The Intelligent Money British GT Championship rolls into Silverstone for the final round of 2020 this weekend.
Silverstone hasn’t hosted the final race of the season since 2011. There are still four GT3 outfits in with a shot of the title, with five still in the hunt in GT4.
Michael Callander recaps the season so far, and looks ahead to the season-ending Silverstone 500.
The season so far
It’s been an intriguing season, not least due to the delayed start and condensed calendar. We’ve only seen one outfit win two races in GT3, namely the #72 Barwell Lamborghini of Phil Keen and Adam Balon, who occupy second in the championship.
The #95 TF Sport Aston Martin of Connor O’Brien and Patrick Kibble picked up wins at Oulton Park and on the Championship’s first visit to Donington Park in August; they sit third in the GT4 standings, 13 points behind Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan and 10.5 behind Jordan Collard and Patrick Matthiesen.
Patrick Kujala and 2019 runner-up Sam de Haan lead the GT3 standings for RAM Racing in the #69 RAM Racing Mercedes, just six points ahead of the #78 Barwell Lamborghini of Sandy Mitchell and Rob Collard.
Former BTCC stalwart Collard has taken to British GT like a duck to water, featuring with Mitchell in the #77 Barwell car in GT World Challenge Europe at the Nurburgring in September. Kujala was behind the wheel of the sister Barwell Lamborghini in Germany.
The #97 TF Sport outfit of Caroline andVaughan leads the way in GT4 heading into the final round, only 2.5 points ahead of Collard and Matthiesen in the #58 HHC McLaren.
Last time out at Snetterton 300, Jordan Witt & Jack Mitchell won Race 1 for GT3 outfit 2 Seas Motorsport, with championship leaders Vaughan and Caroline coming home first in GT4 in the #97 TF Sport Aston.
Barwell Motorsport’s #72 Lamborghini won Race 1 at Oulton Park and Race 2 at Snetterton, becoming GT3’s only double-race winners to date this season in the process. In GT4, the #58 McLaren 570S of Collard and Matthiesen took the flag by 10 seconds from Race 1 winners Caroline and Vaughan.
Jenson Team Rocket RJN
2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button will partake in his first British GT event this weekend, partnering Jenson Team Rocket RJN co-owner Chris Buncombe in the #3 car, and racing alongside Oulton Park Race 1 winner, and World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin, and Michael O’Brien.
Button took 15 wins and 50 podiums in F1, representing Williams, Benetton, Renault, BAR, Honda, Brawn (for whom he won his 2009 World Championship) and McLaren. Since retiring in 2017, Button has contested the Super GT series in Japan, debuting in the 2017 Suzuka 1000km for Team Mugen in their NSX-GT.
The 2009 World Champion made 4 starts in the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship for SMP Racing, finishing third in the 2018 6 Hours of Shanghai, partnering Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov.
Speaking of Jenson Team Rocket RJN, much has been made of World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin‘s acclimatisation to British GT this season, especially with a spotlight on several Esports events over the summer involving some of the world’s most high-profile drivers.
Having dropped out of karting at 16 due to a lack of funds, Baldwin, now 23, has competed in British Formula Ford 1600 and the 2018 Race of Champions, won the 2018 e-Race of Champions, finished 4th for Team GB in the FIA Motorsport Games in 2019 and won the second season of McLaren’s World’s Fastest Gamer competition in 2019.
A six-race contract with Jenson Team Rocket RJN in British GT followed, and the rest, as they say, is history. A win for Baldwin and teammate Michael O’Brien in their first race together at Oulton Park made the racing world sit up and take notice.
The #2 McLaren 720S has helped the team to fourth in the GT3 standings going into the season finale. One might question their consistency looking at the points on paper, but Race 1 pole at Donington in August, second place at Brands Hatch and third in British GT’s second visit to Donington in September is nothing to be sniffed at.
A few of this weekend’s new additions
There’s been a fair bit of chopping and changing in GT3 and GT4 lineups for the final race weekend of the season, resulting in a 38-car grid on Sunday.
We’re being treated to three new GT3 McLarens on the grid this weekend, two for Optimum Motorsport and one for Two Seas Motorsport. Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy join Optimum from their GT Open outfit, and Mark Crader and Alex Mortimer come in from Le Mans Cup. Ollie Wilkinson and Lewis Proctor continue in the #69 McLaren.
A note on McLaren: The British manufacturer will also set a new GT3 record for the most single-model entrants if all nine 720S’ start the race. Eight Aston Martin Vantages raced at Silverstone in 2014.
Two Seas Motorsport welcome two-time Porsche GT3 Middle East champion, and former BRDC British F4 and F3 driver Al Faisal al Zubair, and Martin Kodric, who won the 2018 GT World Challenge Asia for Lamborghini.
Race 1 winners in August’s trip to Donington, Scott Malvern and Nick Jones, have swapped their Bentley Continental GT3 for a Mercedes-AMG GT4 for the season finale this weekend.
Meanwhile, four-time British GT champion Jonny Adam joins Alex West at Garage 59, who make their championship debut this weekend. The pair are GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup Pro-Am leaders (and breathe), and Adam has already contested a British GT round this season for Beechdean AMR at Brands Hatch.
Porsche Sprint Challenge GB competitors James Dorlin and Alex Toth-Jones will be back in British GT with MSL Powered by Newbridge Motorsport for the final round, having competed in the premier class last season for Tolman and Academy Motorsport respectively.
Shaun Balfe & Rob Bell rejoin the GT3 field for Silverstone’s season finale. We were originally going to see four Balfe Motorsport cars in the field this weekend, but Jan Klingelnberg and Warren Hughes have fallen foul of COVID-enforced travel restrictions and won’t be able to make it to Silverstone.
The team withdrew from running the full calendar this season to focus on its customer racing base, but will hope to mix things up in the final weekend of the season.
Finally, 2019 GT4 champion, 18-year-old Tom Canning and Giacomo Petrobelli share a TF Sport GT3 Aston Martin Vantage. Canning expected to start the season in GT3 before COVID led to restructuring throughout the paddock, while Petrobelli hasn’t raced in GT competition for six years. He most recently turned out in a Ferrari 458 in the Blancpain Endurance Series (now GT World Challenge Europe).
Provisionally, we’re looking at a seven-event 2021 calendar.
Next season will start with two hour-long races at Oulton Park, before moving to Norfolk for the same schedule at Snetterton 300.
It’s then the turn of Brands Hatch to host a single two-hour race, before the three-hour Silverstone 500 as Round 6.
Donington Park will host two hour-long races for Round 7, before British GT is earmarked to return to the Ardennes forest, and the iconic Spa-Francorchamps, for a two-hour race making up Round 8.
After a proposed August off, the 2021 season is set to end in Leicestershire, with a final two-hour race back at Donington Park in September.
Fans can watch Sunday’s three-hour race live on British GT’s Facebook page and website, and the GTWorld YouTube channel. Sky Sports F1 is also covering the race live.
Featured image credit: Barwell Motorsport (barwellmotorsport.co.uk)