British professional racing driver Tom Onslow-Cole and his Strata21 team-mate Paul White (GB) have been preparing for the third round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship – the Silverstone 500 – which takes place this weekend (31 May – 1 June), with a test session in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 at Snetterton last Friday (23 May).
The Strata21 duo raced the 6.0-litre V12 Aston Martin at the second round of the championship at Rockingham three weeks ago and placed highest of the seven identical cars on the 36-car grid and fourth overall.
Despite this success, they are keen to get more time behind the wheel ahead of the 'jewel-in-the-crown' of the British GT Championship calendar, the three-hour race on the Silverstone GP circuit.
"I've only raced the V12 Vantage GT3 twice – once in Britcar at Brands Hatch last year and then at Rockingham last month," explains Onslow-Cole. "Therefore, seat time in the car is really important. Silverstone is a track that really suits the Vantage – it set pole and won here in Blancpain [Endurance Series] last year – so I want us to go there and take it to the competition."
The pair took the Milltek Sport and Casio Edifice-liveried car to Snetterton on Friday and completed 200-kms, including some qualifying lap simulations, in preparation for this weekend's race.
"Testing went really well," continues Tom. "I've been talking to the engineers at Avon Tyres, as I think understanding the tyre is key in this championship.
"Paul is a fantastic team-mate on and off track and we are really gelling. He is itching to get back onto the Silverstone GP circuit following his FIA World Endurance Championship outing there in the Vantage GTE in August 2012.
"Although I've raced at Silverstone many times, the GP circuit is new to me so I've spent some time on the simulator at iZone in preparation."
The Silverstone GP circuit is one of the faster races in the championship's seven round calendar. The GP configuration has a series of long straights and fast-flowing corners with plenty of space for overtaking, making it an extremely exciting race. It is also the longest race in the calendar, which is appealing to both Onslow-Cole and White.
"The longer the race, the more important strategy becomes, and that's something that I've really enjoyed with my switch to GT racing. My Strata21 team-mates and I are also contesting the 24H Series, which is made up of 12-and 24-hour long races with our next race being the 24 Hours of Barcelona.
"So far, the season has been a huge learning curve but I'm confident we have got through the steepest part. For sure, there's still lot to master but we'll arrive at Silverstone in our best shape yet and hunting a place on the podium."
To progress even faster on this learning curve, Tom is contesting the 2014 Spanish GT Championship and selected VdeV rounds with Española de Pilotos in its Mosler MT-900 GT3. Last weekend he finished second in the Spanish GT Championship and, although it was only the second time Onslow-Cole had driven the 7.0-litre V8 machine, he was at ease with it and quickly learned the 4.65-km Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.
"My switch to GT racing has gone really well so far, but it's important that I get as many hours behind the wheel of a GT car as I can in order to progress as quickly and effectively as possible," he continues. "Not only to learn the cars but to become more comfortable with driver changes and, of course, to learn some more tracks outside of the UK.
"I'm pleased with my progress and I'm looking forward to getting back in the V12 Vantage GT3 at Silverstone next weekend."
The Silverstone 500 starts at 14:15 on Sunday 1 June. Fans in the UK can watch the race live on MotorsTV, which is now available subscription free on channel 240. Highlights of the event will be televised on Channel 4 and BT Sport.