Brands Hatch plays host to round six of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship this weekend when the thoughts of a number of GT3 and GT4 teams and drivers will be creeping towards not only a strong result but also title success.
Just four of nine races remain in 2015, and Brands Hatch’s two-hour, points-and-a-half affair might well have a strong bearing on both championship battles. Indeed, any slip-up around the fast nine-turn, 2.433-mile former British GP circuit could spell the end of one team’s hopes or a shot in the arm for another rival’s chances.
GT3: THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER
With a maximum of 37.5 points available at Brands Hatch, not to mention 125 over the final four rounds, it might be churlish to write off anyone’s chances at this stage of the season. However, post-Spa it looks increasingly likely that this year’s title race will come down to between three teams and six drivers.
A somewhat fortuitous fourth place last time out actually helped Ecurie Ecosse’s Marco Attard and Alexander Sims extend their Drivers’ Championship lead to 14.5 points over long-time rivals Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher. The Oman Racing Team duo undoubtedly had the pace in Belgium but suffered both a drive-through and post-race penalty en route to fifth and will be eager to bounce back at Brands having not won since the opening weekend of the year.
But both will be acutely aware of the threat posed by Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam. The pair became the first repeat GT3 winners of the season at Spa after securing pole position, and also triumphed at Brands Hatch in their title-winning 2013 campaign. They’re now level on points with Griffin and Butcher in second overall.
Adam’s assertion that the Kent venue would likely favour his Aston Martin Vantage suggest he and Howard will be contenders in terms of pace, although they’ll need to overcome a 20-second success penalty during their pit-stop if they’re to be a factor in the final result.
That’s not to say others won’t be eager to join the title battle at Brands.
After being models of consistency Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle’s season stuttered somewhat with mechanical retirement at Spa after a stunning first stint from the latter had the Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3 running second overall. The pair remain fourth in the standings, albeit a race win’s worth of points off the lead.
Spa also witnessed the first opportunity of the year for Barwell Motorsport’s second BMW to demonstrate its true potential. Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s runners-up spot there suggests they have the pace to cause problems once again.
Others to look out for are Alistair MacKinnon and Lewis Plato in the RAM Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3, which still awaits a result to do its undoubted potential justice. TF Sport also looked a more competitive proposition at Spa, especially in the hands of Andrew Jarman and Jody Fannin, while it will be interesting to see what impact Adam Carroll’s return to the FF Corse fold has on its Ferrari’s chances.
In the Teams’ standings Barwell Motorsport cut their deficit to Oman Racing by 30 points at Spa thanks to their second and fourth place finishes. The difference now stands at just 10.
GT4: ISSY’S BEECHDEAN PURSUIT SET TO CONTINUE?
After losing ground at Silverstone ISSY Racing’s Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw delivered the perfect repost at Spa by claiming a dominant victory despite a wheel weight issue.
But they’ll also need a similar result at Brands Hatch this weekend if the #77 Lotus Evora GT4 is to begin seriously worrying Beechdean AMR youngsters Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn, who have lead the championship since round three at Rockingham. A pair of victories and another two second places – the most recent coming at Spa – in five rounds have helped them build a 21-point cushion over their nearest rivals, and there’s no reason to expect anything other than another strong outing at Brands Hatch.
Just one other team has tasted victory in GT4 this season: the PMW Expo Racing / Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 of Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson. But there’s also been no further podium finish for the pair since their first and second on the opening weekend at Oulton Park, which has allowed both Beechdean and ISSY to break clear at the top.
Instead, they have a number of drivers lining up behind them with their eyes set on third. The nomadic Mike Hart sits alone in fourth 12 points behind while the consistency of Fox Motorsport’s Paul McNeilly and Jamie Stanley sees them occupy fifth.
Will Moore and Dennis Strandberg are only seventh in points but were well on their way to a podium at Spa before a pit-lane infringement led to the penalty that stymied their race. Certainly expect the fast-starting Moore to be a factor over the opening stint.
The GPRM Toyota GT86 returns at Brands Hatch, albeit with new addition James Fletcher partnering Stefan Hodgetts.
This Sunday’s race is live on Motors TV UK (Freeview 71 & 270, Sky 447 and Virgin Media 545) from 13:10 BST.
Mike Lynch, Avon Tyres Technical Manager – Motorsport, runs the rule over Brands Hatch.
“The Championship is back in the UK now and heading for Brands Hatch. The track layout really challenges the tyres with its combination of high speed and low speed corners, kerbs and elevation changes. Racing at Brands Hatch on the full Grand Prix circuit offers a rare opportunity for drivers, teams and fans to experience a collection of the greatest supercars in the world battling head to head in a classic setting. The new-for-2015 Avon racing slicks allow the drivers to push hard from beginning to end. As one of this season’s endurance races, Brands Hatch offers additional excitement as teams race to complete clean pit-stops, adding fuel and fresh tyres. Strategy, skill and technical excellence will be key to success at Brands.”
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.
The new-for-2015 tyre has optimised compound and construction to provide high levels of confidence for the gentleman drivers enabling them to develop their race craft, while allowing the pros to fully explore the limits of the car’s performance potential.
BRANDS HATCH WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Saturday 1 August
10:00 – 10:40: Free Practice 1
10:40 – 11:00: Bronze Practice
12:45 – 13:35: Free Practice 2
16:25 – 16:35: GT3 Am Qualifying
16:38 – 16:48 GT3 Pro Qualifying
16:51 – 17:01: GT4 Am Qualifying
17:06 – 17:16: GT4 Pro Qualifying
Sunday 2 August
10:00 – 10:10: Warm-up
13:30 – 15:30: Race