Following a successful 2013 season in which he captured the GT4 class title in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship this year Ryan Ratcliffe is to focus on intensive testing as he aims to progress to GT3 machinery.
Ratcliffe and Rick Parfitt Jr. took the GT4 title for Optimum Motorsport, their victory confirmed by a second place in the final race of the ’13 season at Donington Park.
However, instead of making the immediate move into GT3 – the premier category of the British series – Ratcliffe will use 2014 to focus on intensive testing. To do so Ratcliffe has joined Triple Eight Race Engineering’s GT squad to gain track time in the teams’ BMW Z4 GT3.
“Of course I want to be on track racing, and I will be making some race appearances in the Z4 GT3 before the end of the year,” explained the Llanelli based driver. “I want to become settled in GT3 and open opportunities for the following year. It’s a building block so I’m more attractive to manufacturers for their factory squads. The BMW, along with the Aston and Porsche was the most competitive package last season, so to try to develop yourself in a front-running car gives me a real buzz; it’s one less thing to worry about and is a real motivator for me in my testing programme.”
“I want to be the whole package. I’ve got pace, I’ve shown that, but I need to develop on and off the track; my fitness, my media skills, as well as getting the pace necessary to feature at the front of a GT3 grid. This year I wouldn’t be able to go into GT3 with a realistic chance of taking the title. I’m not a Richard Westbrook or Nick Tandy, and I want to be there with them. I want to be noticed for the right reasons, not fighting for tenth place week in, week out.”
The intention is for Ratcliffe to make two race appearances for the team over the course of the season, his GT3 race debut the next stage in the driver’s development.
“Ryan is a great young talent, but for him to jump into GT3 this year wouldn’t help him grow or make financial sense,” said Triple Eight team principal Ian Harrison. “There are plenty of people who would take his money and give him a race seat in GT3, but they wouldn’t nurture his talent and educate him on what it takes to be a top professional driver; that’s what we will be doing over the next twelve months. The effects of an expedited progression can’t be counted just in terms of money, it’s a huge psychological risk and can ruin a driver’s career for good.”
Triple Eight’s plans for Ratcliffe are one piece of a plan to develop an academy of young talent away from the glare of competitive race weekends.