British GT and the new Full Course Yellow rules


Aside from what was a very good weekend’s racing with displays of promising talent in both GT3 and GT4, the biggest talking point to come out of the opening round of the British GT Championship at Brands Hatch was the use of Full Course Yellows.

Introduced into British GT this year to try and cut back on the use of safety cars – which can be seen as unfair due to it closing up gaps in the order – Full Course Yellows (FCYs), which see everyone stay at a constant 80kph, were meant to be seen as the better option.

However, as soon as the chequered flag dropped on a two-hour race which saw a ‘Code 80’ FCY neutralise the action for 42 minutes of the race, it was clear that the new rules had not found favour with all the grid.

Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici has said the rule will be scrapped for now, but drivers still felt aggrieved about being ‘robbed’ of results.

The first signs of discontent came from the post-race press conference, third placed man Rick Parfitt Jnr, who would be promoted to second after a penalty for the AmDTuning.com BMW, said: “As the Code 80 started I had over 10-14 second lap lead but by the time I pitted I had a one second lap lead. So I think that needs to be looked into because it doesn’t work as far as I’m concerned because blatantly people were going faster, we absolutely weren’t we’ve got data to prove it so I think our lead was robbed.”

He wasn’t the only front-runner to be displeased with how the system conspired against some teams, TF Sport’s Jon Barnes, who finished sixth, told The Checkered Flag: “I hope the MSA/BRSCC/SRO decide that we will no longer use the FCY/Code 80 as there are always teams and drivers that try to capitalise on the situation and gain an advantage – sometimes a hugely unfair one – instead of maintaining track position as the code 80 is intended to do.”

The AmDTuning.com BMW would be particularly affected (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)
The AmDTuning.com BMW would be particularly affected (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)

Others didn’t take such a strong line on stopping the use of FCYs, but agreed with Barnes that the system can be unfair. Lee Mowle said in a press release following the race: “In theory, the decision to use the Full Course Yellow in the series this season is a good one to deal with incidents like the one we saw this weekend but unfortunately, at the moment, it’s clear that many of the drivers and officials were ill prepared to deal with it. Hopefully a lot of lessons will be learned for Rockingham.

Looking at the data from TSL Timing, it’s clear to see the difference in lap times. A lap at a constant 80kph around the Brands Hatch GP circuit is a 2:56 but many cars didn’t do that, looking at just one lap, lap 28, the range of times is clear to see.

CarLap timeCompared to ideal lap
#17 TF Sport Aston Martin2:58.216
+2.216
#7 AmDTuning.com BMW2:57.440+1.440
#31 Team Parker Racing Bentley3:02.332+6.332
#6 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini2:58.747+2.747
#79 Ecurie Ecosse McLaren2:56.472+0.472
#5 PFL Motorsport Aston Martin2:53.985-2.015

The issue wasn’t just confined to the lead GT3 class, a number of GT4 entries saw their races impacted by the confusion surrounding the rules.

Jordan Albert, who was taking part in his first British GT weekend for Beechdean AMR, told TCF: “In all honesty I think the full course yellow system needs to be rethought. I know what they are trying to do, however it is hard to keep it fair. For example, when I started my stint under the FCY, the car behind closed the gap very quickly and I was holding 80kph, which goes to show that some cars were speeding. If a car gains chunks of time on one lap and only gets a warning, they have still gained a huge advantage on the car in front. I think the easy solution would be to go back to the usual safety car, or fit 80kph speed limiters to every car.”

Another driver to speak out was Jordan Stilp, the RCIB Insurance Racing driver finished third on his first GT outing but it could have been much more: “It needs to be on a restricor button like the pit limiter, as the second place car was going so slow we dropped 30 seconds from the lead. It wasn’t great as we were only three seconds from the lead until the FCY.”

RCIB Insurance Racing's Jordan Stilp had a charge for the lead cut short (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)
RCIB Insurance Racing’s Jordan Stilp had a charge for the lead cut short (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)

Again, looking at the TSL Timing sector times for the GT4 class – this time lap 26 as it took place at the same time during the race as lap 28 for the GT3 class – a limiter might be the best option.

CarLap timeCompared to ideal lap
#50 PMW World Expo Ginetta2:58.597+2.597
#73 Century Motorsport Ginetta3:00.166+4.166
#45 RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta3:07.926+11.926
#44 Generation AMR SuperRacing Aston Martin3:02.468+6.468
#407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin3:07.630+11.630
#70 Stratton Motorsport Lotus3:15.284+19.284

It wasn’t all negativity from the drivers though as Rob Bell – on his debut weekend in British GT with the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse team – was feeling positive about the system: “We didn’t have any issues regarding the FCY at Brands, other than catching up to an Aston GT4 because it was travelling slower than 80kph. One of our team ran down to the other teams garage and politely asked if their driver could speed up! We have a 80kph speed limiter (effectively a FCY button) in our car so we can’t get it wrong. In general it’s a fair system but can be open to abuse if not policed properly.” 

For PFL Motorsport’s Jody Fannin, who finished 8th, a solution is clear to see. He stated to TCF: “I think the full course yellow concept should definitely be used; it’s a much fairer system than a safety car. However, it needs to be policed properly, and proper guidelines put in place. Perhaps target sector times based on 80kph or ideally an electronic speed limit in the car – the teams/manufacturers will need some time to implement this. The problem at Brands Hatch was that some cars were travelling a lot slower than they should have been and therefore gaps were increasing/decreasing and cars bunching up.”

He could also see a silver-lining going to Rockingham for round two, suggesting SRO – the group which runs British GT – bringing over the rules it has implemented successfully in the Blancpain GT Series for FCYs.
PFL Motorsport's Jody Fannin was positive the rules would improve (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)
PFL Motorsport’s Jody Fannin was positive the rules would improve (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)
“It’s [FCYs] definitely the right approach and I think the organisers should persevere with it, but with proper rules put in place,” commented Jody Fannin. He continued: “Then everyone knows exactly what to do it was left open to interpretation at the weekend which is where it went wrong. Maybe the easiest thing to do is adopt the Blancpain GT Series full course yellow rules.”
Benjamin Franassovici, British GT Championship Manager, confirmed the system would be scrapped for the time being. He said: “Clearly the FCY system is the way forward; it’s worked in other categories and, when properly implemented, tackles the issue of having each driver’s advantage reduced under Safety Car conditions. Our Code 80 process does need refining though, which is why we’ve shelved it for the time being. There were too many elements outside of our control at Brands but it’s worth noting that everyone was in favour of using the system pre-race. We’ll be looking closely at how to better manage the procedure and only re-introduce it once we’re confident all potential obstacles have been overcome.”