F1 champion Button to race in British GT at Silverstone

One-time Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button will make a one-off British GT appearance in the championship's final round at Silverstone next month

F1 champion Button to race in British GT at Silverstone

The 2009 champion and 15-times grand prix winner will drive a McLaren 720S GT3 entered by the Jenson Team Rocket RJN outfit he co-owns with RJN boss Bob Neville and lifelong friend Chris Buncombe, who will share the car with GT3 rookie Button.

Since concluding his F1 career with McLaren at the 2017 Monaco GP, Button has mostly raced in the Japanese Super GT championship, winning the title in 2018, and made a DTM cameo in last year's Hockenheim finale in a Honda NSX.

The three-hour Silverstone 500, which will be held behind closed doors, will be his first race on home soil since the 2018 World Endurance Championship round at the same track in an SMP Racing LMP1 car.

"This will be my first taste of a GT3 car but I'm really looking forward it," he said.

"It will be lovely to join our team and lining-up in the McLaren 720S with my best buddy Chris Buncombe.

"It's great to come back and race on UK soil again and a big thank you to our partners that have made this possible."

Bronze-graded Buncombe, a Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 class winner in 2007, told Autosport that the race "was [Button's] idea first and foremost" and the culmination of years of discussion about contesting an endurance race together.

"This was the first opportunity of getting on-track and sharing a car together," explained Buncombe, who has previously contested off-road races with Button in the US. "He doesn't have any more grand prix commitments for TV this year, so it fitted on a weekend where he wasn't committed, it worked out well."

The pair will test at Silverstone later this month and Buncombe said both would be taking the outing seriously, but stressed a full season in British GT next year is not on the cards.

"We're purely seeing it as a one-off appearance," he said. "We're both coming at it fairly green but with the same aspect in as far as if we want to do anything, we do the best job we can."

Buncombe added that the team plans to return to Europe next season, having switched its planned GT World Challenge Europe entry for a British GT campaign when the pandemic hit, with an appearance in the Spa 24 Hours "still on the radar as one we'd like to do".

"Being back at Spa next year as a team is absolutely our plan," he said.

"If that worked with Jenson's schedule, I know he definitely has appetite to do the race, I have appetite to go back there and I love that race, so yes if it worked out that is possible.

"It will also depend on what racing commitments he has next year so we'll wait and see."

Autosport says...

Even before the announcement that a box office F1 world champion would be in the field for British GT's three-hour season finale, there was already plenty of anticipation surrounding it.

A topsy-turvy season that has produced seven different winners from eight rounds means there's everything still to play for, while several car combinations that dropped out of the full season due to the pandemic can be expected to make guest appearances.

But adding Button to the mix will provide another intriguing subplot and surely draw more eyeballs to an event that sadly will be held without fans in attendance.

In this strangest of years, Button's race outings have been limited to the virtual arena in 2020, but at the age of 40 still has a passion for competition. And at a circuit where he famously had little luck in his F1 career - with just three fourth places to show from 17 British Grand Prix starts - Button will be eager to show well.

In Buncombe, he'll have an experienced and capable Bronze to share the car with, while there can be few doubts about his Jenson Team Rocket RJN squad, which has enjoyed a strong return to the championship with James Baldwin and Michael O'Brien winning the Oulton Park season opener and claiming a three further pole positions.

But even in a national racing championship against drivers with significantly less bulky CVs, he can take nothing for granted. The new-for-2020 Pirellis have proven to be difficult to get into an operating window and in November, what the weather will do is anybody's guess...

shares
comments
Barcelona GTWCE: Vanthoor and Weerts secure Sprint Cup title

Previous article

Barcelona GTWCE: Vanthoor and Weerts secure Sprint Cup title

Next article

British GT announces revamped class structure for 2021

British GT announces revamped class structure for 2021
Load comments

About this article

Series GT
Author James Newbold
How McLaren’s GT3 ‘single-seater’ defies expectations Plus

How McLaren’s GT3 ‘single-seater’ defies expectations

Time in a thoroughbred racer leaves you searching for time in yourself, especially when the rewards for total commitment are so high, as our man discovered at Snetterton

GT
Apr 28, 2021
How Ferrari's F1 protege became a Mercedes GT prodigy Plus

How Ferrari's F1 protege became a Mercedes GT prodigy

Raffaele Marciello once appeared to be Ferrari’s next Italian F1 star, but is now under the pay of its German arch-rival in GTs – and he’s very happy with his life

GT
Apr 8, 2021
Why GTE's future is a conundrum with no easy answers Plus

Why GTE's future is a conundrum with no easy answers

The convergence between the World Endurance Championship and IMSA over LMDh regulations offers a bright future for sportscar racing, but the imminent demise of IMSA's GT Le Mans class creates wider issues to which no catch-all solution exists

GT
Feb 3, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Plus

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it

GT
Jan 23, 2021
Why a lost F1 hope is still in demand aged 65 Plus

Why a lost F1 hope is still in demand aged 65

There's a saying among retired folk that life begins at 60, but endurance specialist Alain Ferte has never used the 'R' word. Some 40 years since his crowning glory in F3, he's still a driver in demand and gunning for more 24-hour racing success this weekend

GT
Jan 15, 2021
How a BTCC veteran conquered the summit in British GT Plus

How a BTCC veteran conquered the summit in British GT

After two decades in touring cars, Rob Collard had an uphill battle to unlearn the tools needed to be quick in tin-tops and understand how to hustle a GT3 car. But he did so with aplomb to prevail alongside Sandy Mitchell amid a challenging year for the series

GT
Dec 17, 2020
The high-power solution to counter a dying breed Plus

The high-power solution to counter a dying breed

SRO boss Stephane Ratel was worried about the disappearance of the amateur - or 'gentleman' - drivers who used to be the bedrock of GT3. So he invented a new category that brings back a familiar name from the past

GT
Dec 6, 2020
The Dutch oddity that was too niche for its own good Plus

The Dutch oddity that was too niche for its own good

Despite (briefly) having its own F1 arm, Spyker's period in international sportscar racing was spent mostly propping up the grid. Its C8 Laviolette GT2-R stands as one of the last underfunded factory GT efforts that never got a helping hand from BOP

GT
May 21, 2020