Keeping a championship fresh and exciting is key for any organiser. You need a decent sized grid, a collection of relevant and exciting venues and last but not least, a quality racing car. This considered, on paper the Porsche Carrera Cup GB is going to enjoy a stellar season in 2017.
The TOCA calendar is about as static as any in global motor sport, but with the reduction from ten to eight meetings as of 2015, Carrera Cup GB has taken a greater role in the formation of its calendar. Seven key TOCA meetings continue to underpin the roster for Britain’s fastest one-make GT championship, however rotation amongst these has kept the calendar fresh. For 2017 Donington Park returns and Croft exits.
Speaking about the calendar shuffling, Carrera Cup GB boss James MacNaughton highlights the role of ‘variety’ in any successful formula. “I think it [Donington] is a very good circuit for our cars, we need the faster circuits really to let the car stretch its legs. We haven’t been there for a while, so for the people that follow the TOCA series to be able to see our cars at Donington again will be a good thing. And certainly for those drivers who have been with us for a few years now, it is nice to give them something different to do.”
However, Yorkshire’s absence from the calendar has greater significance. Whilst the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is busy at Croft, the Carrera Cup GB family will be residing at the Circuit de la Sarthe in preparation for a race with Carrera Cup France and Carrera Cup Benelux. The appropriately named Carrera Cup Le Mans.
This is a race that clearly means a lot to everyone involved in the championship, as MacNaughton is keen to point out. “It is massive. Le Mans is the pinnacle of sports car racing, some might say it is the pinnacle of motor sport because of the uniqueness and the challenge that it poses.”
“The last couple of years with the World Endurance Championship have been fantastic and it has been a fantastic platform for the championship, and for Porsche, to promote itself. It has also worked with regards to the Gentlemen drivers having a great time, for the professional drivers to really showcase their talent for the teams to showcase their professionalism on bigger stages.”
“We are quite proud, very excited and a little bit scared about going to Le Mans because there are lots of challenges involved. Amalgamating three championships, the technical side of the regulations is fine because we all run a very similar set of regulations anyway based on Supercup but we want a Carrera Cup GB driver win the race.”
It is three years since the championship last featured on the undercard of the French endurance classic, and it was a British driver, driving for a British team that emerged on top. Namely Ben Barker and Parr Motorsport. So the idea of a Carrera Cup GB competitor emerging on top of a likely sixty plus Type 991 GT3 Cup field is by no means far fetched. Far from it infact.
“Of course they can, we would like a Carrera Cup GB driver on all three steps of the podium! We have got some very, very quick drivers,” is MacNaughton’s succinct overview of his competitors prospects in June.
At this point, with arguably the most well rounded calendar in the championship’s history and twenty drivers already signed up, it is worth reflecting on the journey the series has taken since its last visit to La Sarthe.
In the inaugural season of the Type 991 GT3 Cup in the United Kingdom, grids struggled to reach beyond the mid-teens. Since then, grids have remained stably in the high-teens to mid-twenties bracket.
“I think when the car was first introduced teams didn’t know what they were going to get and that was why there was this sort of a dip,” is MacNaughton’s assessment. After the car proved reliable and easy to run, the grid numbers and interest began to progressively improve. A natural process in motor sport.
MacNaughton is also enthused about the prospect of seeing the Generation 2 Type 991 in Carrera Cup GB for 2018. “Obviously we are hoping, and it should be proven over the next few months in Supercup, Carrera Cup Deutschland and the two GT3 Cup Challenges in America that will be using the new car and I am sure that this new car will be even more rewarding.”
Whilst the new car is being debuted globally, the focus in the UK will be on the tantalising title tussle that fans of Carrera Cup GB possibly would have not anticipated after last season’s grand finale on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. Dan Cammish returns for a shot at a historic third crown, dovetailing his efforts with a maiden Supercup charge.
Perhaps a trick question, but one that must be asked, is can Dan Cammish be beaten this year? “Well he was beaten last season four times. Yes Dan Cammish can be beaten,” is MacNaughton’s succinct assessment.
He elaborates. “A lot of those guys were nipping at his heals last year, Charlie Eastwood definitely made a step forward in the second half of season and he might make a step forward again. Dan has got a very busy programme this year doing Supercup and Carrera Cup GB and that means running Generation 1 and Generation 2 cars in close succession which might give him an advantage because he is getting more seat time.”
“I don’t know whether that will give him an advantage, a disadvantage or it might not make any difference at all. At the moment without anybody going out testing this year you can’t say.”
“Dan has the opportunity to make history this year, and he has proved his class over the past two seasons in Carrera Cup GB. Even missing a meeting it will be very tough for anyone to beat him. Not impossible, but Dan is where the bar is set,” MacNaughton surmises.
So with a history making, record breaking season in the offing it is interesting to reflect upon the championship’s progress since its inauguration in 2003. Typically the Carrera Cup Deutschland is viewed as the pinnacle with regards to national Carrera Cups, however after a difficult start with vastly diminished entries in the initial portion of 2016, and with Carrera Cup GB’s consistently strong performance over the past three years can the British championship stake claim to the title of top domestic series?
MacNaughton is pragmatic on the topic of comparing the different categories, discussing the many facets that comprise the role of these championships within global motorsport.
“I think with Great Britain being such significant place for motor sport, I think that in itself makes Carrera Cup Great Britain important but I wouldn’t say it is more important than Carrera Cup Australia or anything else because who knows where the next great talent is going to come from.”
“Carrera Cup globally is around for many, many reasons and one of those is to find the next great driving talent. The next one might come from Carrera Cup Great Britain, or Eastern Europe or North America or Asia or any one of these twenty-one make series.”
However, there is evidently more depth to the Carrera Cups than simply finding GT driving superstars. “That is the important point but there are many, many reasons for Carrera Cups. If Carrera Cup GB produces the next driving sensation then that will make it a very important series, if Carrera Cup GB sells a lot of cars then that will make it a very important series and if Carrera Cup GB continues to air on itv4 that will make it a very important series.”
MacNaughton is in turn keen to highlight the collaborative approach the organisers behind each Carrera Cup take in order to ensure the global success of the brand.
“We all work hard to have big grids because that produces exciting racing and elevates your series within the Carrera Cups. We all learn and work together, if someone has got a strong grid lets all share all of the reasons why we think we have got that strong grid with the others and hopefully that will create a bit more stability across all the Carrera Cups year on year.”
Finally attention returns to the present and the idea of success, namely what success for Carrera Cup GB will look like in 2017. “The be all and end all, the first thing we need, is a strong grid. We have got to have a decent number of cars on the grid and if there is one thing that you measure it on is that. So if you want one answer it is that.”
The boss of Carrera Cup GB goes on to enthuse about the number of entries already accrued, more than in any other run-out year. However, the drive and desire not to rest on laurels, which has arguably been the defining attitude that has regenerated Carrera Cup GB into one of the strongest domestic GT championships anywhere, is clear from his final comment.
“We obviously want more than we have currently got. If you start your year with twenty drivers, by halfway through the year for many, many reasons you can have maybe sixteen and that number wouldn’t be acceptable.”
“A good year for Carrera Cup or a successful year for Carrera Cup would be starting with a decent number of cars and finishing with nearly the same number.”
From where the series stands right now, you have to argue that 2017 should be a golden year for the Porsche Carrera Cup GB. It will certainly be something to savour trackside and on itv4.