The second thrilling instalment of the 2011 Avon Tyres British GT Championship will play out on Sunday (15 May) at Snetterton in Norfolk, where a 27-car field is expected for a two-hour race on the all-new ‘300’ circuit.
Britain’s premier sports car series got away to a brilliant start last month at Oulton Park with a host of delectable new cars and some close and exciting action. The drama of refuelling pit stops and the unknowns provided by the new track look certain to make Snetterton an even greater challenge.
Appropriately enough it is the reigning champion, David Ashburn, who leads the championship to Norfolk. The Trackspeed Porsche racer won the season opener at Oulton with driving partner Richard Westbrook, and then placed fourth in race two. However, it is not Westbrook who will be teamed with Ashburn this weekend but Phil Keen, last seen in British GT two seasons ago in a class-winning KTM X-Bow; he is also a race winner in FIA GT3s.
The other Oulton winner was the all-new Ferrari 458 of the Scuderia Vittoria team, whose tactics got the better of some much more experienced squads to propel championship debutants Michael Lyons and Charles Bateman to victory. Clearly a quick prospect straight out of the box, the 458 will be represented at Snetterton also by the car of MTECH men Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin, fresh from a top-12 finish in the FIA GT3 European Championship in Portugal yesterday.
CRS Racing had hoped to debut its 458s at Snetterton but supply problems mean that Aberdeen father-and-son Jim and Glynn Geddie will probably have to race an older Ferrari. The second CRS machine will see Andrew Tate joined for this meeting by the 2006 British GT Champion, Tim Mullen.
The only driver pairing to visit the podium after both Oulton races was Mike Guasch and Matt Bell for the United Autosports Audi team, and it is that sort of consistency which wins titles in British GT. Their UA team-mates Jay Palmer and ex-BTCC man John Bintcliffe came away from Oulton with no points but will surely start scoring soon.
The 2009 champions, David and Godfrey Jones, gave their Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS a promising debut run at Oulton, placing fifth and second in respective races, and look set to become a championship factor. The other overall podium finishers at Oulton were Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam, whose Beechdean Aston Martin timed its demise to perfection with a dramatic engine blow-up yards after the finish line. The Howard/Adam Aston will be joined at Snetterton by another GT3 DBRS9 in the shape of the Vantage Racing car of Tom Black and Stuart Hall.
In a grid so packed with talent and impressive cars it’s not hard to select some others to watch out for. You can never discount the mercurial Allan Simonsen and his dogged Rosso Verde Ferrari co-driver Hector Lester, for example, while Gregor Fisken and Tim Bridgman ought to be a factor in the second Trackspeed Porsche. The Speedworks Corvette of Piers Johnson and Ron Johnson will be drawing admiring looks, as will the quartet of Ginetta G55s expected on the grid and the sole GT Cup car, the Ginetta GR8 of Anthony Reid and Jordan Witt.
Further Ferrari representation comes in the form of 430 Scuderias for Chad Racing’s Iain Dockerill and Steve Kane and Predator CCTV Racing men Adam Wilcox and Phil Burton.
All Norfolk will be rooting for home team Lotus Sport UK and the Evora GT4 cars of Ollie Jackson/Jack Drinkall and Freddy Nordstrom/Leyton Clarke, both of which showed podium potential at Oulton Park.
Jackson – by day an engineer at Lotus Cars – lives just around the corner from Snetterton, at Attleborough, but has yet to drive the new circuit: “I can’t wait to get out there on it,” he said. “I was always a huge fan of the old Snetterton and the feedback I have been getting from people who have raced the new layout is all positive, and of course it is always nice to be racing close to home.
“We had a tough weekend at Oulton Park battling some problems which would have been sorted earlier had we had the luxury of more testing time, but I was amazed at how professional the team was in coping with those issues and I think we should have them sorted now. Not having tested the Lotus at Snetterton may be a small handicap for us, but we know where we are going with the set-up of the Evora and I am sure we will be on the pace.”
The GT4 class leaders pre-Snetterton are Century Motorsport Ginetta G50 drivers Jake Rattenbury and Josh Wakefield. They collected one of the Oulton wins; the other went to the ABG Motorsport KTM raced by Peter Belshaw and Marcus Clutton.
Six GT4 cars are expected in Norfolk, with another KTM for Greek gentleman racer Athanasios Ladas and Michael Mallock, and a further Ginetta for Scuderia Vittoria’s championship newcomers Dan Denis and David McDonald; both of these pairings were podium men at Oulton.