GB3 & GB4 Round 2 preview: Different track, different pacesetters?

One month after the 2023 GB3 and GB4 Championships got underway, both series head to Silverstone – the home of the British Grand Prix – for Round 2 of the season. The track offers a huge amount of overtaking opportunities, whilst its iconic high-speed sweeps continue to make it a wildly different circuit from that of Oulton Park where the season began. As the drivers settle into their seasons, will we see a shake-up in the championships’ pecking orders?

By George Brabner

Silverstone: steeped in history and an iconic part of British motorsport. The 18-turn 5.9-kilometre circuit is much wider, far smoother and more forgiving than Oulton Park. The Hangar and Wellington straights provide ample opportunities for the slipstream to draw cars together, making overtaking far less of a premium than it was in Round 1. The result? Close racing, plenty of wheel-to-wheel action, and the potential for new faces at the front.

Can JHR Developments keep up their winning form?

The dominance of JHR Developments in the dry running at Oulton Park was clear. Joseph Loake and Matthew Rees took a comfortable 1-2 in Race 1 over Rodin Carlin’s Callum Voisin, and that result would come after the team’s impressive qualifying performance that saw Loake taking a double pole in his first GB3 qualifying session.

JHR had shown good pace in the days leading up to Round 1, but their advantage over the rest of the field in race-trim was hard to predict until the season opener got underway.

JHR’s Joseph Loake enjoyed a successful weekend at Oulton Park | Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

After Loake led a 1-2 in testing at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, it is clear that the team still has the pace to lead the field. However, the competition around JHR is incredibly strong: Voisin, James Hedley, Alex Dunne, Max Esterson, and Souta Arao all had the pace to contend with the top two.

There were also some drivers who slipped under the radar at Oulton Park. McKenzy Cresswell – who topped a day of testing at Silverstone back in March – had a failed anti-roll bar bracket in qualifying that put him out of position right from the beginning of the weekend.

John Bennett was also on the backfoot after a difficult qualifying, but he too is expected to be near the sharp end of the grid. It should only be a matter of time until they are also contesting for race victories, just like rookies Dunne and Tymek Kucharczyk.

McNeilly has momentum, but KMR Sport are strong

After his masterful Race 3 performance at Oulton Park where he battled from ninth on the grid to victory, Liam McNeilly is confident ahead of Round 2 of the GB4 Championship.

However, the Fox Motorsport driver was in good company at the season opener. Evans GP’s Cooper Webster, Fortec Motorsport’s Colin Queen, and KMR Sport’s Tom Mills and Jeremy Fairbairn all showed equal – if not better – pace at varying stages in the round.

KMR’s Tom Mills and Jeremy Fairbain delivered strong performances in Round 1 of the 2023 GB4 Championship | Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The top portion of the pack was closely matched throughout the weekend but it was the grid’s only returning driver, Tom Mills, who looked to have the best balance of consistency and speed.

Despite budget restrictions, he will continue with the KMR Sport outfit at Silverstone – a track he took a podium at last year – alongside Jeremy Fairbairn, who took his first GB4 victory in the dry on debut at Oulton Park, and Jack Clifford. It is worth noting that he has not yet been confirmed for the rest of the 2023 GB4 season.

This weekend will also see Rossoverde Racing re-join the GB4 grid with Christian Lester at the wheel of their single entry. Elite Motorsport’s Josh Irfan will not be present at Silverstone, instead racing in British F4 with Rodin Carlin at Brands Hatch.

With driver development a sticking point of the GB4 Championship, the grid will close up as drivers find their groove. If 2022’s incredible racing was anything to go by, the upcoming GB4 championship weekend at Silverstone is sure to be a blockbuster.

Rain could throw a spanner in the works

Unpredictable as ever, the British weather could throw rain the way of the GB3 and GB4 fields this weekend just like it did at Oulton Park.

Whilst drivers in both series have gained crucial experience in slippery conditions from the wet weather racing in Round 1, drivers with a year under their belts in their respective categories always have an advantage.

In GB3, this is something that aided James Hedley on his way to victory last time out – particularly in his fight against rookie Joseph Loake. In contrast, GB3’s two ex-British F4 champions Alex Dunne and Matthew Rees spun from the top ten during the soaked Race 2 at Oulton Park, putting a damper on their weekends.

Rain affected the GB3 and GB4 season openers at Oulton Park | Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Meanwhile, Tom Mills’ experience in the wet enabled him to take his best result of Round 1 in the rain as the only returning GB4 driver on the grid. The wet then gave Liam McNeilly the chance to excel too – despite his rookie status – but the likes of Colin Queen and Jason Conzo both found the wall despite their pace.

Should it come, it’s clear that rain will shake up the grids in both GB3 and GB4. At Oulton Park, this led to a high volume of incidents – something that was particularly the case in GB3 where Race 3 of the weekend had almost no full racing laps.

However, due to Silverstone’s larger run-off areas and more forgiving track surface, such a number of stoppages will hopefully no longer be the case.

Header photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography


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