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Hitech's double delight on rain-affected Silverstone GB3 weekend

The wet weather meant there were just two GB3 races at Silverstone last weekend but, despite the Hitech wins, it's Rodin's Louis Sharp that still leads the points, while Garage 59's Adam Smalley and Shaun Balfe triumphed in British GT's blue-riband event

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Hitech GP duo Tymek Kucharczyk and Will Macintyre both scored victories on a weekend of challenging weather conditions for the GB3 field at Silverstone. Kucharczyk took a double pole in a damp qualifying and the Polish racer led the opening contest while his team-mate Macintyre lost second at the start to Elite Motorsport’s McKenzy Cresswell.

Kucharczyk pulled out a two-second advantage by the halfway stage and then romped further clear to take a maiden GB3 victory by almost 8s, as Cresswell faded with graining front tyres in the cold temperatures, but still finished 1.5s clear of Macintyre.

“I’ve been waiting for it since last year, there’s no better way than to get my first win by that kind of margin, it proves it was worth the work and sacrificing a lot of things,” said Kucharczyk.

Having passed Hitech’s Gerrard Xie at the start, Rodin Motorsport’s Louis Sharp, who entered the event as championship leader, challenged Macintyre into Copse on lap three but suffered a slow exit. That allowed his team-mate Ugo Ugochukwu to draw alongside and take fourth into Maggotts, but the New Zealander immediately wrestled the position back with the pair almost making contact entering the Hangar Straight.

Xie soon challenged Ugochukwu into Brooklands before completing the overtake two corners later at Woodcote as he came home close behind Sharp in fifth. Elite’s Jarrod Waberski caught and passed James Hedley late on for seventh while John Bennett was pipped to ninth by Formula 3 race winner Martinius Stenshorne, who was making a GB3 cameo for Chris Dittmann Racing to learn the circuit ahead of a return later this year.

Macintyre (l) and Kucharczyk shared Silverstone success

Macintyre (l) and Kucharczyk shared Silverstone success

Photo by: JEP

Persistent heavy rain on Sunday morning led to the second contest being rescheduled until later in the day, when conditions had improved, with all drivers fitting wet tyres on a damp but drying circuit. Kucharczyk and Cresswell were slow away from the front row and lost out to Macintyre and Ugochukwu, who both made good starts from a slightly drier left-hand side of the grid.

Macintyre initially pulled out a 1.5s lead before being caught late on by both Ugochukwu and Kucharczyk, but he held on to take his second GB3 win, with 0.679s separating the top three at the chequered flag. “I was managing the gap and then made a mistake with two laps to go, which enabled them to catch up,” said Macintyre. “[The win] means a lot, it’s boosted my confidence going into the rest of the championship.”

Cresswell finished a further 2.5s behind after resisting an early challenge from Sharp, who initially lost out to Waberski before reclaiming fifth at Village. Waberski held onto sixth despite a thrilling three-wide battle into Brooklands with Bennett and Hedley, the latter sweeping around the outside to grab seventh. Xie finished ninth ahead of Josh Irfan after making a slow start from fourth on the grid.

Sunday’s revised schedule resulted in the partially-reversed grid race being postponed until later in the season, leaving Sharp with a nine-point lead heading into June’s third round at Spa.

Garage 59 springs a surprise in British GT’s Silverstone 500

Silver-Am duo of Smalley and Balfe shone brightest in Silverstone gloom

Silver-Am duo of Smalley and Balfe shone brightest in Silverstone gloom

Photo by: JEP

Garage 59 claimed a shock Silverstone 500 victory as various British GT teams were left ruing what might have been, with costly errors preventing them from winning the three-hour event.

Shaun Balfe and Adam Smalley rose from fourth to take the chequered flag with their McLaren 720S GT3 Evo, just 5.3 seconds ahead of fellow Silver-Am runners Richard and Sam Neary, the father-son pairing having started 15th. Another Silver-Am crew crossed the line third, but Simon Orange and Tom Roche were then given a post-race penalty promoting Chris Buncombe and Jann Mardenborough, on his return to British GT, onto the podium.

“[It was] all a bit of a blur,” said Balfe. “The priority was to be well placed in our category, so it was a real bonus and massive surprise so early in the season to be overall [winners] in GT3.”

Garage 59 initially appeared to have made a strategic error when, unlike others, the team failed to pit Balfe during the safety car start that took place because of the extreme wet conditions.

Balfe claimed the team had to “stick to” the strategy it had planned prior to the race, with 2 Seas also opting to do the same by keeping polesitter Kevin Tse out. When both cars pitted after 21 minutes, Maximilian Gotz, in for Tse, rejoined eighth, with Smalley 15th as their rivals lost less time under the safety car.

The advantage swung to Century Motorsport, as series debutant Dries Vanthoor and reigning champion Darren Leung had moved up the order into third and held the net lead aboard their BMW M4. Ahead, Blackthorn’s Giacomo Petrobelli and Paddock’s Mark Smith were yet to pit but they finally stopped and changed drivers after 80 minutes, when the weather forecast predictions proved wrong.

Instead of drying, rain continued to fall meaning both teams could no longer try and hold out for a switch to slick tyres as they had planned. Both cars dropped out of contention, and Century’s lead M4 proved dominant as Leung led second-placed Rob Collard by 37s approaching the final hour.

