It is almost universally agreed that in modern racing the GT3 category has been a success story. Over recent seasons the growing category has spawned the successful Blancpain Endurance Series, as well as rejuvenating several other championships, including the Avon Tyres British GT Championship which reaches a fantastic climax this weekend with seven different teams capable of lifting the title.
What is mentioned less is the successful drivers it has nurtured, with the opportunities of GT racing more and more plentiful.
One man who has taken advantage of these opportunities during 2012 has been Jonny Adam, the Scottish driver nearing not only the end of a second full season partnering Andrew Howard in the Beechdean Aston Martin squad in the British GT Championship, but the end of a year in which he has contested his first 24 hour race and his first World Championship round.
With such a packed recent racing history there are few better placed to assess the health of GT racing, and GT3 specifically.
“It’s big,” he says, speaking to The Checkered Flag in the Silverstone paddock for the penultimate British GT race of the year. “And with Blancpain, every weekend there’s no less than 50 cars on the grid every weekend and we’d love to do that but this championship next year’s there’s going to be more teams, more faces and obviously newer cars joining the championship, so it would be great to do the Blancpain Series, but this I think is one of the main GT3 championships in Europe at the moment.”
Adam’s weekend in the national pits for the three hour British GT round comes just a fortnight after he took his place in the FIW World Endurance Championship (WEC) pits, sharing a GTE-Am class Aston Martin with regular co-driver Andrew Howard and Britcar frontrunner Paul White.
Speaking to Jonny about the experience, his enthusiasm for the WEC is clear; “it was a great event obviously, the highest level for GTE stuff in the WEC and the car itself is very different to drive from what we’ve got with the GT3 car, but it was nice to drive. The whole experience was awesome, to race at that level and obviously a good circuit to come to. My stint – it was two hours when it was really hard. We had eight or nine cars in our class in GTE Am but the pace was just so fast against guys who do the World Championship so it was a good level to race at.”
“The car different but the good things is we’d had a test at Donington for myself Paul and Andrew to get used to car. The V8’s quite different to the V12, easier in some ways to drive but different in others, but it’s the same as anything else you jump in and give yourself a few laps to adjust to how the car feels.”
“Once you got used to the traffic which took us ten of fifteen minutes and then you’re away after that, but some of the names you’re racing against were quite cool and top teams too. It was great to race with the works team as well and the car drove really well.”
His assessment of his (as yet) one off visit to the WEC is unsurprisingly a positive one, perhaps more surprising is that in ways he feels he learnt more from the Spa 24 Hours – a Blancpain Endurance Series race solely for GT3 cars – than he did from the WEC.
“Spa was just crazy.” He smiles, his feeling for his first 24 hour event, his first experience of racing in darkness, immediately obvious. “I’d say I learnt more from the Spa 24 Hours than I did here in the WEC just in terms of race craft and where you need to be and traffic situations.”
He compares Spa, with 50-plus similarly powered cars to the WEC event with the far faster prototypes. The LMP1 machinery, he explains is so fast “they come by you without you really knowing they’re there”, though he concedes the LMP2 cars are trickier, the Aston Martin able to match some of them down the straights.
Adam’s surprising, though incredibly commendable ranking of his experiences is a recurring theme as the conversation takes in Adam’s ambitions given the opportunities a career in GT racing now present.
Given the status of the races he has started in 2012 it’s a trouble to realise this is only the 28-year-old’s second full season in GT racing after his conversion from Touring Cars after a career trajectory that took him through Renault Clios – leaving as champion in 2005 – and SEATs en route to a BTCC seat with Airwaves Racing in 2009.
He explains the switch; “Everyone always said I need to go along [the sportscar] route because of my style and the way I race but it’s only since I met Andrew that it all came together. 2010 was tough because I didn’t do much at all. I did a one off in a Ginetta and that was about it but it’s all come together with Beechdean and Andrew that I’m here.”
Despite his taste of World Championship competition his main focus remains the GT3 team. The weekend opposite works drivers Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and pre-departure Adrian Fernandez showed the possibilities of driving with Aston Martin, but when the opportunity of taking a works drive is mentioned Adam admits to the ambition, but not in the short term.
“That’s the goal to get a factory drive,” he says, “but obviously Darren and Stefan are two ultimate professionals who do a good job for the brand. It’s good to do the stuff with the works team but at the same time we are working with Aston Martin and Aston Martin Racing and with the new car we’re still working and doing development as the season goes on so it’s great so see behind the scenes how the car was developed and it’s their baby, it’s their new GT3 car that they want to push towards more customers next year.”
In his position with the Beechdean squad – the first privateer team to take on the new GT3 Aston Martin – Adam has been at the forefront of developing the new car.
“It’s a more driveable car now,” reveals Adam. “At the start of the year it was very much a pro car, very much on the edge but now it’s much more of a car that an Am can get into and really perform well in and customers want to jump in a car they car drive, that’s reliable and you can get a lap time out of and that’s what this car is doing now.”
“Every weekend we’re still trying stuff, even in that last session. Yes, we were the first customer team announce we’re doing the whole program with the new car and we did a bit of pre-season testing but we need to do a bit more going into next year and there’s a list as long as my arm for stuff to try and improve on and I think once we get that right the car will be even stronger but overall as a package for a customer it’s a great opportunity to jump in a car and be straight at the front.”
Adam describes the British GT season as “up and down”, fluctuating between the highs of taking the first win for the Vantage GT3 at the Nurburgring and Adam’s thrilling charge to take second at Brands Hatch in a car rebuilt after the low of Howard suffering a high speed crash at Rockingham after a puncture.
Another low – damage from a lap one, turn one clash – at Silverstone would leave he and Howard outside of the championship battle this weekend, but with his eyes already on pre-season testing for the 2013 season before the Silverstone race the plan for the next twelve months is to remain with Aston Martin, Andrew Howard and Beechdean in the British GT Championship.
But what of the world beyond the national series? With Adam set fair on a career in sportscars the obvious pinnacle is Le Mans.
“Ultimately Le Mans is the goal,” he says, but again the big ambition is tempered by a streak of realism and his affection for the Spa 24 Hours, another of the low points of the season, the car having to retire after losing a wheel. “It would be lovely to get there in the next two or three years but there is other stuff out there like Spa and it’s something we’ve had a taste of now and it would be great to go back there possibly next year or the year after. Because you learn so much over the weekend it’s one of those events you need to do two or three times to understand how it works and how to get the best of the situations.”
In a season with so many personal firsts as well as those for the GT3 Aston Martin, it’s difficult to see a second side to a debate as to whether Adam has ‘got the best of situations’ this season – low points excepted – and maybe even harder to find a reason why, with Adam’s career on the upslope in tandem with both the British GT Championship and GT3 category in general, there shouldn’t be more of those situations in the coming seasons.