The new Protyre Ginetta GT5 Challenge season will likely be a wide-open affair in 2013, with the demise of the top four drivers from last year’s championship gifting many of the series talented youngsters the opportunity to shine.
A field of at least 25 cars is expected to make the season opener at Oulton Park at the end of the month (March 30), the 2012 championship having gone the way of previous runner-up Sean Huyton, who scored 10 victories in his impressive campaign last year on the way to securing the G40 championship title by almost 100 points from second-placed Mike Robinson.
While Huyton will now attempt to emulate Tom Ingram and Mark Davies’ feat of taking consecutive titles by switching to the Ginetta GT Supercup’s G50 class for 2013, his absence will set up a potentially thrilling championship fight over the GT5 Challenge championship honours this season.
Huyton is not the only one moving on, as the exit of all of the top four in last year’s final standings (Huyton, Robinson, Ryan Ratcliffe and Gary Simms) essentially leaves the 2013 title wide open for grabs.
One of the favourites to challenge for the championship also happens to be one of the youngest to appear on the grid for the new season, as Brad Bailey will return to launch a serious championship assault in the GT5 Challenge with his father Paul Bailey’s family squad.
Former Ginetta Junior race winner Bailey ended last year’s GT5 Challenge in style with a win at Donington Park, and the teenager from Essex will hope to carry his success into the new season, where more consistency will be the name of the game for the man who finished seventh in his debut year.
Another Junior refugee to make the switch across for this season is Oliver Basey-Fisher, the promising youngster having reached the podium in the BTCC-supporting Junior championship.
He will be in the most reliable hands possible for his maiden attack on the series, as he will take Huyton’s spot at reigning champions Academy Motorsport, where he will join Will Burns and another man to watch, reigning G20 class champion Matt Flowers.
Flowers had a dream season last year in the secondary class, notching up 10 overall class wins in the G20s and sensationally finishing on the podium in all races bar one during 2012, and will certainly be a threat to the frontrunners should he quickly acclimatize himself with the new Ginetta G40 machinery at his disposal for 2013.
Finishing fifth last season with a number of solid top five finishes, Burns is the man who finished highest in last year’s championship that will return for the new season, and will be aiming to challenge for overall victories this time in 2013 now he has the experience under his belt.
The series is not without its share of successful squads to grace the garages this season either, and BTCC support package winners Scuderia Vittoria and Total Control Racing will add to this by bringing their own two car line-ups to the grid. Former British Formula Ford racer Alex Drabble and British Endurance Championship Class 4 champion David Pittard will be behind the wheel of Clio squad Scuderia Vittoria’s G40s run in conjunction with the Strata 21 that took Pittard to his 2012 title, while reigning GT Supercup champions TCR will field rookie Callum Pointon and Neil Delargy, the latter setting podium visits as his aim for the 2013 season after switching to TCR midway through the previous season.
Reigning Production Touring Car champion Gary Duckman will join the Ginetta fold for the new season whereas JJ O’Malley continues on for another year, while Dr Basha Kubicka will be the only female entrant on the grid.
Ben Hyland will make his debut in the championship, while former Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain driver Lewis Hopkins also adds to the field for a crack at the 2013 title.
The likes of Clive Richards, Brian Murphy and Kelvin Begley will continue to add experience to the series as they are amongst those that are returning for yet more GT5 Challenge action this season, while Luke Davenport (Reflex Racing), Tor McIlory (Optimum Motorsport) and Thiago Calvet will also be amongst those that will return for another crack this year.
Murphy is one of six drivers aiming for G20 class honours this year, the 2012 runner-up in the second class being joined by Jonny Greenwood, Ian Ingram, Mark De Spong, David Pattison and Ian Court for the fight over the G20 title, Murphy the only man to have won in the class last year.
The most exciting news from the winter off-season is the arrival of triple Olympic gold medal winner Jason Kenny to the Ginetta ranks. The cycling ace made his racing debut in his own Ginetta G20 at Donington Park last year and, after finishing in the top 10 in that race in September, Kenny has clearly been bitten by the racing bug as he becomes the 19th driver to enter a G40 for the full 2013 season.
The 21-race Ginetta GT5 Challenge will visit seven tracks over the season, with triple headers taking place at Oulton Park, Rockingham, Silverstone, Snetterton’s 300 circuit, Brands Hatch and Donington, the series also stopping off at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium on July 12.