The British GT Championship has introduced a number of changes to GT3 regulations to encourage more young professionals and amateur drivers into the series for 2017.
Most obviously, there will be 10 minutes more practice time on a weekend as Free Practice Two moves from a 50 minute session to a full hour to allow more running before race day – which will also see a change as the minimum driver time for Am drivers is increased to a full hour in two hour races and longer in the three hour Silverstone 500.
There is also the official introduction of a Silver/Am pairing to give less experienced partnerships a chance to get on the podium and, because many silvers do bring a budget to their drives, their entries will be more cost-effective for a ‘Gentleman’ driver who wants to drive in the championship but couldn’t afford to finance the entire drive.
For the pro drivers, the scrapping of the 15kg ballast for platinum-rated drivers is aimed at encouraging factory teams, and those that generally compete in the Blancpain GT Series, to join the grid without the fear of being handicapped in comparison to the other Pro/Am teams that don’t feature a platinum driver.
Also seeing a change is in the Am/Am category, which only Martin Short and Richard Neary competed in this year in the Team ABBA by Rollcentre Racing BMW Z4 GT3. With the classification popular in other national championships like Britcar and GT Cup, British GT organisers SRO are hoping that the promise of 1.5x championship points for teams finishing inside the top ten will see more crews join in the knowledge that they can battle for the overall title.
British GT Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici said: “Next season’s changes are a great way of maintaining the GT3 class’ current high level while also allowing less experienced Am and Pro drivers a chance to shine both overall and in a category of their own. It’s actually testament to the strength of our current GT3 teams and drivers that we’ve had to look again at the classifications.
“Clearly British GT3 has become incredibly competitive. That’s proven by less than three tenths covering our top-seven amateur drivers and four different manufacturers in qualifying at Donington Park. The Pro class is also operating at an incredibly high level thanks to several factory drivers plying their trade with us. But while this is something we’re proud of and have no intention of restricting, it’s also an area that SRO and our teams have identified as a potential stumbling block for new drivers. We’ve worked very hard to rectify this and, in terms of co-operation and understanding, I don’t think the organiser and teams have ever enjoyed a better relationship. All are committed to a thriving GT3 class.”
It’s not just SRO that are hopefully the new rules will encourage extra GT3 entries, former champion and regular GT3 runner/team boss Andrew Howard has cited his own experience at Beechdean AMR in supporting the new rules: “SRO has always been prepared to work with and listen to its British GT teams, so I’m delighted with the changes being made for 2017. Silver/Am is a fantastic concept and exactly what’s required. I’ve often said that amateurs probably need two or three years of GT3 racing to be truly competitive, and that’s increasingly true for young professionals, too. It took time for Jonny Adam to become the series’ GT3 benchmark, which is what the new Silver/Am class provides. Crews can come in, learn together, share the budget and build a partnership. It’s the right decision at the right time.”