Aside from what was a very good weekend’s racing with displays of promising talent in both GT3 and GT4, the biggest talking point to come out of the opening round of the British GT Championship at Brands Hatch was the use of Full Course Yellows.
Introduced into British GT this year to try and cut back on the use of safety cars – which can be seen as unfair due to it closing up gaps in the order – Full Course Yellows (FCYs), which see everyone stay at a constant 80kph, were meant to be seen as the better option.
However, as soon as the chequered flag dropped on a two-hour race which saw a ‘Code 80’ FCY neutralise the action for 42 minutes of the race, it was clear that the new rules had not found favour with all the grid.
Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici has said the rule will be scrapped for now, but drivers still felt aggrieved about being ‘robbed’ of results.
The first signs of discontent came from the post-race press conference, third placed man Rick Parfitt Jnr, who would be promoted to second after a penalty for the AmDTuning.com BMW, said: “As the Code 80 started I had over 10-14 second lap lead but by the time I pitted I had a one second lap lead. So I think that needs to be looked into because it doesn’t work as far as I’m concerned because blatantly people were going faster, we absolutely weren’t we’ve got data to prove it so I think our lead was robbed.”
He wasn’t the only front-runner to be displeased with how the system conspired against some teams, TF Sport’s Jon Barnes, who finished sixth, told The Checkered Flag: “I hope the MSA/BRSCC/SRO decide that we will no longer use the FCY/Code 80 as there are always teams and drivers that try to capitalise on the situation and gain an advantage – sometimes a hugely unfair one – instead of maintaining track position as the code 80 is intended to do.”
Others didn’t take such a strong line on stopping the use of FCYs, but agreed with Barnes that the system can be unfair. Lee Mowle said in a press release following the race: “In theory, the decision to use the Full Course Yellow in the series this season is a good one to deal with incidents like the one we saw this weekend but unfortunately, at the moment, it’s clear that many of the drivers and officials were ill prepared to deal with it. Hopefully a lot of lessons will be learned for Rockingham.
Looking at the data from TSL Timing, it’s clear to see the difference in lap times. A lap at a constant 80kph around the Brands Hatch GP circuit is a 2:56 but many cars didn’t do that, looking at just one lap, lap 28, the range of times is clear to see.
|Car||Lap time||Compared to ideal lap|
|#17 TF Sport Aston Martin||2:58.216||+2.216|
|#7 AmDTuning.com BMW||2:57.440||+1.440|
|#31 Team Parker Racing Bentley||3:02.332||+6.332|
|#6 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini||2:58.747||+2.747|
|#79 Ecurie Ecosse McLaren||2:56.472||+0.472|
|#5 PFL Motorsport Aston Martin||2:53.985||-2.015|
The issue wasn’t just confined to the lead GT3 class, a number of GT4 entries saw their races impacted by the confusion surrounding the rules.
Jordan Albert, who was taking part in his first British GT weekend for Beechdean AMR, told TCF: “In all honesty I think the full course yellow system needs to be rethought. I know what they are trying to do, however it is hard to keep it fair. For example, when I started my stint under the FCY, the car behind closed the gap very quickly and I was holding 80kph, which goes to show that some cars were speeding. If a car gains chunks of time on one lap and only gets a warning, they have still gained a huge advantage on the car in front. I think the easy solution would be to go back to the usual safety car, or fit 80kph speed limiters to every car.”
Another driver to speak out was Jordan Stilp, the RCIB Insurance Racing driver finished third on his first GT outing but it could have been much more: “It needs to be on a restricor button like the pit limiter, as the second place car was going so slow we dropped 30 seconds from the lead. It wasn’t great as we were only three seconds from the lead until the FCY.”
Again, looking at the TSL Timing sector times for the GT4 class – this time lap 26 as it took place at the same time during the race as lap 28 for the GT3 class – a limiter might be the best option.
|Car||Lap time||Compared to ideal lap|
|#50 PMW World Expo Ginetta||2:58.597||+2.597|
|#73 Century Motorsport Ginetta||3:00.166||+4.166|
|#45 RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta||3:07.926||+11.926|
|#44 Generation AMR SuperRacing Aston Martin||3:02.468||+6.468|
|#407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin||3:07.630||+11.630|
|#70 Stratton Motorsport Lotus||3:15.284||+19.284|
It wasn’t all negativity from the drivers though as Rob Bell – on his debut weekend in British GT with the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse team – was feeling positive about the system: “We didn’t have any issues regarding the FCY at Brands, other than catching up to an Aston GT4 because it was travelling slower than 80kph. One of our team ran down to the other teams garage and politely asked if their driver could speed up! We have a 80kph speed limiter (effectively a FCY button) in our car so we can’t get it wrong. In general it’s a fair system but can be open to abuse if not policed properly.”
For PFL Motorsport’s Jody Fannin, who finished 8th, a solution is clear to see. He stated to TCF: “I think the full course yellow concept should definitely be used; it’s a much fairer system than a safety car. However, it needs to be policed properly, and proper guidelines put in place. Perhaps target sector times based on 80kph or ideally an electronic speed limit in the car – the teams/manufacturers will need some time to implement this. The problem at Brands Hatch was that some cars were travelling a lot slower than they should have been and therefore gaps were increasing/decreasing and cars bunching up.”