This weekend sees the British GT Championship roll into Oulton Park, located in Cheshire for rounds three and four of the 2016 season. This will be the first time in eleven years that the Cheshire circuit has not hosted the season opener for the British GTs but the organisers have kept with the tradition of the two one-hour races, which will take place on Monday. By keeping the race format of two one hour contests it brings a new challenge in for the teams and drivers as the grids are set by individual drivers’ lap times. The Am drivers will qualify and set the grid for one encounter whilst the Pro’s set the times and grid slots for the other. By using the format of two one hour contests it gives drivers less of a chance to create any advantage during the hour race. It also makes the drivers think ahead as they do not want to damage the car ahead of the second race as damage could force teams and cars to retire and pull out of the second encounter. Drivers who were victorious and lucky enough to stand on the podium at Rockingham will have to endure pit stop success time penalties, will this give others a chance to claim victory?
Yet again the championship sees quite a few entries for the GT4 class, some of the drivers will have penalties to serve. The main two teams that look likely to be battling at the front of the field is PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport with Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson at the wheel and Century Motorsport with drivers Anna Walewska, Nathan Freke, Aleksander Schjerpen and Sean Byrne as all three cars have shown their potential during the two opening rounds of the season.
At this early stage of the title fight its Jack Bartholomew and Jordan Albert who are leading the championship in Beachdean AMR’s Aston Martin. The driver pairing managed to take their first victory of the season in GT4 at Rockingham after suffering from brake issues. The duo finished second on the road behind Nathan Freke and Anna Walewska but they were excluded from the race due to overtaking under yellow flags, this gave the Beachdean pairing the victory in GT4.
Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke are now heading to Oulton Park as slight favourites. They have well and truly shown their potential after finishing second at Brands Hatch after qualifying on pole for GT4. They charged from last on the grid to finish first on the road but then got disqualified. This pairing will have no success penalty on board which would definitely put them in with a chance of claiming victory.
Optimum Motorsport’s Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson are definitely looking capable of doing a back-to-back British GT4 victories. The duo were looking likely to have finished on the podium at Rockingham until Johnson had an accident which ruled the Ginetta out of the race.
The Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S in the hands of Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell was proving its strengths. An electrical gremlin has terminated their chances of a podium finish.
Alex Reed and Joey Foster made the decision to switch to racing a Ginetta for Lanan Racing. Byrne and Schjerpen found themselves to be in a very similar sticky situation after starting and finishing the race at Rockingham in second place. Both cars for Century Motorsport will have to endure a five second and a seven second success penalty during race one of the weekend.
RCIB Insurance Racing’s William Phillips and Jordan Stilp are another driver pairing to keep an eye on this weekend after they try to build on a stressful weekend at Rockingham. Meanwhile, the sister car has a new name above the door of the Ginetta as reigning Volkswagen Racing Cup Champion Aaron Mason is the new partner to Rob Barrable after Wilson Thompson’s departure.
Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth aboard the Eborg GT Maserati MC GranTurismo showed its pace at Rockingham and would have finished on the podium if it had not been for a penalty after not staying in the pits as long as they are supposed to.
Generation AMR SuperRacing with Jamie Chadwick and Matt George at the wheel showed the pace of the Aston Martin around the Northamptonshire circuit. However, for this weekend James Holder is back in the seat alongside Matt George to make his debut in the championship. Will this pairing be more successful? … or is Chadwick and George a more successful pairing?
The lap time records for the Oulton Park International circuit are:
GT3 ~ 1:35.549 ~ Adam Carroll ~ FF Corse ~ Ferrari 458 Italia (2015)
GT4 ~ 1:43.674 ~ Luke Davenport ~ Tolman Motorsport ~ Ginetta G55 GT4 (2015)
The timetable for this round of the British GTs is as follows:
Free Practice One ~ 09:30 – 10:30
Free Practice Two ~ 12:35 – 13:25
GT3 Am Qualifying ~ 15:50 – 16:00
GT3 Pro Qualifying ~ 16:04 – 16:14
GT4 Am Qualifying ~ 16:18 – 16:28
GT4 Pro Qualifying ~ 16:33 – 16:43
Warm Up ~ 08:55 – 09:05
Race One ~ 11:15 – 12:15
Race Two ~ 15:30 – 16:30
© Fay Tilley 27th May 2016