Triple Eight Race Engineering will begin their second season of GT racing this weekend as the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season begins with the traditional Oulton Park Easter weekend fixture.
Ian Harrison’s team will bring a pair of BMW Z4 GT3 to the Cheshire track for the pair of 60 minute races that begin the year and, a year on from their GT debut, the team they are in a stronger position to start the campaign.
The driver line-up in the #8 car remains unchanged, with BRDC SuperStar Joe Osborne again partnering Lee Mowle. However, in a change from 2013 Luke Hines and Derek Johnston join the team to share the #888 entry. The pair completed last season together, sharing an MTECH run Ginetta G55 GT3 for the final two British GT rounds but have committed to the full season with Triple Eight.
Hines has made regular appearances in the championship over recent season, racing for a variety of teams. Johnston, meanwhile, has worked his way up from the Radical UK Cup, a series he won twice and the Radical Masters, where the 2009 title also won him the drive in the Rolex 24 at Daytona offered by the Sunoco Daytona Challenge.
Johnston then moved into the GT Cup championship – driving a Ferrari 458 – before joining the British GT grid last season.
“I’m really looking forward to the weekend,” said Johnston. “I’m really happy to be with Triple Eight; I had a lot of choice at the end of last season, lots of teams were interested in having me drive with them, which was great. I met with the team and Ian, and they just get it; every team knows how to prep a race car, but there is something a little different about the way the Triple Eight guys go about it.”
“You can tell from H that he’s been in F1 too; there is a really good team spirit. We’ve done two tests at Oulton now, one wet, one dry, and I’m happy with the car. Oulton is a tight circuit and all the cars are very closely matched. We learnt last year that it is hard to overtake, but I managed to get top five in qualifying, so that is my aim again. I think we’ll have a good year, good fun, and we’ll have to work hard it. Luke is very excited, as am I. We’re both very fired up!”
Osborne and Mowle finished 18th in the championship standings in 2013 amid a season plagued with poor luck, frequently the innocent party on collisions though controversial pitlane speeding penalties pulled them out of a potentially race winning position in the season finale at Donington Park.
“I’m really looking forward to going back to Oulton. I like the track and I think based on how much we’ve learnt since we went there last year, it will be exciting to see where we finish in qualifying,” said Osborne, who raced with Mowle at the Gulf 12 Hours and the Dubai 24 Hours over the winter months. “Traffic is always an issue there, but that aside I’d hope a worst case scenario would see us in the top eight, but hopefully we’ll be top six. Lee has been improving consistently over the last twelve months and should be top eight in his category in qualifying, perhaps even higher if the situation allows.”
Mowle added; “last year was all about learning to drive a GT3 car for me, which was a huge step up the racing ladder and I didn’t have any expectation of myself. This year is different. Joe and I were competitive during the second half of last year thanks to the programme the 888 team devised for us and as a result I’m expecting the #8 car to be running at the pointy end this year. If we can be consistent I would very much hope to be in with a shout of the championship come Donington.”