Championship promoters, the Stephane Ratel Organisation, hosted press and public at Leicestershire’s fabulous Donington Park race circuit with 28 cars, drawn from the ranks of the season’s entry, taking to the track.
Following Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series track testing in the morning, the afternoon saw the #23 United Autosports Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Mark Patterson and Matt Bell fastest in the first of two sessions, and the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of reigning Drivers’ Champion Andrew Howard and team-mate Jonny Adam quickest in the second.
GT3 news included the first public outing for Oman Racing Team – racing under the first racing licence to be granted by the newly formed Oman Automobile Association – with drivers Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine in the #4 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and John Hartstone and Rory Butcher in the sister #5 car. Former BTCC driver Tom Onslow-Cole was also on hand with the #21 Strata Nissan GT-R he will share with Paul White
In the GT4 class there was plenty to shout about too. Tania Mann and Matt Draper were confirmed in the #41 Optimum G55 Ginetta whilst Lotus F1 Team co-chairman Andy Ruhan teams up with Harry Whale in the #47 Silverstone Auctions AMR Aston Martin Challenge.
Elsewhere in the class, Team Parker Racing unveiled a surprise partner for Barrie Baxter in the form of reigning British Formula Ford champion, Dan Cammish, in their Porsche 911 and ABG Motorsport had 2010 class champion Peter Belshaw and Declan Jones in action in their BMW M3. TF Sport exposed their Aston Martin Challenge with Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell on driving duties.
Track time was not all about testing with VIP and competition laps given in a variety of road and race machinery. Beechdean and Trackspeed race cars mixed it up for lucky guests with the season Safety Car, the Nissan Juke-R, and McLaren’s P1 Hypercar.
Donations were taken on the day at Donington were taken for the Championship’s charity for the season, racing4mnd.org, the charity of former British GT racer Neil Cunningham, with Neil present in the pits.
It wasn’t only at Donington Park where British GT announcements were made. London was the location of the biggest surprise when Nissan Nismo unveiled eleven-time world and six-time Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy as partnering Alex Buncombe in the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
Further north, M-Sport Racing announced that Steven Kane and Humaid Al Masaood will contest the season with a second Bentley Continental GT3 to the Generation Bentley Racing #2 car of Steve Tandy and James Appleby seen at Donington.
Just ten days remain before the season kicks off at Cheshire’s undulating and picturesque Oulton Park, where a capacity bursting field is expected to be unleashed for Easter weekend, with track action on Saturday April 19 and Monday 21.
Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group:
“This year’s Avon Tyres British GT Championship is exceptional. We have a full entry of 36 cars, well distributed with 23 GT3 cars and thirteen in the GT4 category. There is quality on the field, diversity on the field and the combination of talented drivers. The success of British GT is based on the fact it is a true pro-amateur championship and it is certainly the greatest national GT championship in Europe, if not the world.”
Benjamin Franassovici, British GT Championship Series Manager:
“This season is going to be a really special one in our history. The depth of talent, the variety of racing cars and the sheer competitiveness mean we are all set for a real delight. We have a fantastic new television deal which will see the Championship on Channel 4, Motors TV – which is now available free-to-air on Freeview – and BT Sport in the UK, not to mention a new deal with Fox Sports Asia which increases our reach yet further. We have very strong grids in both GT3 and GT4 and an athlete of the calibre of Chris Hoy joining us. I can’t wait for it to get underway at Oulton Park.”
Andrew Howard , 2013 GT3 Drivers’ Champion, Beechdean AMR:
“There’s a lot more pressure on us all this year and looking at the line-up, I’d say it is even stronger than last year. This means it will be even more difficult to repeat what we did last season to take the title. The opposition is strong across the field and the grid is just phenomenal. There used to be three or four cars within a second in qualifying, and now there’s ten to fifteen. I’ve been racing since 2004 and it’s by far the strongest grid I’ve seen.”
Rick Parfitt, 2013 GT4 Drivers’ Champion, Century Motorsport:
“The line-up through the field in GT4 is truly brilliant; it’s amazing. Some of the drivers make me truly believe that GT4 is challenging GT3 for driver line-ups, if not GT4 having a slight edge. I feel like I have less pressure this year, as I have the cup at home. It’s too big anyway, you don’t really know where to put them! I’d love to be at the front, I have a good team-mate in Tom Oliphant, a great new team in Century Motorsport and all things are pointing to the fact we should be somewhere near the front. I can’t wait for Oulton.”
Rounds 1&2 Oulton Park Provisional Entry List
1 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Andrew Howard Jonny Adam GT3
2 Generation Bentley Racing Bentley Continental GT3 Steve Tandy James Appleby GT3
3 Rosso Verde / Hector Lester Ferrari 458 Italia Hector Lester Benny Simonsen GT3
4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Ahmad Al Harthy Michael Caine (+75)GT3
5 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 John Hartshorne Rory Butcher GT3
6 PGF – Kinfaun AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Phil Dryburgh John Gaw GT3
8 888 BMW Z4 GT3 Lee Mowle Joe Osborne GT3
9 Von Ryan Racing McLaren MP4 12C tba tba GT3
12 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R Jody Firth Warren Hughes (+75) GT3
13 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia John Dhillon Aaron Scott GT3
17 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 Humaid Al Masaood Steven KaneGT3
18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia Gary Eastwood Rob Barff GT3
21 Strata 21 Nissan GT-R Tom Onlsow-Cole Paul White GT3
22 Preci –Spark McLaren MP4 12C David Jones Godfrey Jones GT3
23 United Autosports Audi R8 LMS Ultra Mark Patterson Matt Bell GT3
28 HorsePower Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Paul Bailey Andy Schulz GT3
29 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia Pasin Lathouras Richard Lyons (+75) GT3
33 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R Jon Minshaw Phil Keen GT3
38 MP Motorsport AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Mark Poole Richard Abra GT3
40 IDL CWS G55 Ginetta GT3 Colin White Tom Sharp GT3
41 Optimum G55 Ginetta GT4 Tania Mann Matt Draper GT4
42 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 Rick Parfitt Tom Oliphant GT4
43 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 Morten Dons Aleksander Schjerpen (+75) GT4
44 Team Parker Racing Porsche 911 GT4 Barrie Baxter Dan Cammish GT4
45 ABG Motorsport BMW M3 GT4 Peter Belshaw Declan JonesGT4
46 Twisted Team Parker Ginetta G55 Adrian Barwick Bradley Ellis GT4
47 Silverstone Auctions AMR Aston Martin GT4 Challenge Andy Ruhan Harry Whale GT4
48 Fox Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 Paul McNeilly Jamie Stanley GT4
49 HorsePower Racing Aston Martin GT4 Challenge Andrew Jarman Devon Modell GT4
55 Academy Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 Oli Basey-Fisher Matt Nicoll-Jones (+30) GT4
77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora GT4 Oz Yusuf Gavan Kershaw GT4
79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 Marco Attard Alexander Sims (+10) GT3
80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3 Chris Hoy Alex Buncombe GT3
86 GPRM Toyota Toyota G86 tba Stefan Hodgetts GT4
407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin GT4 Challenge Jake Giddings Ross Wylie (+30) GT4
888 888 BMW Z4 GT3 Derek Johnston Luke Hines GT3