It’s become a fairly common point of view in recent seasons that the Avon Tyres British GT Championship has developed into the best kept secret in British racing. This season, with a grid that continues to grow in strength and depth and with increased TV coverage, the veil of secrecy seems to be lifting.
That lifting veil has allowed several European teams to join the grid, attracted to a series that has become one of the best national series of GT3 cars in the continent. Thus, alongside establish British teams like MTECH, Trackspeed and Motorbase will line-up AF Corse and Vita4One Team Italy each with a Ferrari 458.
The British GT boom has attracted not just interest from the continent but also a pair of big names British outfits to the grid. M-Sport, better known for running Ford’s factory World Rally Championship effort, join the series with an Audi R8 LMS ultra for the start of the season with plans to bring Bentley’s GT3-spec Continental later in year. Meanwhile, after Motorbase’s title winning switch from the Porsche Carrera Cup to British GT last year one of the Kent team’s BTCC rivals – 888 Race Engineering – joins forces with Optimum Motorsport to field a pair of BMW Z4 with driver line-ups that immediately make them title contenders. For more on the individual teams and drivers in the 2013 championship read theCheckeredFlag.co.uk’s brand-by-brand previews.
The GT4 class is no less intriguing going into the season. Twelve months ago Warren Hughes and Jody Fannin won both races at Oulton Park to begin a dominant season in the class. With the exit of the Team WFR squad and the dissolution of their driving partner partnership the class looks wide open in 2013. Ginetta’s G50 once again dominates the entry list with four teams fielding one of the car. Aston Martin are also represented with Complete Racing entering a Vantage while car builders GPR Motorsport plan to enter one of the brand new Toyota GT86 in the class.
While the 2013 grid – at least the one set for the Cheshire debut – will feature nine different brands in the premier class after JRM Racing’s late addition of two Nissan GT-R one of the major talking points of the off-season has been the reason why it took until the week before the season to add a Nissan to the field.
After GT Academy graduate Jann Mardenborough and Alex Buncombe came within an hour and a rear damper of taking the title away from the seven-way title deciding finale of last season Nissan looked to bring the four 2012 GT Academy winners to the championship for this season. However, they turned away faced with severe penalties for pairings of silver grade drivers such as the ones that would be created by the Academy winners, such was Mardenborough’s unprecedented, precedent setting pace.
The decision stems from promoters the SRO Motorsports Group wishing to remain close to the Pro-Am recipe that has not only been central to the series’ growth, opening the grid to more drivers and adding an element of strategy that often decides races.
2012 champions Michael Caine and Daniele Perfetti were one of the combinations with the level of the drivers closest together and with the Pro drivers all – by definition – at the top level it is often the pace of the amateur side of the pairing that will decide the race result. The Motorbase pairing also became the second consecutive champions to reach the title without ever taking to a race win. Such is the competitive nature of the top class that consistency – Caine and Perfetti scored the highest number of podiums in 2012 despite remaining winless – is likely to be the key factor once again in winning the title.
While consistency across the entire ten race, seven date calendar will likely be crucial come the Donington Park finale in October the mix of race weekend formats renders some races more important than others.
While Oulton Park, Snetterton and Zandvoort host the ‘standard’ two races on their weekends the longer races at Donington, Rockingham, Brands Hatch (two hours) and Silverstone (three hours) carry extra points. However, while the extra points in these races obviously make them important they are not vital, Caine and Perfetti having failed to score points in two of the four more valuable races last season.
The three-hour race of the Silverstone 500 weekend – on the full Grand Prix track at the Northamptonshire venue – is one of two to be broadcast live on Motors TV, the other being the cross-channel visit to Zandvoort penultimate round of the championship. Both should help give the series the reach the greater audiences that the show the racing has developed into in recent seasons deserve.
The 2013 season begins with two hour long races at Oulton Park on Easter Monday. theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have coverage of the entire weekend and the entire season, right up to the final round of the year at Donington Park when after 15 hours of racing the 2013 champion will be crowned.