With 21 cars on the entry list for this weekend's season opener at Silverstone the first ever race for the Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship (BEC) will certainly not be a quiet one.
In fact the grid that lines up to take the green flag will be double that, with a further 21 cars in the sister series – the Dunlop Production GTN Championship – set to race as a second category around the Northants Grand Prix track.
Such a bountiful grid can only be a positive sign in the first race since Britcar's GT championship gained MSA sanctioning – a fact that puts it in the same group as the BTCC and Formula Ford. However, with the new title the racing remains the same.
A ten date season takes the championship around the UK, including summer visits to Castle Combe and Snetterton – as well as to Spa-Francochamps. The BEC season encompasses – as you might expect – endurance races of a variety of lengths. Silverstone's curtain raiser and Snetterton will see a three hour encounter, a May visit to Donington Park a four hour challenge.
The latter reaches of the season comprise a pair of night races – Donington and Brands Hatch the venues – preceded by the Britcar 24 Hours on October 1-2. If 42 cars for the combined series is the sign of the season ahead, then a bumper grid for the 24 Hours, which attracts international teams and a wealth of drivers, is almost guaranteed.
Just as the races present a range, the cars, teams and drivers taking them on are no less varied with TVR, Mazda, Porsche, Ferrari, Dodge, Mosler, Ginetta Lamborghini and Marcos models all starting the year with a presence in the paddock.
Within each category – BEC and Production – the field is split further into classes, teams of the different classes competing for the overall title.
The premier class is GT Class 1. Here reside reigning champions MJC with drivers Witt Gamski and Keith Robinson. The pair won all but one race last season in their Ferrari 430 GT, only losing the opportunity for a perfect season at the final race of 2010. However, with 2011 – if the Silverstone entry is indicative of the competition they will face – comes a new challenge.
Among a much bolstered GT grid are Moslers, pariah of British GT – two for MT900 are due at Silverstone in the hands of Strata 21 and Azteca Motorsport, the latter moving into the top class with Spanish pairing Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano after winning the GT Class 3 title in 2010. While absent from the Silverstone opener, 'Mr. Mosler' himself Martin Short was in attendance at the championship's media day earlier this month with the new 'Super GT' Molser. Short himself was part of the team that debuted this new spec car last season, single-handedly winning the finale at Brands Hatch illustrating the impact the Mosler can have.
Class 1 also includes some of the more exotic machinery, Ultimas, Rapiers and Aquila. Bespoke racing cars akin in aesthetics to LMP prototypes. All have proven to be astonishingly fast on previous outings, but frightfully fragile – the Aquila's three outings in 2010 ending in a fire, a stuck throttle and a lost wheel. Eager to improve on this record the team behind the Danish cars UK running – Wessex Vehicles – speak of a vast amount of work done to improve the car over the Winter.
No less fierce will be the competition in GT class 2. the class includes a pair of Lamborghinis from Backdraft Motorsports, the initial drivers including Mike Wilds, part of the ING Sport team who finished runner up among the Production category last term. The class also includes the British GT refugee GT3 Racing Dodge Viper with Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins at the wheel of the snarling beast.
Also present, in Class 2 and Class 3 are Topcats Racing with two Marcos Mantis. Britcar stalwarts and front-runners the team will be looking to brush off an almost spooky habit of picking up late, race spoiling puntures.
Perhaps MJC's strongest challenge could come from another Ferrari, pitted in the next garage to them – the 360 of Bullrun. Production champions last year Richard Adams, David Green and Martin Byford are stepping into the GT ranks. In Class 3 their biggest challenge may come from the Hawthorns Motorsport Porsche driven by past champions Rod Barrett, Jan Persson and Jay Shepherd.
The Production ranks are similarly diverse. As has become the trend over recent years BMWs and Seats dominate, but are by no means the only choice. Ginetta are also represented – Reflex Racing's father and son team Peter and Matt Smith and BPM Racing who switch to a G50 after losing their Seat Leon in a devastating fire at their base – and Honda, Lotus and Nissan machinery will also be in action this weekend.
2010 Production runners-up ING Sport return with Ian Lawson and Anthony Wilds at the wheel for Silverstone and the family Cox – father David and sons Jason and Michael – have made the switch from their ex-WRC Escort Cosworth to more conventional BMW for the new season.
The fantastic assortment of cars on track at once make Britcar organised races a unique proposition at British venues.
The championship will share weekends with a range of other series. The planned V8Ute series has been postponed for a year due to the slow delivery of cars for what appears to be a well-supported idea. In their place will be the Smarts4U series, a championship for Brabus prepared Smart Cars Britcar Director James Tucker calls a “wacky idea”, with series showcasing Alfa Romeos, Minis, Mazda MX5s expected to share the paddock at some point during the year.
It's clear. For Britcar and the MSA British Endurance Championship variety is the spice of life!
2011 Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship and Dunlop Production GTN Championship calendar
|25-26th March||Silverstone GP||BEC 180mins – Production 120mins|
|15-16th April||Rockingham||BEC 150mins – Production 120mins|
|6-8th May||Donington Park||BEC 240mins – Production 120mins|
|11-12th June||Thruxton||BEC 120mins – Production 120mins|
|24-26th June||Spa Francorchamps||BEC 120mins – Production 120mins|
|23-24th July||Castle Combe||BEC 120mins – Production 120mins|
|12-14th August||Snetterton||BEC 180mins – Production 120mins|
|29th Sep-1st Oct||Silverstone 24 HR||24 Hours|
|5-6th Nov 2011||Donington Park||BEC 200mins – Production 120mins (Night)|
|18-19th Nov 2011||Brands Hatch Indy||BEC 90mins – Production 90mins (Night)|