Race Report by Matthew Overton
Images by Jerry Chen
Broadcast by Ross “Tnadz” Smith
May 20, 2021 – Excitement was high as the racing teams, drivers and fans flocked to Silverstone on a dreary race weekend for the inaugural event of the NARS GT1 short series. 30 cars, including 6 teams of paired PRO and AM drivers ensured that the paddock was abuzz with activity as work was completed to get the cars and drivers ready for their first racing test. The weather throughout the week varied from cool, dry, and sunny to heavily overcast and steady rain, giving each team major headaches in tuning their cars for the track and conditions.
Good conditions under broken clouds allowed the drivers to get out and stretch their legs a bit, with PRO Ahmed Abdallah setting the fastest lap with his Nissan GT-R at 1:50.623. Close behind was Dan Kirby in the Ford Motorsports Ford GT, with Eduardo Beninca in the AI Race Ford GT finishing out the top 3. In AM, newcomer Jacques Vermeulen in the Logistical Nightmare Corvette C6.R took top honors in the class with a 1:53.284, with John Maher in another Corvette and then Danny Corriveau in his Dark Thunder Racing Aston Martin DBR9 only .2s behind.
The pits exploded with action during the warmup as the clouds closed in and the rain began to fall. While the majority of the field strapped on wet tires to start the race – conditions during the week have been so variable, PRO Jerry Chen and AMs Morgan McCalister and Tom Mountjoy elected to start on slicks.
The caution of the field proved to well-founded as the rain continued throughout the race just enough to keep conditions tricky. Two drivers that showed they had both the car and conditions under control were Kirby and Beninca who immediately put Abdallah under pressure from the race start, both passing him by the third lap and racing away to battle largely on their own. Abdallah’s woes continued, with several more cars passing him before settling into P7 and a subsequent retirement on L15. Just behind, two more Ford GTs, Michael Parker of AutoXSim Motorsports and Rich Hibbs, carried on an equally spirited battle that put distance on the rest of the field.
At the same time, AM driver Vermeulen put in a succession of steady laps that vaulted him over seasoned veteran Jon Uyan in his Lamborghini Murcielago R-SV by mid-race, moving him to P7 overall and well clear of his closest AM challenger, Jimmy Regan in the Gone Broke Racing Ford GT. Regan, who had started last due to an inability to get on track for qualifying had also been steadily working through the field, passing both PRO and AM drivers as they struggled to keep a competitive pace.
By the pit cycle, it was not only Abdallah that had been obliged to retire but also other high-profile drivers including Guilherme Bencke, Pedro Crulas Gomez (both of whom had been moving up the order very quickly before issues forced their retirements), and Rodger Gabryszak. They were to be joined by Uyan when his pit crew put hard tires on the front instead of wets, leading to a disappointing retirement and what appeared to be a very difficult post-race conversation for the crew chief.
In addition to the front runners, AM driver Jimmy Regan looked to the be driver most ‘dialed in’ to his car, the track, and the conditions. Starting from the back of the track, his consistent and almost error-free laps gave him the opportunities to benefit from the difficulties suffered by much of the field to finish in 9th place from a last-place starting grid position.
In the end, it was a small error that decided the PRO win, with Kirby surviving contact from Beninca to build a gap when his rival spun from the light touch. Parker outlasted Hibbs to complete a Ford sweep of the podium.
Vermeulen finished the race as strongly as he started, over a 1/2 lap ahead of Regan in his Ford GT with John Maher claiming third, a lap back in his Corvette C6.R.
Silverstone had not quite finished with the surprises as the routine post-race steward inspections revealed that not all the teams had followed the championship regulations as required. The announcement that PRO drivers Hibbs, Gomez, and Gabryszak would receive position drop penalties for unauthorized vehicle configurations sent a wave of shock through the paddock. While of little impact on Gomez or Gabryszak, the demotion from 4th to 6th (and the one position gain to Hall and Angelidis) was an unwelcome bit of news to Hibbs which may play out as the championship races heat up. No doubt all the crew chiefs will be pulling out the rule books to ensure they are within specs for the next race!
Silverstone is a well-known track to the drivers of NARS, however, the combination of unfamiliar cars and unanticipated weather combined to throw some real challenges at them for the opening round of the VGT1C. As a result, the fans were treated to some thrilling racing and there is every expectation of more to come as the VGT1C heads to Brno in the Czech Republic for Rd 2, 27 May.