British GT Revs Up For a Breathtaking Season of Competition...
Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin, Ferrari, KTM, Maserati, Mercedes, Audi, Lotus, Ginetta, Chevron… the roll call of manufacturers set to be represented in this year’s Avon Tyres British GT Championship is already mouthwateringly long and – with seven weeks to go before the opening rounds – is set to get longer and even more exciting before the lights flash green at Oulton Park.
There will be three GT3 supercars completely new to the championship: the Corvette Z06R, Ferrari 458 and Mercedes AMG SLS, as well as the first full-season entry for the Audi R8 LMS and return visits from the Porsche 911 GT3R, Aston Martin DBRS9 and Ferrari 430 Scuderia.
In the other classes, the new-for-2011 GT3 ‘B’, GT4 and GT Cup, there is healthy interest also and newcomers like the Lotus Evora GT4 and Chevron GR8 to boost the excitement, as well as a promise of more cars to come.
“I am very pleased to say that the grid for this season is looking extremely positive,” says championship manager Benjamin Franassovici. “In fact, it is the healthiest it has been for several seasons, with good numbers as well as some quality machinery and top drivers. The average grid last year was 17 cars and we are comfortably on target already to exceed that number by 25 per cent.
“In racing terms it is early days yet – the first races are not until Easter – so I am hopeful that some more deals which I know are close to fruition will be completed and that we will have a truly spectacular field at Oulton Park.”
The Avon Tyres British GT Championship will feature a number of important revisions for 2011, not least the adoption of a time-based success penalty system rather than a cumulative weight penalty arrangement. There are a greater number of longer races also, as well as a revised points scoring system and a wholly new class.
Key points of the 2011 Avon Tyres British GT Championship:
* Enhanced yet compact calendar featuring 10 races at seven meetings, six of them on top British circuits, including the new Snetterton 300, and one at sports car racing’s spiritual home, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium
* More longer races: three of the meetings will feature a single 120-minute refuelling race, and one a super-endurance three-hour race in which teams may field three-driver teams
* Adoption of the FIA points-scoring system with recognition down to 10th place in each class and greater emphasis on class victory. Points will be awarded on the scale 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1
* Success time penalties: The first, second and third-place cars and drivers will be penalized in the next race by having to take a longer pit stop, to the tune of 15 seconds for the winner, 10 seconds for second place and five seconds for third place
* A new class designed to attract cars which might otherwise not be racing: GT3 ‘B’ is aimed at cars with 2008 homologation papers – in other words, still a competitive prospect while providing value for money
* Superb TV package featuring both terrestrial TV coverage in the UK and via satellite across Europe and the rest of the world. Channel 4’s regular weekend summer motorsport slot will continue to feature 24-minute edits of every event, while Motors TV will broadcast 50-minute shows to Britain via its Sky-platform satellite channel and across mainland Europe to more than 18 million homes. There is coverage also in Latin America and Asia* Driver grading system retained: the successful grading system, which sees drivers placed in groups A, B, C or D according to their experience and successes is retained. Grade A drivers will be allowed to partner only drivers from categories C (with a 40kg weight penalty) or D, while grade B drivers may partner only with C (with a 25kg weight penalty) or D. All other combinations are permitted
* Each car may use a maximum of eight Avon slick tyres at each meeting
The runners and riders
Heading the entry for the 2011 Avon Tyres British GT Championship is the reigning champion, David Ashburn, who won four races on his way to the crown with his Trackspeed-prepared Porsche 911 GT3R. A second Trackspeed Porsche will be driver by vastly experienced historics racer and occasional Mosler GT3 pilot Gregor Fisken. The Trackspeed men have yet to finalize the identity of their co-drivers.
The indomitable Jones brothers, Godfrey and David, return with the aim of recapturing the championship title they last won in 2009. Their Ascari KZR1 – a two-time race winner in 2010 – is discarded in favour of one of the most exciting cars ever to grace the British GT grid, the 6.2-litre V8 Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS, which is to be prepared by Team Pyro under the Team Preci-Spark banner.
CRS Racing, winner of the team prize in British GT in 2008, the last year in which it competed, returns with a brace of Ferrari’s latest GT3 challenger, the 458. One will be driven by 2007 Champion Alex Mortimer, alongside Andrew Tate, and the other by last year’s runner-up, Glynn Geddie, and Glynn’s father, Jim.
Another Ferrari 458 will be in action with the successful MTECH team and its race-winning crew Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron, while the Predator CCTV team will return with their Ferrari 430 Scuderia from last season and drivers Phil Burton and Adam Wilcox.
United Autosports dipped a toe in the British GT waters at Oulton Park last year and now return for a full season with two of the fearsome Audi R8 LMS machines. One is to be handled by young British talent Matt Bell and American gentleman racer Mike Guasch, the other by former BTCC Audi racer John Bintcliffe, who returns after a multi-year lay-off, and his friend Jay Palmer.
Another car new to the UK, and one which has enjoyed stellar success on the tracks of mainland Europe, is the Corvette Z06R, which is to be fielded by Christian Dick’s team, Speedworks. Christian, the G4 Class Champion of 2010 with Jamie Stanley, will prepare the car for saloon-racing champion and Le Mans veteran Piers Johnson, who will be partnered by ex-Caterham man Ron Johnson.
Aston Martin is well represented also, with a DBRS9 from Beechdean Motorsport for Andrew Howard and ex-BTCC racer Jonathan Adam, and another DBRS9 from 22GT Racing for Tom Alexander and Adrian Willmott.
The Alexander/Willmott Aston is to contest the new GT3 B category, as will another Ferrari from the MTECH team, to be driven by British GT race-winner Aaron Scott and John Dhillon. It’s expected that the ‘B’ category will grow race by race.
The GT4 category is looking healthy also, with new team Lotus Sport UK, managed by ex-Le Mans racer Gary Ayles, joining the grid with twin Lotus Evoras. The team is still finalizing its driver line-up; Ollie Jackson is confirmed in one of the four seats. Ranged against the Lotus will be at least one Ginetta G50, from the new Scuderia Vittoria team and driven by Caterham champion Dan Denis and ex-Formula Renault driver David McDonald. Also expected on the grid is a KTM X-BOW from ABG Motorsport, a Barwell Motorsport-run Aston and a Scuderia Vittoria-prepared Maserati.
GT Cup is open this year to the Chevron GR8, and there will be a season-long presence from the Chevron Racing team with a car for Le Mans and BTCC hero Anthony Reid and his young co-driver Jordan Witt. Other GR8 Challenge competitors are expected to race with British GT on an occasional basis, and there will be a modified Ginetta G50 in the class also for Swedish brothers Bjorn and Anders Gustavson. Cars from the Porsche Cup and Ferrari Challenge are also eligible.