Video: Century BMW duo reign supreme in British GT Silverstone 500
Despite starting 18th after qualifying was cancelled due to heavy rain, Dan Harper and Darren Leung stormed to victory on British GT's visit to Silverstone. Further action was provided by GB3, while British F4 and the Porsche Carrera Cup raced at Brands Hatch
Century Motorsport’s Dan Harper and Darren Leung were crowned British GT winners at the Silverstone 500 after a meteoric recovery drive from 18th.
On the weekend Britain crowned a new king, a 43-car grid was British GT’s largest in a decade, although stereotypical British weather left qualifying a deluge. Four incidents and a brace of red flags later, the sessions were abandoned with combined times from second free practice making up Sunday’s grid.
One of the biggest losers was therefore Century Motorsport as teething troubles in FP2 left its BMW M4 pairing in an unrepresentative position on the grid. “We had a few issues,” said Harper, “but it was bad luck how it went. Even in warm-up we had a misfire and were wondering when we were going to catch a break.”
The beneficiaries, meanwhile, were father-and-son duo Richard and Sam Neary, their Abba Racing-run machine leading a Mercedes washout of the front two rows with RAM Racing and 2 Seas in tow.
“I think Peter [Daly, race director] made the right call with four crashes,” said Sam Neary. “With big tyres, too much horsepower, I think it was the safer decision.”
Under Sunday’s bright blue skies, things looked promising for the German machines, but a series of dramas hindered their charge. The issues started as early as the sighting lap to the grid, when RAM Racing’s John Ferguson was released into the fastlane in the pits where he made contact with another car. Tape applied, the Irishman’s Mercedes took its front-row start but was shuffled back to sixth in the opening laps, its pace seemingly hobbled.
“The car seems to be difficult to drive,” were Ferguson’s ominous words after his first stint. “It’s damage limitation. I was released out into another car, and there was a collision.”
The Abba challenge then wilted over the stints, despite a strong opener by Richard Neary, as 2 Seas’ lead entry moved to the front with Jonny Adam, in for James Cottingham, after a quicker first pitstop under safety car conditions. The sister 2 Seas Mercedes suffered a setback on its first visit to the pits, however, as Ian Loggie dropped out of the top 10 when the car was forced out of its correct box position. Haemorrhaging time while stationary, reigning champion Loggie and co-driver Jules Gounon never fully recovered as they eventually salvaged seventh place.
James Cottingham/Jonny Adam led but dropped back after serving a penalty
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey
While Mercedes’ challengers were falling away, BMW suddenly emerged towards the front thanks to a calculated and determined display by Leung and the flying Harper. Am driver Leung showed no mercy with his initial stint as he clawed back positions with eight overtakes prior to the driver change, handing the keys to Harper – who proved to be in inspired form.
A series of expertly judged moves by the BMW factory driver quickly put him ahead of entries from RAM, 2 Seas and Enduro Motorsport, including three cutbacks exiting Luffield that harked back to his Ginetta Junior days, which he admitted had helped him in “perfecting” the move.
The last two examples would be on Adam and race leader Sandy Mitchell’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan, the latter dramatically for the lead with just 11 minutes remaining on the clock.
Harper had sold Mitchell a dummy down the Wellington Straight, diving to the inside into Brooklands before getting the switchback into Luffield. Harper praised his co-driver, saying: “Darren did amazing, he has done since I’ve been driving with him and, every time, he’s developing himself and it’s great to be a part of it.”
An early final stop had allowed Mitchell and Shaun Balfe to move to the front of the field before losing the win in the final stages. Mitchell said: “Me and Dan have known each other well; we’ve come through the [BRDC] SuperStars programme together, so I knew it would be a clean fight. They just had a lot more pace than us on the straights today.”
The final spot on the podium went to the quiet assassins of the race, Optimum Motorsport, with Mark Radcliffe and Rob Bell (McLaren 720S) moving onto the rostrum through the final pitstop phase ahead of Beechdean Motorsport’s Aston Martin driven by Andrew Howard/Ross Gunn, while Raffaele Marciello salvaged fifth for himself and Ferguson.
