green then pitted the #42 BMW and when the stops shook out Albert had a 6 second lead over Tuck with Nicoll-Jones only 3 seconds behind him.
Schjerpen kept the #43 BMW out longer again, and he had been doing “close to qualifying laps” throughout his stint, but because he was out of sequence with the others, it was immediately apparent. “I worked really hard in my first stint, the car was brilliant the whole race, the BMW was flying! Even with the tyres going off, I could still push quite hard and as the fuel load came down I was still quick. I didn’t really know where we were though, so it was a total surprise to see we were leading!”
It was a surprise, even for Jack Mitchell, when he jumped in with 34 minutes to go and emerged in the lead of GT4, some five seconds clear of Albert. He was comfortably the quickest in GT4 as well and stretched away to a (then) unchallenged win. “My drive was quite easy, on new tyres and with low fuel I could keep a consistent almost qualifying pace,” he said. “I think with a clear track I could have done my qualifying time, which I wasn’t really expecting. When you think we came up from falling to 16th on the first lap, we just had to keep chipping away and the BMW kept the pace.”
Proctor was also unchallenged to take second. The next three cars faced challenges though, none more so than Tuck who seemed to be struggling for grip with the #42 BMW, Nicoll-Jones getting the move done on at the Loop. Tuck had a go back and there was light contact with a minute and a half to go.
Matthiesen in the #55 HHC Ginetta then passed Tuck to get fourth place on the last lap at the Loop, too; he had obviously watched Nicoll-Jones do exactly the same thing the lap before. He didn’t stop there, either, on the final corner he tried a last-gasp effort, tapping Nicoll-Jones who looked like he was totally out of tyres and just taking the place by less than three tenths of a second, with #42 just a further 0.5 seconds behind.
Charlie Kemp, HHC’s Team Principal, was highly complimentary of his team: “We have got something back on the Balance of Performance, it isn’t everything we need, but the drivers and the team had a faultless race and there were no major strategy decisions, I don’t think anyone thought we would have three hours without a safety car! We did what we could today and both drivers drove an exceptional race. Patrick did a steady job when we needed him to, Calum pushed harder when we asked him to and Patrick did exactly the same at the end. The team also did three faultless fuel and tyre pit stops, so I’m really happy with this result.”