John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello kept themselves at the sharp end of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship points table by battling to fifth place during what turned out to be a difficult weekend at Silverstone.
Damage sustained to the #15 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in a pit mix-up right before the race made the three-hour Silverstone 500 event a battle before it had even begun, but both drivers kept their heads well to secure a strong finish in what is usually a crucial event in the title chase.
The weekend initially began brightly, if only in promise rather than the actual weather as persistent rain led to a heavily disrupted Saturday. The deteriorating conditions across the day eventually led to the abandonment of qualifying, with rivers running across the track at points and standing water making it too dangerous for cars to run. That meant the grid had to be formed from the combined times of both drivers from second practice, with Marciello’s second-best lap overall combining with strong work from Ferguson to put the #15 AMG second on the 43-car grid.
Sunday was the polar opposite, with the grid forming up on a dry track under bright sunshine. However, there was drama as Ferguson attempted to make his way to the grid when he was involved in a collision with a GT4 car. Although the damage was light and Ferguson proceeded to take up his front-row starting place as planned, the contact tore one of the aerodynamic dive-planes from the front-left corner, robbing the AMG of downforce on a track that features a lot of fast right-hand turns.
Battling persistent understeer as a result, Ferguson and Marciello wouldn’t be capable of challenging for the victory, meaning the race essentially became a damage-limitation exercise to try and net as many championship points as possible.
Ferguson and Marciello simply stayed out of trouble, rotating their stints cleanly and avoiding any costly pit-stop penalties. In that regard, the race went fully to plan, even if neither Ferguson nor Marciello could match the top lap times.
Some fine work from Ferguson – which included holding off reigning champion Ian Loggie lap after lap – kept the car in the mix until he handed across to Marciello for the final dash to the flag inside the last 30 minutes. The Swiss star pushed hard in a close battle with both Rob Bell’s Optimum Motorsport McLaren and Ross Gunn’s Beechdean Aston Martin, eventually securing a top-five finish, and with it a respectable points haul.
The results mean Ferguson and Marciello sit third in the championship table, 10.5 points behind the championship leaders with six rounds remaining.
John Ferguson said: ‘’That was far from an easy race. The contact when heading to the grid damaged the front end, we lost a dive-plane and it ruined the aero balance. From there on it was about living with understeer and trying to stay out of any further trouble, which we managed to do and, given the circumstances, P5 is a pretty decent result. This championship is so close that sometimes races like this, where you salvage a result against the odds, are the ones that put you in the mix come the end of the season. We’re well and truly in this and will be back fighting at Donington Park.”
Raffaele Marciello said: “It was a disappointing race for us. We made a mistake and the car got damaged and it was difficult to drive from there on with the aero ruined at the front. John did a good job to manage it during his stints, but I couldn’t attack as I wanted to in mine, so we just had to get to the finish. It’s early in the championship still, but it’s a shame we couldn’t fight for the win here.”
The next round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship takes place at Donington Park on May 27/28.