For the fourth year in a row, the Avon Tyres British GT Championship is set to field a full grid and this year it is split near enough 50/50 with GT3 and GT4 entrants.
With GT Racing still popular world over, it is hardly surprising that British GT has remained popular under the steady hand of Stephane Ratel and with quality entries up and down the field the 34 car entry for the first round at Oulton Park could see any number of winners.
The headline class in British GT has lost a bit of the variety that normally characterises the most popular form of GT racing with no Audis or Porsches in GT3 this year and Aston Martin making up the majority of the class.
However, the defending champion Marco Attard is back with regular team mate Alexander Simms in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 and they will be joined by a number of other drivers hoping to unseat the king from his throne.
The first of these being Ahmad Al-Harthy, who will be linking with new team mate Daniel Lloyd at the Motorbase run Oman Racing Team and will hope his Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 can see him overturn the flying Scotsman Attard.
Sticking with Oman Racing Team, it is not just Al-Harthy who has a new team mate this year as second-year Aston racer Rory Butcher will be linking with Aston Martin GT4 Challenge stormer – and Motorbase stalwart – Liam Griffin in the hope of providing an alternative team leading entry.
Last year’s fourth place finishers overall, Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw, are back for more this year and have decided to ditch the uncompetitive Porsche and get behind the wheel of the Team Russia By Barwell BMW that took Attard to the crown last year. Minshaw hopes the move to new machinery can see them challenge harder than before.
Speaking of new machinery, two very exciting additions to the grid are the VonRyanRacing McLaren 650S GT3s with GT4 champion Ross Wylie joining Andrew Watson, Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey behind the wheel of the new cars.
Also joining in the fun this season are not one but two Mercedes SLS AMG GT3s, one being the Ram Racing entry which has already claimed a win this year at the Dubai 24 Hours – piloted in British GT by Lewis Plato and Alastair MacKinnon. The second driven by seasoned British GT entrants Preci-Spark in the capable hands of Godfrey and David Jones.
Battling too to reclaim the overall glory are Beechdean AMR regulars Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam who will be hoping to outsmart their rivals in the same machinery and get back to title winning ways.
This season also sees a number of drivers move from GT4 up to GT3 with Andrew Jarman moving up to join Jody Fannin in a TF Sport Vantage. Rick Parfitt and Tom Oliphant moving up a class to join up with Team LNT in a Ginetta G55 GT3 alongside the sister car of Steve Tandy and Mike Simpson.
Last but not least there will be a pair of Ferraris racing this season with Adam Carroll and Gary Eastwood racing for FF Corse and GT favourite Hector Lester will be back with Rosso Verde alongside Benny Simonsen.
The biggest news coming out of the GT4 class this year is the sheer number of entries, 17 cars will compete in the class this season with a decent range of machines to choose from with Lotus, Porsche, Ginetta and Aston Martin all represented.
However, the second biggest news is that last year’s class champions Beechdean have introduced a new driver pairing this year with last year’s drivers – Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings – moving on to other teams and in Wylie’s case, another class.
To replace them, the team have brought in two drivers who don’t have much experience in GT racing but are certainly making a name for themselves already – Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn – running in a proven machine should give them a good basis to work from but they are most definitely not going to have it easy this year.
Indeed, SRO should seriously consider giving out an Aston Martin Trophy for the highest placed Vantage GT4 Challenge car this year with six cars competing in the class.
One of those cars will certainly be familiar to one pair of drivers – Chloe and Jade Edwards – as it is the same car that saw them take top results in last year’s one make Aston Martin GT4 Challenge.
On now to Lotus, and as well as the ISSY Racing Evora of Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw, there are two UltraTek Racing Evora’s led by Blancpain and former BTCC racer James Nash. Nash – who will be replaced at the first round by Martin Plowman because of prior commitments – will be working alongside Richard Taffinder, Tim Eakin and Jamie Wall in the cars which should perform well in the championship.
There is one lonely Porsche in the field this year – the ex-Twisted Team Parker 911 GT4 – and that is now in the hands of BTCC team AmD Tuning who have expanded into British GT this year. The team will feature team boss Shaun Hollamby, making his return to full-time racing after a couple of years away, as team mate to Graham Coomes with the hope that the team will get faster with the car as the year progresses.
Now on to the stalwarts of GT4, the Ginetta G55. The car has seen reliable action for a number of years now and this year is no different, Twisted Team Parker are running a car for Bradley Ellis and Adrian Barwick. Additionally, Tolman Motorsport are making their debut in the series with a car for David Pattison and Luke Davenport.
Joining from Britcar is Anna Walewska who will be racing from the second round onwards in a Ginetta G55 for RLR Motorsport alongside Rob Garofall.
All of that makes for a season too close to call for most spectators and that should mean some all-out racing between drivers in a British GT championship described by Stephane Ratel as “one of the best national GT championships in the world.”