This weekend will see the once again packed entry of cars take to the British GT championship grid at the famous Spa-Francorhamps circuit located in Belgium. Once again there will be GT4 European entries mixed in with the GT3 and GT4 British GT entries, which proved to be eventful at Silverstone last time out. Just five weeks have passed since the championship was last out at Silverstone.
The 4.352-mile-long Belgian circuit is becoming a favourite among the busy paddock of drivers and teams as a lot of them are successful and enjoy the annual trip away from Britain. A lot of teams and drivers will be hoping for a strong result at Spa-Francorchamps to keep their title fights alive.
There are three teams in a close fight for the lead of the championship; Optimum Motorsport, Beechdean AMR and Century Motorsport. They have all been sharing the victories within their class and are hungry for more points and podiums. Although the GT4 European class is joining on to the grid, they will not be able to take any points away from the British GT GT4 teams. All eyes will be fixed on the drivers’ championship battle. At Silverstone Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson’s championship lead became under threat after once again they were involved in a crash which made them take a DNF. After the first few rounds of the season it looked like the Optimum Motorsport/PMW Expo Racing team were going to dominate the title race this year. However, the Beechdean AMR duo of Jack Bartholomew and Jordan Albert made the most of the disaster striking Johnson and Robinson. The two young guns proved that consistency is key and will beat outright pace by retaking the lead of the championship with a third place finish. They are only 3.5 points ahead of Johnson and Robinson. Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke are also close in the title fight for Century Motorsport. They finished second at Silverstone which moved them up into third place in the GT4 drivers’ championship standings.
The PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta on track at the season opener. Picture Credit: Ambrose Motorsport Photography.
Putting speed to one side it is the pit stop success penalties that have big impacts on the victors in each race. Century Motorsport’s Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke will have to endure a fifteen second success penalty added onto their pit stop time whilst Jack Bartholomew and Jordan Albert will have to endure a ten second penalty added on to their pit stop time after finishing on the podium last time out at Silverstone. This could help the Optimum Motorsport duo of Johnson and Robinson to take victory providing there is no contact/incidents that rule them out of the race. RCIB Insurance Racing were the victors last time out at Silverstone, the #75 Ginetta finally took its well-deserved race win after taking DNFs earlier in the season. You can expect both RCIB Racing Ginettas at the sharp end of the grid with two talented driver pairings. Jordan Stilp and Williams Phillips have been successful during the beginning of the season. They are the only driver pairing apart from Bartholomew and Albert that have scored points in every single race so far this year in GT4. They will have the upper hand on teammates Rob Barrable and Aaron Mason as the latter pairing have to serve a twenty second pit stop success penalty.
The only Maserati entered into the British GTs, driven by Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth have a strong car for Spa-Francorchamps as the circuit is a fast flowing circuit. Pole sitters from Silverstone; Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty will be looking to take their well-deserved victory after they keep having reliability issues with the car. They have the speed behind them and are hoping to succeed in claiming their first win.
Generation AMR Macmillan Racing have shown strong results with Matthew Graham and Jack Mitchell at the wheel. The team have not always had it their way as they were involved in a disastrous crash at the season opener at Brands Hatch. Nick Jones and Scott Malvern will be looking to take their first victory in the GT4 race-spec Porsche Cayman.
This weekend will see reigning GT4 Champion Jamie Chadwick return to the championship who will be teaming up with the famous Paul Hollywood in the third Beechdean Aston Martin. Also making their return to the championship is Stratton Motorsport with their Aston Martin V8 Vantage, the last time they were out in the championship was at Brands Hatch. Andrew Jarman will be joining up with David Tinn to compete in round six.
The timetable for the weekend to keep up to date with the action from the British GTs is as follows:
Friday 8th July
Free Practice One – 9:35am – 10:25am
Free Practice Two – 12:25 – 13:15
Qualifying GT3 AM – 15:45 – 15:57
Qualifying GT3 PRO – 16:02 – 16:14
Qualifying GT4 AM – 16:19 – 16:31
Qualifying GT4 PRO – 16:36 – 16:48
Saturday 9th July
Race – 12:35 -14:35
The current British GT lap records around Spa-Francorchamps are:
GT3: 2:22.988 – Tom Onslow-Cole -Strata 21 – Aston Martin Vantage GT3 – 2014.
GT4:2:35.497 – Gavan Kershaw – ISSY Racing – Lotus Evora GT4 – 2014.
The teams that have to serve pit stop success penalties are:
RCIB Insurance Racing – Mason and Barrable – 20 seconds
Century Motorsport – Walewska and Freke – 15 seconds.
Beechdean AMR – Bartholomew and Albert – 10 seconds.
©Fay Tilley 8th July 2016.