A remarkable day spent in the Cheshire countryside with a 35-strong entry list including some of our closest friends from Mercedes-AMG, Aston Martin, Bentley, Lamborghini, etc… a total of 13 GT3s, 21 GT4s and one GTC from Porsche in preparation for a pair of hour-long races on Easter Monday.
It is not long ago that the GT world was speculating at the demise of GT3 & GTC but these wonderfully powerful machines on a tight circuit like Oulton Park are a spectacle to behold and be treasured. The beauty is it has not been at the cost of GT4, they are co-existing together with sufficient distinction to have their own category races without necessarily tripping over each other.
Indeed with GT3 going from strength to strength only Mercedes AMG bring older equipment to this first round of the British GT, Aston Martin, Bentley, Lamborghini and McLaren all introducing fresh GT equipment and BMW brings its thumping M6 to the series for the first time.
GT4 has matured nicely from a bit of an upstart a few years ago, threatening its older sibling with more manageable costs, slightly slower cars (no one would notice) and greater diversity. It now delivers volume, taking the 14-car GTE and GTC field up to an impressive 35 to produce a packed paddock and a fantastic looking grid of cars. Whilst the fast Pros and well-heeled AMs frequent the GT3s, youth appears to spring eternal in GT4 and this is good not only for the British GT Championship but for the whole SRO ladder it sustains. There is truly a self-sustaining economy to this environment that appears to an outsider to be self-perpetuating.
Aston Martin provides a third of the GT4-field with seven new V8 Vantage GT4s on the 21-car entry. The McLaren’s 570S has won at Oulton Park in the last two preceding years and in addition to its two Driver Development Programme cars (run by Tolman) a further three cars are fielded by Balfe and HHC Motorsport.
Ford have arrived in British GT with three of its Mustangs, two of which are run by the Multimatic organisation, the people behind the Ford GT. Multimatic Motorsports bring a bit of transatlantic spice to the championship with American duo Jade Buford and Chad McCumbee to the #19 entry with the genetically super capable Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell in the #15. RACE Performance bring the third Mustang for ex-BTCC racers Sam Smelt and Aron Taylor-Smith.
There’s also two Mercedes-AMGs on the entry list, both of which feature unchanged team and driver line-ups. Team Parker’s Nick Jones and Scott Malvern won Oulton’s rain-shorted second race en route to 2018’s Pro/Am title, while class rivals Mark Murfitt and Michael Broadhurst begin their second season with Fox Motorsport.
The Jaguar F-Type is also back in the familiar hands of Steve McCulley and Matthew George, Invictus Games Racing hoping a single entry will help them focus on extracting greater performance from the supercharged fan favourite.
For further variety, look no further than Track Focused’s KTM X-Bow, which makes its championship debut at Oulton Mike McCollum and Sean Cooper sharing the car this weekend as the Austrian manufacturer makes its first British GT appearance since 2011.
The qualifying action took place in the heat of the Easter Saturday afternoon, and the professionalism of the whole field was to be admired. Whilst clearly pushing tyres and cars to the limit not one incident interrupted the four session to decide the grid across the 2-categories for the 2 races to be held on Easter Monday.
For the first race the GT3 order was to be decided by the Am drivers. It was Ian Loggie who demonstrated his winter preparations, programme and circuit knowledge had been most well applied taking pole with a 1:35.061 just 4-tenths off the lap record cunningly held by his Pro partner Callum Macleod. Ram Racing have had the Mercedes-AMG GT3 #6 in their stable for a few years now and demonstrated how well they have it sorted for Loggie. Second went to the new for 2019 Bentley Continental GT3 #7 of Team Parker Racing some 6-tenths slower. Third was the Barwell Lamborghini #69 handled by Sam De Haan.
For the second race the Lamborghini Pro Phil Keen in the Barwell #72 Huracan GT3 EVO set a blinding target (1:33.541) a tad under 5-tenths of a second quicker than his next closest rival the Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Callum Macleod. In third the green AMG machine of Abba Racing #8 with the ever quick Adam Christodoulou on pedals.
One note of GT3 debut disappointment was the early demise of the glorious looking Mclaren 720s run by Balfe Motorsport. We understand the car was late being delivered to the team, it ran in a natural white wrap. From practice it was clearly having issues completing laps under white flags as it limped back to its garage. Unable to resolve an electrical gremlin it was sensibly withdrawn from the meeting late on Saturday. We know that between McLaren and Balfe Motorsport it will get sorted and no doubt be back out at Snetterton soon.
GT4 qualifying for both races was dominated by the Multimatic Ford Mustangs with both Am Scott Maxwell (1:43.553) and Pro Seb Priaulx (1:42.384) sticking the #15 on Pole. The Priaulx lap raised an eyebrow or two in the paddock as it was a full 1.1secs quicker than its nearest rival! For the first race they are backed up by the #19 ‘stang of Jade Buford locking out the front row. Behind the Fords for the first race its a triplet of Mclaren 570s GT4s the HHC Motorsport run editions #57 and #58 ahead of the Tolman Motorsport version #5. The GT4 second race sees just the #15 Ford pursued by two Mercedes-AMG #66 from #77 and then the mighty Aston Martins #11 & #97.
Standing Race Lap Records to be broken –
GT3 – 1m34.624s – Callum Macleod – Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental – 2017
GT4 – 1m43.674s – Luke Davenport – Tolman Motorsport Ginetta G55 – 2015
Race Stop Details –
Success penalties (based on Race 1 results and only applicable in Race 2)
1st 10sec | 2nd 7sec | 3rd 5sec
Minimum pitstop times (pit-in to pit-out)
GT3: 70s | GT4: 105s
All Silver Cup-entered GT4 cars will serve an additional 14 seconds and carry 15kg extra ballast.
Both British GT races will be shown live on the championship’s Facebook page and website, plus SRO’s GT World Youtube channel, on Monday 22 April.
A selection of support races will also be shown live on the britishgt.com/live throughout the day.
Background on the BRITISH GT CHAMPIONSHIP
For 27 years the British GT Championship has been an intrinsic part of the UK’s national motorsport fabric. But, having undergone a number of changes throughout that quarter-century, it’s difficult to envisage an era more competitive than the current GT3 and GT4 format.
First organised by the British Racing Drivers Club in 1993, the BRDC National Sports GT Challenge (as it was known until 1995) featured grids of wildly different machinery loosely grouped into vibrant classes comprising sportscars and saloons.
Today, under SRO Motorsports Group’s guidance, British GT grids comprise 30-plus GT3, GTC and GT4 specification supercars tuned to varying degrees of race preparation. Both classes take their cues from road-legal models – examples include Aston Martin, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley – that have been developed specifically for the track.
GT racing is traditionally seen as an endurance discipline, and British GT honours that by mandating two drivers per car. Driver changes take place during pitstops, when tyres are also replaced and fuel added. Race durations vary and can last one, two or three hours.
For more information visit www.britishgt.com, or follow the championship on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.