After Beechdean won the British GT title in the second season of the GT3 Vantage the Aston Martin seems to be the car to have to take on the UK championship this season. The defending champions return, swapping Aston’s traditional #007 for the big #1, as do MP Motorsport. However, they will face strong opposition for the honour of being the best Aston Martin team, let alone in the fight for the championship title.
#1 – Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam
Though only Howard was crowned as champion – a penalty picked up over the course of the season splitting the teammates in the points’ standings – the championship was truly a team effort. The pair were seldom the obvious class of the field last year – a stellar Brands Hatch race apart – instead taking the title with consistency over the second half of the season. With the field arguably stronger than 12 months ago, they will more of the same to retain their title, while avoiding the scoreless Oulton opener they endured last year.
Oman Racing Team
#4 – Ahmad Al Harthy/Michael Caine
#5 – John Hartshorne/Rory Butcher
After two years in the series with Porsches the Motorbase Performance run team switch to Astons for 2014. Despite a hefty weight penalty due to the quality of the driver pairing in a series that trades on the Pro-Am nature of the line-ups Al Harthy and Caine fought into the final round of the championship as title contenders having picked up a pair of wins along the way. With Al Harthy having proved to have been one of the fastest ‘Am’ drivers the new qualifying regulations – under which the grid for the season’s two and three hour races will be decided by an aggregate time created from the best laps of both drivers – will play into their hands, while Al Harthy ability should provide some solid starting slots for the opening races of the three double-header events.
The Hartshorne/Butcher combination brings together two experienced GT drivers, Butcher a former GT4 champion. Moving from the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Butcher could be one of the surprises of the season, and if he proves to be so Hartshorne’s experience should keep the duo in a strong position during the occasionally chaotic ‘Am’ driver stints.
#6 – Phil Dryburgh/John Gaw
When Gaw and Dryburgh entered the championship last season they made no secret of the fact they were essentially doing it for the sheer enjoyment of racing, rather than the serious expectation of race winning chances. That said, at times last year in the hands of Gaw the black, blue and white machine worked its way into a number of cameo roles at the front of races and the top of times.
The 2014 season should bring more the same for the duo, despite the stiffer competition around them.
#28 – Paul Bailey/Andy Schulz
Having shared a GTC class Ferrari at the Zandvoort and Donington Park events at the end of 2013 long time driving partners Bailey and Schulz move into the series full time with the Vantage GT3 in which they romped to the class title in the British Endurance Championship.
Recognising the scale of the challenge and the quality of the grid around them the duo are aiming to start the season with experience garnering race finishes. They are a line-up that adheres to the series’ central Pro-Am values, Schulz taking on a dual role as driver and driver coach to Bailey. However, faced with pairings more experienced at this level of GT racing they rightly acknowledge there may be a tough season ahead in terms of points scoring.
MP Motorsport AMR
#38 – Mark Poole/Richard Abra
Newly minted Aston Martin works driver Richard Abra and Poole return after a turbulent maiden season in the championship. They came away with only a fifth place at the three hour Silverstone race to show for their efforts, though there were several other races when a strong finish looked likely only for ill luck to intervene. If they can break the unfortunate habit of being involved in incident and accident they could be consistent points scorers, but this season looks as though it could be more unforgiving than ever before.