Brands Hatch, Donington Park and Oulton Park. As far as UK motor racing venues go, few are better. Le Mans. As far as international motor racing venues go, arguably, not one is better.
From a sixty-one car entry card for the Porsche Carrera Cup Le Mans, nineteen are the protagonists of Carrera Cup GB 2017. Nine of this contingent are from the Pro classification, placed in the Class A division – This one-off event split simply into A/B classifications, with Pro, Pro-Am1 and Pro-Am2 class points still applied as per championship regulations.
Redline Racing bring one of their strongest GB line-ups in the history of the championship across to France, and undoubtedly Dan Cammish and Charlie Eastwood will be spearheading the British charge.
Cammish recovered from a difficult Donington weekend, where qualifying contact forced him to charge through the order during the two races, to claim a podium in Monaco in the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup. He then returned to Carrera Cup GB on another level and rose above a somewhat chaotic Oulton atmosphere to claim two victories and an eleven-point championship lead. Eastwood led the championship after his own double, at Donington, but heads into Le Mans chasing his team-mate. Neither driver contested the previous 2014 Carrera Cup Le Mans support, so head into the event somewhat equal. A thrilling battle in prospect, with the pair likely to be in the fight for overall victory.
Tom Oliphant is Redline’s third man, and another who has dabbled in Supercup this season. A top-ten in both races at the Circuit de Catalunya, the second following a charge from fourteenth to sixth, reinforced the impression of incredible race-craft learnt in the cut-and-thrust of Ginetta competition. At Le Mans overtaking is more than possible and the bravest of drivers will make the most of every opportunity the unique lay-out presents. Oliphant could lead the British charge. Euan McKay and Dan McKay complete the Redline attack, separated by but six-points in the overall championship and both have successfully made the transition from Pro-Am1 pace-setters to top-six performers across the six races this season.
JTR bring Dino Zamparelli, Lewis Plato and Tio Ellinas and all have key experience advantages. Zamparelli brings an adaptability that comes from international single-seater competition (GP3) that should allow him to make the cross-over between typically narrow and twisty British venues to the varied and complex Circuit de la Sarthe. A sixty-six-percent podium success rate thus far in 2017 suggests Zamparelli is getting the consistent performance he aimed for when he made the jump to JTR.
Plato has unlocked some impressive pace in his sophomore season and his British GT experience could prove key across the forty-five-minute event on Sunday morning. The term dark horse not entirely inappropriate here. Ellinas currently leads the ‘Rookie’ element of the GB standings but was an unfortunate victim in a multi-car accident at the start of Oulton Park’s opening race. Le Mans could prove to be a pivotal point in his campaign, and enable Ellinas to fully explore the limits of the unique Type 991 GT3 Cup.
The Pro/Class A contingent is completed by Tom Wrigley, and In2Racing. Devastating pace and devastating luck have combined for the pairing. Three DNFs blot his copybook, with the second two the result of Wrigley being an innocent victim in the same multi-car shunt that ruled Ellinas out of the Oulton Park weekend. A first ever category podium in the opening Donington race reflected the evident pace. Wrigley and In2Racing deserve some good fortune, and if they get it then expect to see the #19 machine right at the front of the field this weekend.
In Pro-Am1 class championship leader Justin Sherwood has combined consistency with pace and heads Team Parker Racing stablemates Graeme Mundy and Alex Martin by the narrowest of points margins (Sherwood: 42, Mundy: 40 and Martin: 38). Mundy was the only Pro-Am1 survivor in the Oulton Park opener, dragging a hobbled car to a class success followed up by a second the following day. Martin meanwhile took away nothing but will surely recover to the front of the class order this weekend. Greg Caton (G-Cat Racing) returns and will be looking to repeat his class-winning performance from the opening race of 2017 at Brands Hatch.
Shamus Jennings (G-Cat Racing) is still the man they’re all trying to catch in Pro-Am2. Jennings has only been off of the top-two rostrum steps on one occasion from the first six races this season. However, it is Peter Kyle-Henney (In2Racing) who heads into the seventh encounter of the season very much with the momentum. Kyle-Henney swept the board at both Donington and Oulton, a double DNF as the innocent victim in opening round contact the big dent in his otherwise imperious charge.
Rupert Martin (Team Parker Racing) has managed to maintain a consistent record in 2017 and heads to Le Mans looking for another trouble-free weekend. Third in the standings a high-point in his Carrera Cup career so far. Iain Dockerill (Asset Advantage Racing), Peter Parsons (The Race Car Centre) and Matt Telling (Welch Motorsport) round out the nineteen car entry, each likely to be in the thick of the Class B action.
A unique venue, a world-class event and a huge opportunity for Carrera Cup GB’s finest talent to demonstrate to the GT world what they are capable of this weekend. Few are likely to be thinking of championship permutations, that can wait until Snetterton picks-up the action six weeks after Le Mans. This weekend, being the best amongst a sixty-one car field dense with talent will be all that matters. For a one-off event, one-off coverage from Eurosport beginning at 08:00am BST with over an hour of coverage dedicated to the event. Alternatively, online streaming is available here. Do. Not. Miss. This…