A 34-car grid featuring no less than 19 GT3 entries will take to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium this weekend (July 10/11) for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship’s fifth round of the season and annual ‘away day’.
The 4.3-mile, 20-turn Ardennes venue oozes atmosphere and history, and also offers drivers of all abilities one of the toughest tests in motor racing. It’s these factors that have undoubtedly helped attract a number of new names for this Saturday’s two-hour points-and-a-half-paying encounter.
An additional BMW Z4 GT3 run by crack Belgian outfit Marc VDS & Friends Racing for Cancer featuring the talents of Pascal Witmeur and Bas Leinders should be at the sharp end. There are also two additional Aston Martin Vantage GT3s on the entry list courtesy of Aston Martin Brussels’ Michael Schmetz and reigning Belgian GT champion, Tim Verbergt, and Leonard Motorsport AMR’s Silver Cup driver pairing Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows.
Elsewhere, series regulars Rosso Verde return with their Ferrari for Hector Lester and Benny Simonsen, while FF Corse’s similar 458 Italia features Ollie Hancock alongside Gary Eastwood.
There’s also a fresh GT4 entry following the arrival of Track Group’s Lotus Evora, driven by Adam Balon and Ben Clucas.
2015: THE GT3 STORY SO FAR…
Four rounds contested over three different distances have already been completed, but so competitive is this year’s entry that GT3 still awaits its first multiple winners of 2015.
Indeed, it’s consistency rather than outright pace that has proved vital to reigning Drivers’ champion Marco Attard and Ecurie Ecosse team-mate Alexander Sims establishing their slim 11.5-point lead atop the standings. Scoring big in the championship’s two points-and-a-half races, including a victory at Rockingham, helped them overcome a slow start at Oulton Park where their closest title pursuers, Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher, won the hour-long opener for Oman Racing Team.
As if to emphasise the point Triple Eight pairing Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne have yet to finish first this season but remain very much part of the fight thanks to their knack of picking up solid points’ finishes. Second place at Silverstone last time out suggests they’re in contention to make it five winners from as many rounds in Belgium.
Beechdean AMR’s former champions Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam have been at the sharp end all season but have so far struggled converting potential into big points. A victory on the opening weekend at Oulton, plus two pole positions, proves they have what it takes to close the gap.
AND WHAT OF GT4?
With plenty of points still up for grabs the destination of this year’s GT4 titles remains anyone’s guess, even if one pairing has come to the fore in recent months…
Indeed, Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn’s back-to-back victories at Rockingham and Silverstone’s two endurance events have helped them seize control of the Drivers’ standings. After letting their enthusiasm slightly get the better of them at Oulton neither Beechdean AMR youngster has since put a foot wrong en route to establishing a 31.5-point advantage over ISSY Racing duo Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw.
They, along with third placed Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson, chalked up the other two victories at Oulton, meaning three manufacturers – Aston Martin, Lotus and Ginetta – have shared the GT4 spoils thus far.
Looking to get in on the act at Spa-Francorchamps will be the Graham Coomes/Jake Hill peddled AmDTuning.com Porsche 911, which ran at the front for much of Silverstone’s three-hour race. The same can also be said of Academy Motorsport’s Dennis Strandberg and Will Moore in light of the latter’s impressive display in wet conditions last time out.
Mike Lynch, Avon Tyres Technical Manager – Motorsport, runs the rule over Spa-Francorchamps.
“Spa is our only trip abroad with the British GT Championship. The nature of the track and the weather bring unique challenges for the tyres. The long lap with very high speeds and the huge compression at Eau Rouge creates loads in the tyres not seen at other circuits on our calendar.
“Set in the Ardennes, the weather is unpredictable at best. The tyres might have to cope with track temperatures ranging from 10 to 40ºC, from dry, hot surfaces to wet and greasy – often on the same lap. However, the new-for-2015 tyre has been optimised to perform more consistently in all of these conditions. We can expect faster lap times and the racing to be even closer than last year.”
Dry = Medium: New for 2015 in British GT and designed for widest possible ambient temperature range (so operational from track temps of about 10°C to 40°C). Will reach temperatures during the races of around 110ºC.
Wet = Soft: Ensures maximum security and confidence for all drivers (especially the less experienced of the GT3 drivers). Typical temperatures of 50-60ºC.
Pressures start at around 1.4bar and reach 1.9 to 2.1bar in 3-5 laps.
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Friday 10 July
09:00 – 10:00: Free Practice 1
12:05 – 13:05: Free Practice 2
16:05 – 16:45: Qualifying
Saturday 11 July
12:15 – 14:15: Race