LAM­BORGH­INI CON­QUERS THE SIL­VER­STONE 500

FULL BRI­TISH GT CHAM­PI­ONSHIP RE­PORT

Motor Sport News - - Front Page -

Phil Keen and Jon Min­shaw ig­nited their Bri­tish GT ti­tle chal­lenge by tak­ing vic­tory in a tur­bu­lent Sil­ver­stone 500 in which all of the cham­pi­onship lead­ers hit trou­ble.

The three-hour event fea­tured three safety car pe­ri­ods, a truly bonkers first hour and plenty of talk­ing points. But through it all Min­shaw and Keen kept their heads to score big and se­cure the Bar­well Mo­tor­sport team’s sec­ond vic­tory of the sea­son with the Lam­borgh­ini Hu­ra­can.

In truth it should have been more for Bar­well, had the two sis­ter cars not both been forced into re­tire­ment by avoid­able in­ci­dents, nei­ther of which were Bar­well’s mak­ing.

The Hu­ra­can was a star of the week­end in both the wet on Sun­day and the dry on Satur­day. The fight for pole boiled down to a straight fight be­tween the mid-en­gined Lambo and the sledge­ham­mer front-en­gined Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal of Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Mor­ris.

The Bent­ley fig­ured strongly in the speed traps, but its big­gest strength was mid-cor­ner speed. “It’s all about hand­ing for us,” said Parfitt af­ter top­ping the am­a­teur driver qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion. “We are so good on the brakes and can carry a lot mid-cor­ner, but we lose out to the Lam­bos on cor­ner exit as they have bet­ter trac­tion.”

Mor­ris pipped se­ries re­turnee Alexan­der Sims to the top time in the Pro ses­sion to se­cure the Bent­ley’s third pole of the cam­paign, with Sims and Liam Grif­fin shar­ing the front row, just a tenth be­hind on com­bined times.

But that was as good as it got for the Bent­ley, as Sun­day brought gloom both in terms of the weather and the car’s for­tunes. Parfitt lost con­trol dur­ing the wet morn­ing warm-up and rear-ended the bar­ri­ers, forc­ing a swift re­pair.

The lack of wet run­ning also caught up with Parfitt in the race, which be­gan be­hind the safety car in drenched con­di­tions. Parfitt plunged down the or­der and he ad­mit­ted strug­gling for con­fi­dence in the con­di­tions. He handed over to Mor­ris still in­side the top 10, but when Mor­ris got a sharp snap of over­steer com­ing out of Ain­tree he slewed wide and hit a dip in the turf beyond the exit kerb­ing, spit­ting the Bent­ley into the air and break­ing the front split­ter and ra­di­a­tor. The pole­sit­ters were out.

But they weren’t the only ones to hit trou­ble in a crazy first half of the race. Cham­pi­onship lead­ers Derek John­ston and Jonathan Adam qual­i­fied third and John­ston soon de­posed the grip­less Parfitt to lead. But then he hit a patch of stand­ing wa­ter out of Chapel cor­ner, spun and broad­sided the perime­ter wall, break­ing the TF As­ton’s front-left sus­pen­sion.

All three Bar­well Lam­bos man­aged to stay out of trou­ble due to a clever early strat­egy. All three cars stopped un­der the safety car on lap two to in­stall their pro driv­ers.

It dumped them to the back of the pack, but es­sen­tially gave them one of their manda­tory stops for free, and also had the bonus of keep­ing the cars out of the melee at the front.

The Hu­ra­can’s bal­ance of per­for­mance man­dates a small en­gine re­stric­tor as the car makes up for its lack of grunt through the cor­ners with its high-down­force aero pack­age. Usu­ally that’s a test­ing prospect for am­a­teur driv­ers, but in the wet the lesser power de­liv­ery and greater trac­tion worked nicely.

Sims flew up the or­der when rac­ing did break out, us­ing the greater grip of the Hu­ra­can to sweep past the am­a­teurs in the field and in­her­ited the lead when John­ston limped out, and that’s when the con­fu­sion be­gan.

When one of the V8 Rac­ing Chevro­let Ca­maros shed body­work af­ter an off as the con­di­tions wors­ened the safety car was called, but as it joined it picked up the third place Fer­rari 488 in the hands of Adam Car­roll, not the lead­ing Hu­ra­can.

The safety car then pro­ceeded to lap slowly wav­ing cars past as it at­tempted to pick up Sims, who had un­wit­tingly pit­ted to hand back to Grif­fin just be­fore catch­ing it and fur­ther de­layed the process. Af­ter five chaotic laps, the safety car had its man, with Grif­fin now in the car head­ing the queue.

Mike Simp­son opted for a long sec­ond stint in the works Ginetta G55 GT3 and swiftly snatched the lead at the restart, but that car would fall down the or­der due to it hav­ing to make two late manda­tory stops.

With the Ginetta run­ning out of sync, the fight for the win came down to who used their strat­egy un­der the safety cars best. Bar­well’s chances were thinned when Grif­fin was hit by an er­rant GT4 car at Vale and broke a wish­bone, and Richard Abra suf­fered sus­pen­sion dam­age af­ter his Lambo was hit by the Van­tage GT3 of Mike Brown while en­ter­ing his pit box.

Bar­well’s hopes rested on its sole re­main­ing Hu­ra­can, but its early strat­egy was play­ing out beau­ti­fully. With Keen and Min­shaw hav­ing got­ten two of their manda­tory stops done early, Keen was in­stalled for a long fi­nal stint shortly af­ter Pete Lit­tler crashed his Van­tage and called a third safety car.

It meant that Bar­well com­pleted all three of its stops when rac­ing was neu­tralised, and with Keen in for the fi­nal third of the race with fresh slick tyres as the track dried, the writ­ing was on the wall. When the or­der worked out af­ter the fi­nal stops, Keen was 25 sec­onds up the road and vic­tory was as­sured.

“Go­ing for the early stop was cru­cial, but we knew we had to not get lapped to make it work,” said Min­shaw. “Con­di­tions im­proved af­ter the last safety car, and we called the strat­egy per­fectly. It feels good to be back on the top step.”

The fight for the rest of the podium places was fraught. Ryan Rat­cliffe and Will Moore’s Audi made the most of a long run on wet tyres to steal into sec­ond for the fi­nal restart, but Rat­cliffe had Joe Os­borne’s AMD BMW clos­ing in fast.

Os­borne’s late drive was stu­pen­dous, af­ter the car had lost time with a spin and an un­sched­uled fourth stop af­ter mov­ing to slicks too early.

De­spite that Os­borne nailed the fi­nal stint to slot into sec­ond with a few laps to run. Car­roll’s Fer­rari and Rob Bell’s Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren then de­moted Rat­cliffe to fifth in the fi­nal cor­ners.

The Team Hard Ginetta G55 crew of Robert Barrable and Aaron Ma­son dom­i­nated GT4, win­ning by a minute. Well-timed stops be­hind the safety car and an early move to slicks earned them the size­able lead and a first win.

The Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren of Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell se­cured pole, but fell back af­ter los­ing time be­hind the first safety car and then en­dur­ing a re­cur­rence of an en­gine is­sue.

Min­shaw/keen beat the el­e­ments to claim vic­tory

Bent­ley crew strug­gled in the wet Car­roll and At­tard starred in Fer­rari, but Os­borne was un­stop­pable in Z4

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