Greatworth, Banbury 22nd August 2014 – Top British GT team Triple Eight Race Engineering has today announced changes to the line-ups of the #88 and #888 BMW Z4 GT3s as well as a significant senior hire, as it strengthens the team ahead of the penultimate British GT race of the year at Brands Hatch (30/31 August).
Following the recent expansion to three Z4 GT3s with Warren Hughes and Jody Firth signing a fortnight ago, Triple Eight Driver Development (TEDD) racer, Ryan Ratcliffe will make his series GT3 debut alongside Lee Mowle in #88, with Joe Osborne moving to the #888 car to link-up with Derek Johnston.
As the first member of TEDD, an initiative by the team to help drivers adjust to the performance gap of GT3, 20-year-old Ratcliffe has shown the team time and time again this year that he has the potential to be of professional calibre and now gets an opportunity to further his GT3 education in the final two British GT rounds.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me,” says the Llanelli ace who celebrates his 21st birthday on the eve of the Brands Hatch meeting (29th August). “I wasn’t expecting to get to drive in British GT3 this year, but the team have been really happy with my progress. I think if I’d started the year in the car without all of the TEDD work I’d be hopeless; the journey I’ve been on has been that significant. This is now a great way to evaluate myself properly against the rest of the field.”
The move to partner Mowle in the final two races is a temporary one, and the reigning GT4 champion is keen to display his talents and attract some attention from gentleman drivers looking to compete next year.
“With the misfortune that Lee and Joe encountered earlier on in the year, I’m now in a relatively low-pressure situation to build up my GT3 race experience and finish the year sharp, ahead of next season. I intend to make the most of the opportunity; I’ll definitely be using it as a shop window to show what I can do. British GT is ideally where I see myself racing next year.”
Speaking of Brands and Donington, Ratcliffe adds, “They’re both circuits that I like a lot, but I’m coming into the final two races against drivers who’ve been racing these cars all year. If we can get a decent result in the race, I’ll be chuffed to bits. Donington in particular has great memories for me, it’s where I took the GT4 title and a good race there in GT3 will seal what has been a really rewarding year for me.”
Ratcliffe’s team-mate for the final two races of the British GT season, Lee Mowle is no stranger to the progressive 21-year-old’s abilities.
“Ryan’s a great lad and a quick driver. We weren’t short of interest in driving the car in these final two races, but for me it made sense to give him (Ryan) an opportunity to show what he can do. The pressure is off and I think it is set-up nicely to give him a platform to display his talents. TEDD has been a big success in its first year and we now have several drivers working with us, young and old, all with the right attitude and a desire to push-on. If Ryan can help me get some points finishes at Brands and Donington, I think as a team we’ll all take a lot of satisfaction from that.”
An inspired start to the year saw Derek Johnston firmly in the championship mix until a heavy-handed penalty thwarted his title ambitions in an instant, penalising him a massive 27 championship points.
Johnston is keen to make amends by bagging a win before the end of the season and the pacey Joe Osborne joins him for the rest of the year to enable the former GT Cup and Radicals Champion to do just that. The move sees Luke Hines step down from driving duties for the remainder of the year, a decision that was not taken lightly by Johnston.
“It wasn’t a flash in the pan move (to ask Luke to step down) and I gave it a lot of thought. I really want to push for podiums in the final two races and get something out of the year. I think with Joe alongside me, I stand a really good chance of making that happen. I want to thank Luke for all of his help, I regard him as a mate and we’ve had some good times together this year, but the results don’t match up with where I believe I should be with the car.”
One of the quickest PRO drivers in British GT this year, Osborne is excited about the opportunity to race with Johnston and thinks a win is not out of the question in the final pair of races.
“It’s great news. I have a real loyalty to Lee and want to help him achieve a win in the series as we’ve worked together for so long, but to race with Derek in these last two weekends will be a blast. While I’ve been on the other side of the garage to Derek this year, I’ve picked up a lot about him. He’s not like many gent drivers in terms of style and is far more instinctive, which I think is part of the reason he’s so quick; he’s a real racer. The final two races are on circuits that reward a ballsy driver, and with qualifying reliant upon both driver’s times I can see us being at the front when it matters on the Saturday and the Sunday.”
Last year Triple Eight took pole at Brands Hatch (Dan Brown) and Donington (Osborne), which were followed up with a pair of top-ten finishes at the Kent track and a near victory at the East Midlands circuit.
Triple Eight hires Trackspeed’s Keith Cheetham to head GT operations
Keith Cheetham, formerly Team Manager of multiple British GT champions, Trackspeed, joins Triple Eight with immediate effect to head up the expansive GT operations as GT Team Director, reporting to founder, Ian Harrison.
Just a fortnight ago Triple Eight announced former Trackspeed pair Jody Firth and Warren Hughes would join the team for the rest of the season, and the hire of Cheetham is a case of serendipity, as Harrison explains:
“When Keith announced in May that he intended to split from Trackspeed come October, we were naturally interested. As a team we have a fantastic wealth of experience, but that’s not to say it can’t ever be improved. Having won the team’s championship for four successive seasons amongst growing pressure and competition is no easy feat, so we contacted Keith about his future plans.
“About a month later we began discussions with Jody and Warren and the whole thing has been rather fortuitous. Keith will engineer the #8 car for the final two races of the British GT season, and take up his new position as GT Team Director.”
Cheetham, 30, began his career working on historic racers from the likes of Lola and Matra, before moving into historic F1 cars and then into the world of modern GT racing. His time at Trackspeed saw progression through the ranks to the point that he ran the team himself over the past three years. The appointment is important for Triple Eight and Cheetham comes on board at a crucial time for the team, with the final two rounds of British GT and the final event of the Blancpain Endurance Series at the Nurburgring in the next four weeks alone, Cheetham is under no illusions about the challenge he has taken on.
“It’s going to be busy! I’ve spent time getting up to speed on the BMW and looking at the data and I just want to get to the first race weekend. Hopefully I can bring some good calls and help the team get some good results before the year is out. We really want that first win!”
A maiden winter race programme will also see Triple Eight partake in the Gulf 12 Hours and Dubai 24 Hour races, and that represents an exciting opportunity for the British engineer.
It’s great to be going back to competing on the world stage; it was one of the reasons for joining the team. I also wanted to work somewhere I could learn from people rather than purely being the teacher. When Ian got in touch, I listened. Triple Eight is a well-established team with a very good background and plenty of opportunity. You’re only as good as the people you work with and I think it’ll be great to work with Ian, John (Waterman) and the guys.”