When the final chequered flag fluttered in the late afternoon sun at Brands Hatch last October, it seemed to mark the end of a significant period in Porsche Carrera Cup GB history. Dan Cammish swept across the line to claim his twelfth victory of the season, having already secured a second title at the previous meeting at Silverstone. Few thought he would be back…
Six months on, and very little on the surface has changed. The entry-list for Carrera Cup GB 2017 is markedly similar to that seen twelve months previously. Hold that thought.
Yes the dominant double-champion is back, with the same Redline Racing team that has been an integral part of his last two championship successes. However, he now only has thirteen races, not the full quota of fifteen, in which to claim a historic treble. This is because Cammish is dovetailing a third Carrera Cup GB attack with a maiden assault on the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup.
So he is on the back foot then? Ironically, the opposite appears true. “This should be as fast as I ever go now really, I am in the car from now until the end of the season I barely get out of it. This might be my peak , so much time in the car, two great teams, so much data, so much good stuff for me,” is Cammish’s self-assessment of his season to come.
However, if one thing was clear from media day, it is that confidence appears to be contagious in Carrera Cup. Cammish is joined in the Redline line-up by five other Pros. Charlie Eastwood and Tom Oliphant are the constants from 2016, and neither is holding back when it comes to goals for their difficult second albums.
Eastwood: “I think I can [win the title], that is the plan anyway for sure. We just need to start how we finished off last year, don’t drop so many points and just keep finishing every race and pick up the points where we can.”
Oliphant: “My goal is to win the championship. I think you have got eleven Pros who are all aiming to win the championship so it is going to be an incredibly hard year and it is going to be the best year to win it.”
So that is three men with the desire, and the ambition, to win the title in one team. The other half of the Redline super-team are slightly more conservative in their ambitions. Jamie Orton switches codes from Ginetta and wants to show enough potential in year one to justify a second assault in 2018. Pro-Am1 champion Euan McKay, and runner-up Dan, both switch from In2Racing to Redline and step-up to the top class. Both are aiming to move from lower top ten, to top five, with podiums and wins the ultimate goal. “After today I don’t see why we can’t push for podiums and then maybe towards the end of the year start looking to get on the top step but the main thing is get to the front of the grid, get on the podium. That is the aim just now,” was Euan’s assessment following a productive media day test session.
Redline aren’t the only stable in town though, and JTR have three very quick and capable contenders of their own. Guess what? They’re gunning for the title too.
“Goal is to go and win this year and the idea is to have a consistent package with JTR for the whole year,” says Dino Zamparelli. Last season the Bristol-backed driver claimed the first victory of the season and followed up with a stunning double at Croft before the summer break. A potential title challenge then just failed to materialise, and Zamparelli found himself mired in the mid-pack.
He was often joined there by his new team-mate Lewis Plato. Plato is enthused about his new surroundings, and his prospects in 2017. “It is a very dynamic line-up, I personally think we have the strongest team or the strongest partnership on the grid for sure. I want to win. We are in to win the championship, last year was the learning year and this year hopefully we have made all the right decisions and we are here to win.”
The third member of JTR’s new Porsche band is a man with considerable pedigree. That man is Tio Ellinas. After struggling to fund a full GP2 season in 2016, Tio has made the now tried and tested decision of many a young driver and switched from open-wheels to tin-tops. After media day testing Ellinas was clearly comfortable in the Type 991 GT3 Cup. “Obviously it is a new challenge for me, just difficult to adapt from the single-seaters but it is looking quite positive. Today at the test we are on the pace of the top five up to now, so we are hopeful that if we can progress like that, we can get some positive results at the first weekend.”
So from the Goliaths, if you will, to the Davids of the Pro classification this season. Namely Ross Wylie and the new SlidesSports team, and Tom Wrigley with In2Racing. The former, a driver with considerable GT4 credentials (Wylie was British GT4 champion in 2014) and two tumultuous seasons in GT3. Understandably he is playing a rather conservative game as he approaches a new challenge, stating simply, “We have no expectations at this stage, we are literally starting from scratch, we are a one-car team and so we are literally setting our foundation and hopefully can just keep chipping away at it and keep our feet on the ground.”
Wrigley has a sense of quiet confidence, although in partnership with Nick Dudfield’s crack In2Racing team he has every right to be ambitous. “I like an intimate experience with the team really, in the sense that the attention is on me, not five or six other people. We have got good data, good drivers obviously Josh [Webster – 2014 Carrera Cup GB champion] helps out as well so he is able to set data for us. We are able to focus on the job in hand, there is no in team politics and fighting so it is good.”
Both can very much be filed in the category of dark horses for this season. The Pro category very much reflecting strength and depth that is prevalent in modern-day GT racing. All eleven of these drivers have undoubted potential, which is going to make factors such as qualifying and staying out of trouble even more valuable this season.
Carrera Cup GB isn’t simply about the Pros though, and across Pro-Am1 and Pro-Am2 a further ten drivers are set to to do battle. The headline name in PA1 is no doubt Alex Martin, who after two at times tricky years in the British Touring Car Championship, makes the return to GT competition with which he is far more familiar. “Class wins are the goal. I have not entered the Pro class I have entered Pro-Am1 to try and sort of get back into it. You do get used to it because I have two years of front-wheel-drive turbo saloon car racing and I have got to go back to a rear-wheel-drive, rear-engined, normally aspirated GT car so it is a little bit of adapting but we are already not far off.”
Justin Sherwood joins Martin jnr at Team Parker Racing and will be aiming to build on an impressive seven podium finishes in class in 2016. Graeme Mundy has committed to a full campaign and also features as part of Stuart Parker’s eponymous team. G-Cat Racing round out the PA1 entry with Peter Jennings.
Team Parker Racing aren’t just a feature of the Pro-Am1 order, with Rupert Martin set for a third crack at the Pro-Am2 category. Rupert progressed throughout 2016, and if he can find some additional pace, the consistency is now there for a title challenge. Three 2016 podium finishers in PA2 are also back. Namely Shamus Jennings in G-Cat Racing’s sole class entry, Ian Dockerill’s Asset Advantage Racing machine and Peter Parsons in his ‘The Race Car Centre’ operated entry. 2016 runner-up Peter Kyle-Henney is the stand-out at the top of the 2017 Pro-Am2 entry list and starts the season as clear favourite for In2Racing. Welch Motorsport and Matt Telling round out the grid for 2017.
So, teams and drivers assembled for what is set to be one of the most enthralling seasons in Carrera Cup GB history. Answers will come from Brands Hatch this weekend, but the two races on the Indy circuit are unlikely to provide a full-picture for the season to come. Cliche though it maybe, but every race this season is going to tell its own little story and build up to picture titled ‘Carrera Cup GB 2017’. At the moment its a blank canvas. That is half the fun though. Not knowing what is to come…