After missing out on the two 60-minute sprint races last season, Triple Eight Racing duo Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle are intent on getting on the podium at the opening round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Oulton Park this Easter weekend (4/6 April).
The 2015 British GT season is the third year British duo Osborne and Mowle have driven together in the BMW Z4 GT3, and after a challenging 2014 season, a consistent point-scoring title campaign and maiden victory are now firmly in their sights.
“Pre-season has been really good,” says Osborne. “There has been a fairly major overhaul at the team, we’ve revitalised everyone and everything, which seems to have worked. It’ll be interesting to see where we are in the food chain now. Looking at the entry list there are probably seven or eight cars that can win on merit, it’s hard to pinpoint just one car, but it will be a challenge and as ever, being consistent will be key, making sure you always score points will deliver the title.”
While the opening round doesn’t decide the 2015 British GT title, the two 60-minute races on the 2.69 mile International Circuit form a critical weekend for teams planning to position themselves for a run at the drivers and teams championships. With a full 32-car grid expected and a GT4 grid increasing in size, there will be no shortage of challenges ahead.
“Oulton can really set the tone for how you approach the rest of the season and it’s important you get a good result,” explains Triple Eight Racing, Team Director, Keith Cheetham. “We’re coming into the weekend with seven days of testing behind us so far this year, which is a good amount of preparation time.”
“We’ve gained a lot of experience with the BMW since last season and have a great understanding of the new Avon tyre too. And, although the GT3 grid numbers have dropped a little, the competition remains massive and it will definitely be a tough season. That said we’re up for the challenge!” said Cheetham.
“I like the format of the two 1 hour races,” says Osborne. “They’re fast-paced and punchy, which helps get people into the swing of things at the start of the season. Oulton is a great track; it’s really fast and bites hard if you get it wrong, but it rewards you kindly if you get it right. That said it isn’t the best place to overtake at. I think the track is two inches wider than two GT3 cars side by side. This means the guy ahead can quite easily block your path and it puts a premium on qualifying. It’s a really interesting event for the start of the year.”
Having shown exceptional pace in free practice last year, an innocent off at the end of the final session prior to qualifying ruled out the pacey pair; their car then collided with a Porsche that hadn’t be removed from the side of the circuit and caused irreparable damage to the Z4.
Over the past month Triple Eight have tested at the Cheshire track twice and both drivers are confident of getting some early points on the board, as well as delivering an improved performance across the breadth of the season.
“We want to win British GT this year,” said Mowle. “But, our first battle is to be the fastest BMW in the series and that won’t be easy. We have a new team that combines enthusiasm and experience and I believe can master the challenge presented. As for Joe and I, we’ve both made steps forward with our performances too. For me doing the Dubai 24 Hour race was really important and it got my race season up and running much earlier than normal. I think we’ll be competitive at Oulton even though on paper it doesn’t suit the Z4 as well as perhaps the Aston, but I’m confident we’ll be in the mix after this weekend.”
Osborne agrees, and concludes: “I’m really excited to be back in British GT this year. Combining this with Blancpain Endurance will give me a lot of time in the Z4 and that can only be a good thing. Together, Lee and I are a strong combination and we have unfinished business in British GT. The Z4 has a lot of strengths that we have to exploit, and I’m sure we’ll have a really competitive package to fight for the victory.”
The opening pair of British GT races this year will take place on Bank Holiday Monday 6th April, with highlights available on both Channel 4 and Motors TV on Saturday 11th April. Tickets for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season-opener at Oulton Park on 4/6 April are available from £18, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or visit www.oultonpark.co.uk