Pirelli will again be at the forefront of one of the most popular and iconic motorsport events of the GT racing calendar this weekend for the 10th running of the three-hour Silverstone 500, the blue ribband meeting of the British GT Championship.
Using the full Grand Prix layout, this weekend’s second round of the 2021 season will be a true test of endurance for not only the teams and drivers, but also for the Pirelli tyres, which will be pushed to their maximum performance.
Although an endurance race in terms of duration, the race will demand an element of sprint performance from the tyres, with three driver-change pit-stops mandated for the Silverstone 500. This means that the drivers will in effect be conducting three sprint races within a wider endurance race, such is the level of competition throughout the field. There will be no designated pit windows either, so the teams are left on their own as far as strategy goes.
Even in summer, the Northamptonshire weather has thrown up some inclement conditions over the years and rain is not uncommon at this time of year. As well as the weather, the endurance element of the Silverstone 500 will also present a number of variables, placing higher importance of building and maintain tyre temperature throughout the race.
In terms of the track itself, Silverstone is very much a high-speed circuit, with the long radius corners of Copse and Stowe putting the tyres to work, while the heavy braking zones of Club, Village and Brooklands are key overtaking spots.
After making his debut last year, the GT3 competitors will again use Pirelli’s P Zero DHE tyre: an evolution of the previous DHD2, with modifications designed to make it even more versatile for the wide variety of GT3 cars and drivers that use it.
The P Zero DHB will again equip the GT4 class cars this year, having replaced the outgoing DH at the start of 2020.
The Cinturato WH tyres remain in place for wet weather. All the tyres have been designed to work with a variety of car set-ups and drivers, delivering maximum performance 100% of the time.
There are 19 entries for this weekend, with the usual suspects again expected to be in the mix. Following the opening weekend at Brands Hatch, WPI Motorsport Lamborghini duo Phil Keen and Michael Igoe lead the standings on 37.5 points, nine-and-a-half clear of the Beechdean Aston Martin pairing of Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard. Barwell Motorsport’s Dennis Lind and Leo Machitski and Ram Racing’s Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie are not too far behind either and should be in contention this weekend.
Silverstone will also be the first weekend of the year where success penalties come into force during the pit-stops, which may have an impact on the strategic battle in the race. That said, with a three-hour race, the ultimate effect may be marginal and, as last year’s race demonstrated, anything can happen.
Century Motorsport was the top performer at Brands Hatch, and will no doubt be in the mix again at Silverstone, but they too will have to serve a success penalty at their pit-stops. There are 13 GT4 entries this weekend, with Will Burns and Gus Burton leading the standings from Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke. Academy Motorsport may be the team to look out for in the race and each of their cars will be running handicap-free for the three-hour encounter, as will the Steller Motorsport Audi Sennan Fielding and Richard Williams.
Another partnership which could be in contention for victory is the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Matt Topham and experienced team-mate Darren Turner.
Jonathan Wells, Pirelli UK motorsport manager: “Silverstone is the most aggressive circuit on this year’s calendar, with extreme levels of lateral demand on the tyres and high top-speeds. With the three-hour format, stint lengths tend to be shorter than a two-hour race format due to the minimum number of pitstops required: three stops minimum. This means the format does help to manage the cumulative stress levels the tyres endure in each stint. It’s likely that weather will play a big part in the race, which means that making the correct tyre choice at the right time will be critical to maximise the race result. The wear rate is also the highest we would expect to see all year on both slicks and wet tyre variants. The front-left tyre takes a real beating through Copse, Maggots, Becketts, Stowe, Club, Abbey, Luffield and Woodcote, so protecting the left-hand side tyres will make a big difference in maintaining tyre performance over a stint.”
2021 British GT Championship Calendar
Round 1: Brands Hatch GP, 22-23 May
Round 2: Silverstone 500, 26-27 June
Round 3: Donington Park GP, 10-11 July
Round 4: Spa-Francorchamps, 24-25 July
Round 5: Snetterton 300, 7-8 August
Round 6: Oulton Park, 11-12 September
Round 7: Donington Park GP, 16-17 October