Sixth for Barwell’s second Huracan gave Will Tregurtha and Mark Sansom Silver-Am honours, while Ben Barnicoat’s incredible charge to the front of the field in the second stint would be of little value, the Inception Racing McLaren penalised and dropping to 10th for exceeding driver stint time.
The Cottingham/Adam 2 Seas Mercedes fell back to 11th after a stop/go penalty, earned when the former sideswiped a GT4 Aston at Village. Simon Orange, meanwhile, escaped a huge shunt unharmed after encountering the Team Brit McLaren of Aaron Morgan broadside across the circuit at Becketts, with Morgan disqualified.
Optimum strategy hands Brown and Clark GT4 victory
Jack Brown and Charles Clark took their first British GT4 win at Silverstone
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey
Jack Brown and Charles Clark sealed their first GT4 class win in commanding fashion after the pair played the strategy game to perfection and avoided the pitfalls that befell their frontrunning rivals.
Starting the Optimum Motorsport McLaren Artura from the outside of the front row, a better first lap for Clark propelled him into the lead ahead of polesitter Zac Meakin in the Team Parker Racing Porsche.
Electing to pit under the first safety car dropped him to third but in a prime position to inherit the lead when Stuart Middleton and Harry George eventually took their first stops, having been the only two in class not to take advantage of the early caution. While George slipped down the order in the Enduro McLaren, which had a new engine and gearbox after a spectacular failure in the opening practice session, the battle came down to Brown/Clark and Raceway team-mates Middleton and Freddie Tomlinson.
The latter pairing maintained a constant challenge in their Ginetta G56, but their alternate strategy unravelled towards the end of the second hour. With the safety car on track, Tomlinson pitted from the class lead and handed over to Middleton, who drove straight through the red light at pit exit.
Confusion reigned as the team was handed a 131-second stop/go penalty, which was then suspended pending post-race investigation, before being reinstated. It ultimately wasn’t served, with the #56 black-flagged in the closing minutes to give Clark and Brown a maiden victory.
The disqualification also handed the unlikeliest of podiums to One Motorsport’s Michael Broadhurst and Ed McDermott. The latter was shoved into a spin running through Club on the opening lap, which dropped the Mercedes to back of the field. With McDermott told to ‘keep his head down and focus on catching cars in front’ by his engineer, the pair gradually climbed the order and benefited massively from the final caution period to finish third – which became second after the flag.
Broadhurst said: “The race seemed to unfold in a really weird way with the safety cars; I thought we would have been a bit screwed over by the last one but somehow we seem to have been gifted a good result off of it.”
Academy Motorsport rounded out the podium in an eventful race for Ford Mustang duo Matt Cowley and Erik Evans – the latter escaping a gravel trap on the run to third.
Penalties gift Loake double GB3 success
Joseph Loake took two wins despite not finishing first on the road in either race
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey
Joseph Loake extended his GB3 Championship lead during a chaotic weekend at Silverstone dominated by penalties.
The JHR Developments driver picked up two more victories to add to his opening Oulton Park triumph last month, but only after Rodin Carlin’s John Bennett had his first two single-seater wins taken away by officials.
Tymek Kucharczyk had looked a likely victory contender at the beginning of the weekend, having taken a double pole in a wet qualifying. But the Polish ace had his times disallowed minutes before the opening contest as he was excluded from qualifying – along with Douglas Motorsport team-mate Lucas Staico – after tape on his car’s halo was deemed to not be compliant with the regulations.
Bennett was promoted to pole for both races, and he initially converted the first into victory in treacherous conditions. Loake made a great launch from fourth to lead into Copse, with Bennett wrestling back the advantage on the exit before inching clear and eventually winning by 0.9 seconds.
But he was later demoted to second after officials deemed that he had left the track while retaking the lead from Loake at the start. Loake’s JHR team-mate Matthew Rees finished third, while Hitech GP’s Alex Dunne took fourth.
Bennett was beaten into Copse again in a dry race two but only after Rees jumped the start from fifth as he pulled out an impressive lead in damp conditions. Dunne tried to take second into Brooklands, but was spun into retirement after Bennett slid into him on the inside line. Rees’s quest to overcome a 10s penalty for his jumped start was hampered by the safety car, which was deployed for a separate incident involving David Morales and Souta Arao, who rolled his Hitech machine at Stowe.