But disaster struck when Leung pitted for what should have been the final time and, although everything appeared fine, a radio problem caused Leung to lose communication and he was unaware that Century had underfuelled his car.

Radio woe hampered Leung's bid for a repeat victory

Radio woe hampered Leung's bid for a repeat victory

Photo by: JEP

Back out on track, Leung noticed his fuel hit a critical level and he was forced into an unscheduled pitstop. What looked to be a comfortable victory ended in them dropping out of the points, preventing Leung from becoming the Silverstone 500’s first outright back-to-back winner.

Collard subsequently claimed the lead, but everything changed again with 50 minutes remaining when Mark Radcliffe went wide at Copse before his McLaren spun back into the path of Alex Martin’s Lamborghini – which was victorious at the Oulton Park opener – putting both cars out.

A lengthy recovery under a safety car meant racing resumed with only 27 minutes left, with Garage 59 well placed as Smalley and the second McLaren of Marcus Clutton sat third and fourth. But they held a net 1-2 with both 2 Seas cars ahead still to make a final stop, and the pair went side-by-side at the restart. Their battling suddenly left a gap down the inside of Club, which Mardenborough seized upon to move ahead.

But the Briton’s joy lasted for only three corners, as his RJN McLaren was hit from behind by Clutton, sending him into a spin. The incident allowed Smalley to move back ahead, while Neary Jr was immediately behind after a brilliant safety car restart.

Both drivers knew Clutton would get penalised, though, so offered little defence as the Garage 59 driver claimed the lead before serving a drive-through.

This left a two-way fight between Smalley and Neary Jr, but the Team Abba driver struggled to get within 2s as he claimed the McLaren “was just a lot quicker”. He settled for second in his Mercedes, while Mardenborough’s spin and Clutton’s penalty paved the way for Roche to seemingly claim third. But, post-race, the Orange Racing machine was given a 35s penalty for overtaking under the safety car, dropping it from third to sixth.

RJN therefore claimed third ahead of Clutton/Morgan Tillbrook, while Ricky Collard and father Rob were fifth for Barwell. Petrobelli and Jonathan Adam crossed the line in seventh but were also given a post-race 30s penalty for not closing the door properly during refuelling. The Blackthorn Aston Martin therefore dropped to eighth, with Optimum’s Andrew Gilbert and Fran Rueda being promoted a spot.

John Ferguson/Raffaele Marciello (RAM Racing BMW) and Ian Loggie/Phil Keen (2 Seas) completed the scorers, as Smalley and Balfe now lead the standings ahead of Donington Park in a month’s time.

Artura is Optimum GT4 weapon

Meakin and Brown dominated the GT4 ranks

Meakin and Brown dominated the GT4 ranks

Photo by: JEP

Optimum Motorsport boss Shaun Goff claimed that the “race was ours” after his team dominated from pole to take GT4 victory at last weekend’s Silverstone 500.

Jack Brown and Zac Meakin finished a staggering 1m40s clear of runners-up Jamie Day and Mikey Porter having impressed all weekend aboard their McLaren Artura GT4. Mahiki Racing’s Ian Duggan and Gordie Mutch trailed the Forsetti Aston Martin Vantage by just 3.2s to give Lotus its first podium since returning to British GT this year.

“We came here with a great car and the drivers have done a fantastic job,” said Goff. “We as a team have executed wins in this race multiple times, so we enjoy the three-hour races, which sort of separate the men from the boys.”

The team didn’t endure a brilliant start, though, as Meakin dropped to fourth within five minutes of green flag running following a safety car start due to the wet conditions. But, with the pace of the McLaren, it was not a problem for long as Meakin quickly reclaimed third from Paddock Motorsport’s Blake Angliss.

An incident further back then caused a full-course yellow after 21 minutes when contact with a Century Motorsport BMW GT3 caused Harry George to spin into the gravel at the chicane. The battle for first suddenly took a turn as the Team CMR Ginetta G56 Evo was given a drive-through penalty after Freddie Tomlinson was caught speeding under the yellow flag.

There was a first podium for Lotus since the brand's British GT return

There was a first podium for Lotus since the brand's British GT return

Photo by: JEP

Tomlinson and team-mate Stuart Middleton therefore lost a chance of victory with Porter assuming control of the race, but Optimum’s pace was palpable as Meakin overtook the Forsetti driver in the second hour. The McLaren gradually increased its gap until the late safety car, where a fortunately timed pitstop put Optimum a lap above the rest of the GT4 pack within the last hour.

“It was very fortunate,” added Goff. “But the race was very strong for us and sometimes you lose out on those safety car situations. This time we lucked in quite a bit but take nothing away from the team and drivers.”

Forsetti was left to take a comfortable second and, with it, the lead in the drivers’ standings. Behind, Mahiki completed its late podium charge with seven minutes left, after Mutch overtook championship contender Seb Morris’s Team Parker Mercedes around the outside of Stowe.

Morris later said he provided little defence because he “was just so happy to have the car in one piece” and bag the points for fourth alongside Charles Dawson. The second Forsetti machine of Marc Warren and William Orton finished fifth as Academy Motorsport’s Ford Mustang of Marco Signoretti and reigning GT4 champion Erik Evans completed the top six.

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Morris was happy to bag points in fourth, although Forsetti crew now leads the GT4 standings

Morris was happy to bag points in fourth, although Forsetti crew now leads the GT4 standings

Photo by: JEP

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