September is set for an adrenalin-fuelled kick start thanks to the return of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship after a long summer break, with the UK’s top sports car drivers going into battle at Rockingham in their Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Audi and Ginetta supercars.
Two one-hour races are planned for the Northamptonshire super speedway on Sunday 4 September, rounds seven and eight of the 10-race championship; a field in excess of 22 cars is expected, with 16 of them contesting the top-level GT3 category.
The championship battle could not be closer, nor more exciting, with the season-long points leaders, American Mike Guasch and Yorkshireman Matt Bell, nursing a slender two-point advantage with their United Autosports Audi R8 LMS. Breathing down their necks are Scottish father-and-son pairing Jim and Glynn Geddie, whose CRS Racing Ferrari 458 Italia has been a regular podium presence this season.
Coming up fast on the rails, however, is the MTECH Racing Ferrari 458 crewed by Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron. They claimed their first race win of 2011 last time out, at Spa-Francorchamps, and last weekend finished a strong seventh, despite some technical issues, in the FIA GT3 European Championship at Slovakia Ring. “It was a tough weekend in Slovakia,” said Griffin, “and I hope we can put all that behind us for Rockingham. We need a couple of good, solid finishes there to keep the ball rolling having turned our season around a bit. But it won’t be easy because British GT is so competitive and because Rockingham has historically suited the Porsches more than it has the Ferraris.”
Rockingham’s twin races are the last one-hour events on the British GT calendar: in late September the crews face their toughest test of the year, a three-hour classic at Donington Park, which will be followed by a two-hour curtain closer at Silverstone in October. Championship manager Benjamin Franassovicci says it will be a fascinating finale: “The three circuits coming up all offer their own unique challenges, as will the format of the races at each. The championship is wide open and will be, I think, all the way to the final round. We are expecting to see 27-plus cars on the grid at Donington, which is even more exciting.”
The other GT3 contenders lining up at Rockingham include reigning champion David Ashburn in his Trackspeed Porsche, who has two wins under his belt already this season, and a second team 997 to be shared by Brands Hatch race winners Gregor Fisken and Tim Bridgman. The second CRS Ferrari 458 – which like the Geddie car will sport a striking new livery at Rockingham – will be piloted by Andrew Tate and Alex Mortimer.
The 2009 British GT Champions, David and Godfrey Jones, will be out in their Team Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS, fresh from its superb seventh-overall success in last month’s Spa 24 Hours, while round two victors Michael Lyons and Charles Bateman will be seeking further glory in their Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458.
Aston Martin will be represented in GT3 by the Beechdean Motorsport entry of Andrew Howard and Jonathan Adam, and Corvette by the Speedworks Motorsport car of Ron Johnson and Piers Johnson, which collected a season-best sixth in class last time out. Three Ginetta G55s are expected also, Century Motorsport’s Julien Draper and Freddie Hetherington heading the pack.
There’s a fearsome battle also in the GT4 class, headed currently by the ABG Motorsport pairing of Peter Belshaw and Marcus Clutton, whose KTM X-Bow has won the class three times. In July at Spa, however, there were maiden class wins for the Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta G50 of Dan Denis and David McDonald and the Ollie Jackson/Phil Glew Lotus Sport UK Evora. After their maiden GT4 podium finish at Spa, the Secure Racing team’s Aston Martin drivers Peter Erceg and Chris Holmes are aiming for more at Rockingham.
The GT3B class at Rockingham will be contested by MTECH Ferrari men John Dhillon and Aaron Scott, with the GT Cup category featuring the return of the Jordan Witt/Anthony Reid Chevron GR8.
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.
Saturday 3 September: 0900-1000 & 1145-1245 practice; 1620-1655 qualifying
Sunday 4 September: 1000 warm-up; 1250 Round 7 & 1625 Round 8 (each 60mins)
Ticket details http://bit.ly/pnIQq0
17 September: 0700 Channel 4; 1915 Motors TV UK + repeats
Provisional championship standings
GT3 & overall
=1 Mike Guasch & Matt Bell / Audi 90.5 points
=3 Glynn & Jim Geddie / Ferrari 88.5
=5 Duncan Cameron & Matt Griffin / Ferrari 76 etc
=1 John Dhillon & Aaron Scott / Ferrari 93.75
=3 Tom Alexander & Adrian Willmott / Aston Martin 27
=1 Peter Belshaw & Marcus Clutton / KTM 128
=3 Freddy Nordstrom & Leyton Clarke / Lotus 107
5 Ollie Jackson / Lotus 86.5 etc
=1 Jordan Witt & Anthony Reid / Chevron 62.5
=3 Bjorn & Anders Gustavson / Ginetta 13.5