Newbridge Motorsport’s Matt Topham, partnered by Aston Martin factory driver Darren Turner, enjoyed a dream Sunday after emerging worthy winners at the top of a four-way fight for overall GT4 honours (we mean, seriously, who doesn’t think a car with skulls on shouldn’t be at the top of the podium?).
Indeed, this year’s Silverstone 500 provided an intriguing GT4 battle featuring several different strategies. As such, the true picture only really emerged in the final few laps.
Having qualified an impressive fourth for their championship debut together, Topham and Turner gave themselves a strong platform to build on for the race, but their Aston Martin still had to overcome stout challenges from BMW, Toyota and Audi.
Steller Motorsport’s Richard Williams initially stole a march by leading the opening half-hour from pole to build a 2.5s cushion before stopping early to relay Fielding. In doing so, the Audi ran under the radar for much of the race by handing its rivals early ground in the hope of being faster during the final stint. And it very nearly worked out.
That decision also elevated Brands Hatch winners Will Burns and Gus Burton to the class lead, which is where they stayed for the bulk of the race. However, there was the small matter of their 20s Success Penalty from Brands to serve during their final pit visit, plus the extra time each Silver Cup entry must spend in the pits to equalise them with the Pro-Am crews.
These two factors pushed both of Century’s entries into two very long opening stints, in the hope of either pulling out a gap large enough to negate their penalties or by capitalising on any Safety Car interruption. Unluckily for them, none was forthcoming.
The other factor was the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Supra of John Ferguson and Scott McKenna. Ferguson endured a difficult opening stint, dropping back from his second-place starting slot to run inside the top-six before relaying to McKenna, whose superb second stint brought the Supra back into contention to add even more excitement into what was fast becoming a breathless final hour.
And then there was Newbridge. A strong opening stint from Topham allowed him to hand the Vantage across to factory driver Turner, who hunted down Burton’s BMW mid-race to pass for the lead, giving a clue of what was to come at the end.
Regardless, Century stuck to its long-running strategy and saved its final two pitstops for the last half-hour run-in. But, with no Safety Car in sight, even an advantage of a full lap couldn’t save them, and Burns and Burton could only watch from the pits as Turner sped by to assume the lead in the closing minutes.
But even then the drama wasn’t over. Williams and Fielding had done a superb stealth job with their early-stop strategy to ghost up the order, and Fielding ran just two seconds behind Turner in the final laps. The threat was there to punish even the tiniest mistake, but Turner called on all his experience to stay ahead to the flag and seal the fifth class win for a Pro-Am crew at the 500 in the last six years. Steller’s Audi had to be content with Silver Cup honours.
Strong second stints from both Ferguson and McKenna also helped the Toyota vault past Century’s #57 BMW to secure the final podium spot, as Burns and Burton were left to comfort themselves with the points for fourth place and an increased championship advantage.
Mark Sansom and Charlie Robertson drove superbly across the second half of the race to take fifth, a fine recovery following an early penalty for a pitstop infringement. Chris Salkeld/Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke were sixth in the second century BMW, with Gordon-Colebrooke pulling off a neat around-the-outside pass on Will Moore/Matt Cowley’s Academy Motorsport Mustang to steal the place late on.
Michael Benyahia and Alain Valente completed the top-eight in their Team Rocket RJN McLaren. The car made a blistering start to the race, with Benyahia making up five places on the first lap to run third early on.