On the day Lewis Hamilton lost a near-certain victory at the Monaco Grand Prix due to a poor strategy call from Mercedes, Von Ryan Racing them how it should be done as Rob Bell, Shane van Gisbergen and Kevin Estre delivered McLaren a first win for their new 650S at Silverstone.
After Bell jumped from fourth to second on the first lap, Von Ryan Racing made full use of a Full-Course Yellow just before the hour-mark to recover Fabien Barthez’s stricken Ferrari and called their man in early, giving van Gisbergen a commanding lead once the leaders pitted on the hour. However, they were helped by delays for main rivals Wolfgang Reip, Katsumasa Chiyo and Alex Buncombe in the pole-sitting No.23 Nissan, which collided with a backmarker at the Loop and then lost time in the pits. It would drop them way out of contention, eventually finishing out of the points in 13th.
After a terrific fuel-saving stint from Van Gisbergen – making his first visit to Silverstone – Estre was left with the simplest of tasks to bring the car home, 23 seconds clear of the no. 1 WRT Audi of Jean-Karl Vernay, Robin Frijns and Laurens Vanthoor. The result put an end to the Belgian’s hopes of a third win in as many weekends after sweeping the Blancpain Sprint Series in Brands Hatch and Nurburgring 24 Hours.
“This was my first time in the car when I have not been asked to push,” Estre said afterwards. “It was very strange, as people who drive with me know, it is not my way!”
The No. 75 ISR crew were able to take full advantage of another FCY following contact between Andy Soucek’s Bentley and Alvaro Parente’s McLaren – which brought an abrupt end to the Nicolas Lapierre-led charge up from 33rd on the grid – but a five second penalty for inffringing track limits demoted Marco Bonanomi, Filip Salaquarda and Frederic Vervisch to fourth behind the No. 3 WRT Audi of Stephane Ortelli, Frank Stippler and Stephane Richelmi.
“It was a very interesting race and Team WRT didn’t put a foot wrong,” said Ortelli. “To get two cars on the podium is great; it’s not a win, but it’s a very good result considering we were fighting for P10 at one point.”
After running for most of the race on the fringes of the top ten, the No. 73 MRS Nissan of Craig Dolby, Sean Walkinshaw and Martin Plowman used a similar strategy to leap into fifth, despite progressively-worsening break wear.
“We had a bit of a lucky break with the yellow,” Plowman admitted. “We were stretching the second stint trying to catch a yellow just in case and then it came out, I jumped straight in and that gained us a load of places. Taking fifth place from where we started [P22] is a pretty good effort and some great points.
“I think all three of us have got the best out of the car. It’s still new, so we’ve got to work on dialling the set-up in as it’s not a proven thing yet, but we’re chipping away with it and so long as we get it right for Spa, that’s all that matters.”
The battle-scarred No. 8 Bentley of Soucek, Maxime Soulet and Maximilian Buhk worked their way through the field from 17th to sixth, despite a penalty for the contact with Parente. Soucek also attracted the ire of Rinaldi Racing’s Norbert Seidler, who eventually persevered after an entertaining scrap with the Grasser Lamborghini of Mirko Bortolotti, Giovanni Venturini and Adrian Zaugg for seventh.
“Just after the new start-finish line he hit me really hard from the back and I nearly spun, I was lucky there,” said Seidler, who shared the No. 333 Ferrari with Marco Seefreid and Rinat Salikhov. “The race was good, the pace was good. In practice we were P20 or something like that, so if we thought we would be P7 at the end we would have taken that.”
Steven Kane, Andy Meyrick and Guy Smith were unable to repeat their 2014 success in the No. 7 Bentley and finished a disappointed ninth after a sticking wheel-nut cost them 65 seconds, with the no. 99 ROWE Racing Mercedes of Stef Dusseldorp, Nico Bastian and Klaus Graf completing the top ten.
“It was a frustrating day,” said Meyrick afterwards. “We lost a bit of time because we went down to 24th place and overtaking the Ams you lose a lot of time. I think we would have finished on the podium for sure, but we’ve proved again that the Bentley Continental GT is quick.”
Meanwhile in Pro-Am, the Leonard Motorsport Aston Martin took the honours on home soil, just seven seconds ahead of a charging Jann Mardenborough in the No. 22 RJN Nissan. As the Triple Eight BMW qualified on class pole by Joe Osborne gradually faded, the No. 32 Vantage driven by Michael Meadows, Paul Wilson and Stuart Leonard came to the fore and ran consistently inside the top 15 throughout, only conceding 13th place to overall polesitter Buncombe inside the final 20 minutes.
Mardenborough came through from third after his pitstop to the brink of victory after solid opening stints from Gaetan Paletou and Ricardo Sanchez, while the Emil Frey Racing Jaguar took a first ever podium after the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin was hit with a post-race penalty for exceeding track limits, and dropped to fourth.
Christophe Bouchut anchored the GT Russian Mercedes to fifth at the flag ahead of the TDS BMW, which failed to hit the giddy heights of second overall in Saturday practice, despite the best efforts of Franck Perera, Eric Dermont and Henry Hassid. After their stunning run at Monza, Kessel Racing’s challenge was over before it had even begun, when Michael Broniszewski tangled with Maro Engel’s Mercedes at Chapel on lap one.