Last weekend 130R Performance supported athlete Tom Rawlings took part in round two of the British GT championship and their prestigious Silverstone 500 event. With his debut at Oulton Park being in the shorter one hour race format, this was Tom’s first experience of longer endurance racing, with a three hour race duration and mandatory driver change pit stops. We asked Tom for the low down on his race weekend and the ups and downs of what was another typically fast paced and frenetic British GT event.
"The weekend didn’t begin in the best way as during Friday practice we experienced the car continually going into limp mode out on track. This caused the team and BMW technicians from Germany some major headaches because nothing was showing up when they plugged the diagnostics into the car. Unfortunately this meant that in the two hour-long free practice sessions we only managed a total of nine laps. The guys worked incredibly hard and into the early hours changing things on the car from injector seals, injectors, plugs, and numerous other components to make sure the issue was resolved for the rest of the event.
On Saturday morning we faced further issues as Chris went out in the car for the first free practice and within a few laps was back in the pits with the car oil temperature getting almost to boiling point. We then lost the rest of that session while the team fully checked everything out and replaced the oil temperature sensor that was causing the issue. I was able to get out for final free practice and found that the car was finally running perfectly, allowing me to get some good laps in and prepare for the impending qualifying session.
I took the car for the first part of qualifying (a 10 minute session) and was continually putting in green sectors every lap, meaning I was getting quicker and quicker. After our problems and lost track time on Friday, I now felt like I was really able to get the car and Pirelli tyres into the zone to perform around the Silversone GP circuit. On my final flying lap I was once again up on my time in the first two sectors showing I was on course for a class pole or P2, but then unfortunately got stuck behind a McLaren and lost around 0.8s in the final sector; resulting in a qualification of P5. It was now Chris' turn and again he was pushing hard but just could not get a clean lap. Despite this he managed to qualify in P7, meaning that when our times were added together we qualified P7 overall in the competitive GT4 class.
I was nominated to start the race and once the lights went out managed to get a great start and stay out of trouble (which there was plenty of ahead between some of the GT3 Mercedes drivers!) I made up a few places on the first couple of laps in all the chaos, allowing me to settle into my rhythm around the long Silverstone Circuit and start to push hard. I was having some great battles, making up places and eventually after approximately 55 minutes of racing brought the car in for the driver change in the lead of GT4 class; although at this point we were slightly out of sequence with some other car pit stops yet to play out.
It was now my teammate Chris’s turn and he started off really well, settling in nicely but got caught when the faster GT3 cars started to come through the field, losing time to some opportunistic following GT4 cars who were able to push through with them. Despite this he was able to bring the car in for our second driver change now in a net P6. It was up to me again now to go out and try and gain some places but the car in front was 23 seconds ahead.
I got my head down and started pushing like mad and soon managed to catch and pass him, then with the final driver change due I bought the car home in P2 ready for Chris to do the final stint. He rejoined the race in P6 after the time spent in the pit lane and managed to push to the end under pressure from other cars around him to hold that position. We think that we have ended up P5 in class because a couple of the cars who finished in front of us have been given penalties, and there are still changes pending from the appeal following the first round at Oulton Park to be applied.
This was my first Silverstone 500 and first experience of a three hour endurance race, I can honestly say it’s one of the best racing experiences I have had to date, all in all after a difficult start on Friday we had a fantastic weekend. I’d like to say a big thank you to Century Motorsport for working tirelessly all weekend to give us a great car along with BMW Motorsport, my amazing sponsors for all their continued support and last but not least, my teammate Chris Salkeld for doing a great job. We now head to Donington Park for the next round on the 28/29 May with another three hour event of non-stop action, and I for one cannot wait to get out on track in the BMW M4 again!"
All photos courtesy of Jakob Ebrey