John Bennett lost out on maiden GB3 victory twice due to time penalties
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey
Rees pulled clear again at the resumption, but not by enough and was demoted to seventh at the chequered flag. Bennett initially took the win by 0.5s ahead of Loake, who stormed from 10th to second, the highlight of his recovery being a spectacular double overtake around the outside of McKenzy Cresswell and Costa Toparis.
Loake again inherited victory, though, after Bennett was handed a three-place penalty for the collision with Dunne. Cresswell was classified second after passing Rodin Carlin’s Callum Voisin late on through Maggotts and Becketts, while Kucharczyk gained 14 places to finish ninth.
Noah Ping led an Arden VRD 1-2 in the reversed-grid race. Elite Motorsport’s Ayato Iwasaki led initially before being passed by Ping into Brooklands, who controlled the remainder of the 12-lap contest.
Voisin, meanwhile, climbed from 12th to pass Iwasaki’s team-mate Oliver Stewart for second late on, but both lost their podium finishes at the chequered flag due to 5s track-limits penalties, promoting Nico Christodoulou to second and Arthur Rogeon to third.
Dunne and Kucharczyk came through the field into the top 10, while Bennett made up places to finish 11th. Loake lost his front wing during a frenetic opening lap battle on Hangar Straight and finished 20th but leads the standings.
New names star in British F4
Kanato Le mastered the rain to claim victory in the opener
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey
There was no disputing that Louis Sharp was the standout star of British Formula 4 at Donington Park. But plenty of his rivals were vying for that tag at Brands Hatch as the Rodin Carlin driver was on the back foot after struggling in the tricky wet qualifying and being sent crashing out of the opener.
There was Fortec’s James Higgins, who grabbed an impressive double pole and claimed a maiden win with a lights-to-flag lead of race three. Then there was Kanato Le, the Hitech racer who profited from Higgins’ slow start to race one and Daniel Guinchard’s Surtees slide to take the opening spoils.
Another contender was JHR Developments’ Deagen Fairclough. He rocketed up 15 places on the first lap of race one – even if his progress was aided by him incorrectly taking up his 19th-place grid position after dropping to the back on the green-flag lap. He then stormed to race two glory on the road before being penalised for an aggressive Druids lunge on Aiden Neate.
And the final member of the leading quartet was Dion Gowda. Overshadowed by his Rodin Carlin team-mates at Donington, he took his first win in race two having repelled Will Macintyre. But, for all their impressive performances, it was Sharp who extended his points advantage, despite ‘only’ picking up a pair of fourth places.
Penalty denies de Haan a double in Porsche Carrera Cup
Richardson racer Robert de Haan again demonstrated his pace
Photo by: Jakob Ebrey
Robert de Haan continued his sensational 2023 Porsche performances into Brands Hatch but was denied a double when he was penalised for passing Charles Rainford as safety car boards were being displayed.
De Haan quickly banished the disappointment of being pipped to pole by one thousandth of a second by James Kellett as he grabbed an early lead when Kellett faltered off the line. Things went from bad to worse for Kellett as he then tipped Century team-mate Gus Burton into the Paddock Hill Bend tyres. Upon the safety car restart, de Haan charged to a processional 5s win from Adam Smalley and Rainford.
There was no startline trouble for Kellett second time around from the partially reversed-grid pole. But, as SC boards appeared for David Fairbrother’s stranded Porsche, de Haan rounded the outside of Smalley at Druids and dived ahead of Rainford at Graham Hill Bend.
Shortly after the resumption, he powered past Kellett – who did not fight de Haan, knowing his rival was likely to be penalised – exiting Clearways and won by 7s. “I was busy doing a move on Smalley and got on the grass,” said the Dutchman in his defence. “When I came back on the track, I was already alongside Charles.” But officials were unimpressed and he was demoted to third.
Reports by Dan Mason, Joe Hudson, Steve Whitfield and Stephen Lickorish. Photography by Jakob Ebrey Photography/Motorsport Images.
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