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FIA GT1 World Championship Preview: Silverstone

The second weekend of the FIA GT1 World Championship promises to be just as much an event of unknowns as the series' inaugural event at Abu Dhabi.

The laurels in that opening round went to the Matech Competition team of Thomas Mutsch and Romain Grosjean. However, it was the Corvettes run jointly by the Phoenix and Carsport teams that romped ahead into the teams' championship lead their two yellow liveried cars finishing the main event second and third behind the Ford GT.

Their potential dominance was further underlined by their performances in the earlier qualifying race, or not as the case was for the Andrea Piccini and Mike Hezemans, who finished third in the 'Championship Race'. Their weekend had begun by starting from the pitlane in the qualifying race, several laps down, and thus started the main race from the back of the grid, the pair putting in an aggressive performance to fight through the field.

Their teammates, the Corvette of Andy Zuber and Marc Hennerici had won the opening hour long race – a performance that should have handed them pole position. However, they were moved back ten places along with the rest of the Corvettes for having the performance balancing ballast fixed in the wrong position within the car.

And it is that performance balancing ballast that presents us with their first of the unknowns, with series promoters the SRO Motorsports Group re-adjusting the weights based on the cars' relative performances in Abu Dhabi.

Those weights had caused problems in the run up this weekend, the pair of teams running the Nissan GT-R threatening to boycott the Silverstone event, claiming their machine had been unfairly penalised, saddled with 30kg of extra weight on a weekend when the Nissans were arguable the least competitive brand on the grid.

The two teams – the UK-based Sumo Power squad and the Swiss Racing Team – will now be at Silverstone, Sumo Power saying that cars are now 50kg lighter than for the first event.

The other major adjustment sees the Aston Martin DB9 also lightened by 50kg. Those changes are likely to bring more success to the British drivers of both Nissan and Aston Martin, with four of the five Britons in the series split between the two teams – the exception being Corvette factory driver Oliver Gavin who will drive for the brand's Mad Croc team.

However, if there was ever anything to negate home advantage the track might be it, as Sumo Power's Peter Dumbreck explains; “there's some revised sections at Silverstone that that will be new to all drivers,” he explains. “So it's going to be interesting to see if the same cars are running at the front of the field.”

Those “revised” sections , include the entirely new 'Arena' complex that will be used in racing for the first time this weekend – a section of track that very, very few of the drivers would have experienced before they took to the track for their first practice sessions on Friday morning.

The new-ness of the track, only opened officially yesterday (Thursday) means that drivers have been unable to do so much as learn the layout through simulations. Karl Wendlinger, who drives for the Nissan-running Swiss Racing Team, admits “I’ve only seen a drawing of the new Silverstone circuit,” while Belgian Bert Longin's pre-race preparations extends to having Googled images of the new layout, though the Maserati driver does admit “It is not easy to understand from this.”

The race as well as being part of the World Championship will also see the awarding to the RAC Tourist Trophy, with the winning drivers' names being engraved on the trophy next to the other victors of the historic event, run since 1905.

Several drivers already have their names upon it from the years it was part of the FIA GT Championship, Karl Wendlinger heading the field, coming into this year with back-to-back victories.

Qualifying for the series will take place Saturday at 10:45am, with the 'Qualifying Race' starting at 5:15pm the same day. The 'Championship Race' will take place at 3:15pm Sunday, with live UK coverage on Bloomberg and ESPN, as well as through gt1world.com.

Oh, and another unknown.

Rain has been forecast for the weekend.