The biggest grid of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season is expected this weekend (18/19 June) at Brands Hatch, with 30 cars set to tackle a two-hour refuelling race on the Kent track’s legendary Grand Prix layout.
Joining the Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Audi GT3 regulars at the sharp end of the supercar field for the first time in 2011 will be the fabulous Ford GT, with experienced British GT hand Peter Bamford to be co-driven by one of Germany’s most experienced sports car racers, Thomas Mutsch.
Mutsch – a victor in both FIA GT3 and GT1 with the Ford GT – will be making his debut not only in British GT but also at Brands Hatch. “He has never been to Brands Hatch before,” said Bamford, “but I am sure he will learn it very quickly. I am very pleased to be returning to the championship to test the waters: I have watched what has been happening with the series and clearly now it has not only a very large field but also a very competitive one.”
Peter usually shares his Ford with RPM’s Alex Mortimer, but Alex will be otherwise occupied at Brands driving the CRS Racing Ferrari 458 Italia in British GT alongside Andrew Tate; it will be the first time that CRS has had two 458s in operation. Father-and-son pairing Jim and Glynn Geddie, who were only narrowly beaten to victory last time out, will crew the other car.
If the preceding rounds are any indication, Sunday’s two-hour marathon will be drama-filled and more than likely to throw up a surprising result or two.
Heading the championship standings currently is the impressive United Autosports pairing of young Yorkshireman Matt Bell and American gentleman racer Mike Guasch, whose Audi R8 LMS placed second and third respectively in the Easter Monday races at Oulton Park and then snatched a last-gasp win in May’s Snetterton two-hour enduro. That victory will cost them a little at Brands, for under the new success-based time penalty system, Guasch and Bell will spend an extra 20 seconds stationary when they pit for refuelling and to swap drivers.
Reigning champion David Ashburn got his title defence off to a great start at Oulton Park where, with the assistance of Richard Westbrook, he claimed a first-round victory with his Trackspeed Porsche; alas for David it all went wrong at Snetterton, where he cannoned into the Porsche of his team-mate Gregor Fisken and brought both their races to a premature end.
The other race-winning car on the grid is the Ferrari 458 Italia of new team Scuderia Vittoria, which claimed a surprise victory with its example in the second Oulton Park race, thanks to excellent driving stints by championship newcomers Charles Bateman and Michael Lyons. MTech’s Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin will be looking to get their 458 nearer the sharp end at Brands Hatch also.
The 2009 British GT Champions, David and Godfrey Jones, have a new ride for 2011 in the shape of a Mercedes AMG SLS, and are nicely placed in the championship after a podium at Oulton and strong finishes in the other rounds. The other podium finishers so far have been Andrew Howard and Jonathan Adam in the Beechdean Aston Martin and Rosso Verde pairing Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen, who are busy proving that there’s plenty of life left in the Ferrari 430 Scuderia.
Adam is one of a number of former BTCC drivers trying their hand for the first time in GTs; another is John Bintcliffe, a BTCC race-winner for Audi in the 1990s. After a long lay-off from driving, John is back in an Audi for his maiden season of British GT with United Autosports, and is driving alongside Jay Palmer.
It’s a big event for London-based Ron Johnson, whose OPC-backed Corvette Z06R is one of the new and most exciting cars on the grid. Teething problems with the Speedworks Motorsport-prepared Corvette prevented Ron and his team-mate Piers Johnson from getting a run at Snetterton, but promising lap times in Norfolk, and also at Oulton Park, hint at the potential of this welcome newcomer.
Chad Racing’s Ferrari 430 Scuderia will feature a new driver pairing, with Iain Dockerill joined for the Brands Hatch weekend by Tom Ferrier, who was a British GT race winner for the team in 2010.
In the GT3B class, for cars with older homologation papers, it will be a fight between the MTech Ferrari 430 of Aaron Scott and John Dhillon and the 22GT Racing Aston Martin, which is to make its seasonal debut crewed by Tom Alexander and Adrian Willmott.
The rejuvenated GT4 class is sure to be a highlight also. The ABG Motorsport KTM of Peter Belshaw and Marcus Clutton leads the points after two class wins from three starts, but the lovely Lotus Evora GT4s of Lotus Sport UK are knocking on victory’s door. Colchester’s Josh Wakefield and his co-driver Jake Rattenbury were the round two GT4 victors in their Century Motorsport Ginetta G50 but, along with fellow Ginetta runners Dan Denis and David McDonald, failed to score last time out. Third in the GT4 points currently are ABG KTM pairing Athanasios Ladas and Michael Mallock.
There’s a new presence in the GT4 field this weekend: Secure Racing’s Barwell Motorsport-prepared Aston Martin, which will feature a special visual code within its livery. Fans who can spot it and decode its meaning could win a chance to ride in the car with one of its pilots, Peter Erceg or Chris Holmes. There will be two Aston Martins contesting GT4 at Brands, with the Vantage of Aston Martin Belgium – crewed by Arnold and Jean-Paul Herreman – joining the grid.
The fourth championship class is for GT Cup cars, and it has been dominated thus far by the rapid little Chevron GR8 of veteran Anthony Reid and his young protégé Jordan Witt. They will have a challenger at Brands in the shape of Magic Racing’s Ginetta-driving Swedes Bjorn and Anders Gustavson.
The British GT Championship is sponsored by UK tyre manufacturer Avon Tyres and is further supported by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and OAMPS.
Brands Hatch timetable
Saturday 18 June: 0935-1035 & 1255-1355 practice; 1745-1815 qualifying
Sunday 19 June: 1000 warm-up; 1550 Round 4 (120 mins)
Ticket info http://bit.ly/mCdSzM
Channel 4: 0700 2 July; Motors TV UK 1137 2 July + repeats
Provisional championship standings
GT3 & overall
=1 Mike Guasch & Matt Bell 70.5
=3 David & Godfrey Jones 46
=5 Jim & Glynn Geddie 41
=7 Hector Lester & Allan Simonsen 40.5
=9 David Ashburn & Richard Westbrook 37 etc
=1 John Dhillon & Aaron Scott 43.75
=1 Peter Belshaw & Marcus Clutton 62.5
=3 Freddy Nordstrom & Leyton Clarke 55
=5 Athanasios Ladas & Michael Mallock 45 etc
=1 Jordan Witt & Anthony Reid 43.75