PREVIEW: 2018 British GT – Round 5 – Spa-Francorchamps – GT3


British GT 2017 - Derek Johnston / Jonny Adam TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Credit: SRO - Jakob Ebrey

The British GT Championship heads to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium this weekend (21-22 July) for the first of three two-hour races in as many months that will ultimately decide this season’s GT3 and GT4 crowns.

SRO’s Speedweek event sees British GT sharing the bill with the GT4 European Series and Blancpain GT Sports Club, as well as BRDC British Formula 3. However, all eyes will be firmly on the battle for both class titles amidst a campaign entering its final third in the Ardennes.

In the first of our previews, we take a look at the ultra-competitive GT3 class, and what to expect from the leading protagonists this weekend.

With a total of 112.5 points still to play for, there remains plenty of time for any number of entries to mount a late championship challenge. But, as it stands, two crews sit head and shoulders above the rest: current leaders Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, and Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim, who are just 2.5 points behind.

And it’s the TF Sport duo who carry most momentum into this weekend following two pole positions and victories in their last three outings, while the team’s Aston Martins are also unbeaten since Rockingham. Add to that record Farmer’s breakthrough victory at Spa in 2016, and it becomes difficult to look beyond the #11 V12 Vantage again this weekend.

Nevertheless, the tenacity of Barwell’s Minshaw and Keen has also served them well during a season featuring one win and three podiums. The last of those came at Silverstone, while victory at Spa 12 months ago also suggests the #33 Lamborghini will be on the pace again this weekend.

But finishing first and second last time out also leaves Farmer/Thiim and Minshaw/Keen with 20s and 15s pitstop success penalties to serve on Sunday, which opens the door for a new winner to emerge. With Optimum’s Jonny Adam and Flick Haigh (Aston Martin) similarly compromised after completing Silverstone’s podium, perhaps the likes of Team Parker Racing’s Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod (Bentley) can repeat their victory from last season.

ERC Sport’s Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman remain third in the standings mainly thanks to their stellar start to the season but could be back on form at a circuit that suits the Mercedes-AMG. Likewise, Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Darren Turner still await their first win of the season after favouring a super consistent approach so far.

TF Sport’s other Aston Martin has claimed the last three fastest laps thanks to Marco Sørensen who, along with co-driver Derek Johnston, triumphed at Snetterton to help establish the team’s current three-race winning streak. They’re currently fifth in the standings, 22 points shy of top spot but just one behind Mowle and Buurman in third.

They’re joined in the pitstop penalty-free camp by Jetstream Motorsport who could and probably should have won a race already this year. Graham Davidson and local hero Maxime Martin will have another chance to put that right at a circuit where the latter claimed overall victory in 2016’s Total 24 Hours of Spa.

The historic Belgian track is considered one of the most challenging anywhere in the world, an element that has again tempted several wildcard entries.

After re-joining the championship at Silverstone, Richard Neary and Adam Christodoulou’s Team ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG is back for a second outing alongside another of the German manufacturer’s GT3 beasts entered by RAM Racing. The latter sees Tom Onslow-Cole return to a championship that he last contested in 2014 as part of a Pro Am crew also featuring British GT debutant Remon Vos.