Just a few days to go until the 2018 season opener of British GT 2018 and we have a look at some of the new liveries and cars launched at the recent media day at Donington.
The new livery of the Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental of Rick Parfitt Jnr and new partner Ryan Ratcliff, was hotly anticipated by media and fans alike and they weren’t disappointed.
While last years champ and Parfitts team mate Seb Morris moves onto pastures new in the shape of the Blancpain Endurance series, Parfitt Jnr commented at the media day press conference : “British GT was fantastic last year with a great story behind it for me personally. This year there are some incredible drivers, this year is about a new challenge, a building year and the pressure is off me and we’ll just have fun and see how far we can take it”.
New to the championship is the Jaguar GT4 of Invictus Games Racing The team pairs injured or sick ex service personnel with established drivers in the Invictus Foundation backed team.
The cars were unveiled earlier in the year at Autosport International Show but the chance to finally see the Jaguars on track was one of the highlights of the media day.
Other exciting additions out on track included the BMW M4’s of Century Motorsport and the Barwell Motorsport trio of Lamborghini Huracans.
2004 British Gt Champion Jonny Cocker, who will be behind the wheel of the 69
Huracan alongside Sam De Haan commented: “Myself and Sam did some track days and it progressed from there, we looked at GT4 but decided to go head first into GT3. This is Sam’s first season of racing but it’s remarkable, he is over-performing. For me it’s great to be back, British GT has a special place for me. If you can do well in British GT you can do well anywhere”
Balfe Motorsport also joins the Championship running two McLarens across both classes.
In the 650S GT3, McLaren factory driver Rob Bell is joined by team owner Shaun Balfe who had this to say “We were ready for a fresh challenge, we’ve been watching British GT and we’re very proud to be here representing the family team”
Also on hand was MSV boss and new owner of Donington Park Jonathan Palmer, who along with outlining some of the changes and improvements that are being undertaken at Donington, praised SRO for growing and nurturing British GT as the series continues to attract larger spectator numbers, good quality cars and factory driver involvement.
The championship commences this Easter Weekend at Oulton Park.
With the season launch just weeks away, we look at all the British GT news we have so far. Starting with 2017 Champs Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris. Morris announced late last year, his intention to move away from the Championship to pursue a career in European endurance. Morris’ departure leaving a seat at Team Parker Racing to be filled by Ryan Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe who previously partnered with Parfitt Jnr in 2013 in GT4, moves from AMD Tuning.com where he was team mates with Lee Mowle.
Ratcliffe stated: “Driving the Bentley will certainly be different; it’s a great marque to be associated with and certainly draws a lot of attention in British GT. This year looks like it’s going to be the most competitive yet but the aim is to be at the front and fighting for podiums every round. I honestly haven’t been this excited about a season to date.”
A big story has been the return of Beechdean AMR to the championship with Darren Turner and team boss Andrew Howard behind the wheel of the Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Howard has previously taken the title twice but bids to become the first driver to take the title three times.
While Turner has had a lengthy career, including 13 consecutive years behind the wheel of an Aston Martin in the 24hrs of Le Mans. Turner has previously only made one appearance in British GT again paired with Andrew Howard at Silverstone in 2010, where they finished third.
Another pairing well known in the FIA World Endurance Championships is Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen who join British GT with TF Sport. The duo will continue to contest in the World Endurance Championships as well as completing the full British GT season. TF Sport will continue to field both Mark Farmer and Derek Johnston also, while Jonny Adam made the announcement that he will be joining Optimum Motorsport as they return to GT3 with the Aston Martin Vantage.
Joining Adam behind the wheel will be Flick Haigh. Haigh, the only woman currently contesting in GT3, has previously competed in the Britcar series as well as the 24hr series and GT Cup. The 33 year old states ““I’m really excited about this and I’m very much looking forward to getting back behind the wheel,” she said. “It’s like starting again, we have the right car, the right team-mate and we’ll be flat out to make the best of this amazing opportunity.”
Other major news is the return of Jaguar to the series after an 11 year absence, with new team Invictus Games Racing. The squad, a collaboration between James Holder and the Invictus Games Foundation, will run two F-TYPE SVR GT4’s that will be raced by a Pro driver and two Am drivers per car. The Am drivers have been selected after the Invictus Games Foundation worked closely with Mission Motorsport, the armed forces motorsport charity, to identify and train suitable candidates who are sick or have previously been injured or wounded while with the armed services. The Am drivers will take it in turn to race and they are; Steve McCully and Paul Vice who partner Pro Matthew George, George has previously partnered James Holder in British GT, while Ben Norfolk and Basil Rawlinson team up with Jason Wolfe, former two-time Pirelli World Challenge TCA champion.
Fox Motorsport announced its return to British GT with Mark Murfitt and Michael Broadhurst behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG GT4. The duo raced for Fox Motorsport Ginetta and Porsche to sixth place in last years GT Cup. The team have previously competed a British GT round in 2016, but will be their first full season since 2015.
Meanwhile Barwell Motorsport announce their intention to run three Lamborghini Huracan’s this season. Last years championship runners up Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen return to the squad but are joined by 2004 champion Jonny Cocker who partners Sam De Haan. While the third car will be helmed by Patrick Kujala and 20016 GT3 Champ Leo Machitski. Outgoing Sam Tordoff who was paired with Liam Griffin, returns to the British Touring Car Championship with Motorbase.
2017 GT4 champions Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton both join the Ginetta Young Driver Programme which will see them remain with HHC but competing in the GT4 European Series.
Ginetta GT4 Supercup champion Callum Pointon, meanwhile teams up with Patrik Matthiesen at HHC in their Ginetta G55. Also joining HHC as Pro/Am entry is Mike Newbold and Will Burns. Burns joins the Championship after last year competing in the BTCC, prior to which he was in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup, coming second place in 2016.
UltraTek Racing Team RJN will again be entering two Nissan 370Z GT4’s with former FIA WEC LMP2 champ Martin Plowman partnering former Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher. The Birmingham based team are yet to announce who their second driver pairing will be.
Century Motorsport made the announcement that it would be returning to the Championship with two BMW M4 GT4’s, the first driver pairing will be Ben Tuck and Ben Green with a further announcement expected very soon on the second driver pairing.
Confirming a Mclaren 650S for GT3 and 570S for GT4 is Balfe Motorsport.
The squads owner Shaun Balfe partners Rob Bell in GT3, with 2016 GT4 champions Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson helming the PMW Expo Racing backed 570S that is contracted to Balfe Motorsport.
Finally, making its British GT debut is ERC Sport with Lee Mowles and Yelmer Buurman in their Mercedes AMG GT3. Buurman has had a lengthy career spanning many European series including the Blancpain GT series. Buurman commented:
“Only Rockingham will be new to me but it’s also been a long time since I raced in the UK full-time – I was a teenager the last time that happened!” he said. “We have some testing scheduled at Portimao before the media day, and then at Oulton Park just before the opening round, so there’s plenty of time to work with Lee and the team before the season starts.
“I’ve not done a huge amount of Pro/Am racing but I do have a lot of experience in the Mercedes-AMG GT3, which is important given the level of opposition this year. Clearly Aston Martin are pushing very hard! There are definitely circuits that will suit our car, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. It’s always a privilege to race at tracks like Oulton and Brands Hatch GP.”