British GT hots up with two Snetterton sprints
23rd May 2018
British GT’s sprint format returns at Snetterton this weekend when a grid of 33 supercars tackles two 60-minute races in Norfolk.
The 2.969-mile, 12-turn ‘300’ layout plays host to races four and five of the 2018 campaign, the final time this year that the shorter format will be used before two- and three-hour endurance contests awarding points-and-a-half complete the season.
GT3: HISTORY FAVOURS LAMBORGHINI AND ASTON MARTIN
Few would have predicted Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman’s victory last time out at Rockingham after their ERC Sport Mercedes-AMG lined up last on GT3’s grid. That win – the team’s, drivers’ and manufacturer’s first-ever overall triumph in British GT – also helped them assume the championship lead, as well as incur the full 10s pitstop success penalty to be served in Snetterton’s first race.
That should prevent the pair from challenging in Sunday’s opener. But, as their closest rivals Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen proved by overturning the same penalty at Snetterton in 2016, anything is possible. Only a drive-through penalty ended their hopes of achieving the same feat 12 months ago at a circuit where the #33 Lamborghini has won three of the last four races.
Recent history also favours Aston Martin, whose Vantage V12 GT3s have won the other four races staged since 2014. Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard, who – along with co-driver Darren Turner – lies just half-a-point behind Minshaw/Keen in third, is responsible for half of them and would surely love to claim a first British GT victory since August 2015 when he and Jonny Adam triumphed at Snetterton in their championship-winning season together. Two podiums from this year’s first three races suggest #99 will be in the hunt.
The same goes for Adam and Optimum Motorsport co-driver Flick Haigh who have qualified on the front row for all three races held so far. Victory first time out at Oulton Park remains their only podium, but with no pitstop penalty to serve the pair look set to renew their rivalry with Keen and Minshaw. That’s especially true given the Scot’s recent Snetterton record, which features three victories in four years.
Team Parker Racing’s two Bentleys have endured drastically different seasons thus far. While reigning champion Rick Parfitt Jnr and Ryan Ratcliffe have struggled for results, the sister Continental GT3 of Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod has quietly collected points – and a podium at Rockingham – to sit level with Haigh and Adam in fourth overall.
Meanwhile, the obvious pace of TF Sport’s two crews – 2017 Snetterton winner Derek Johnston and Marco Sorensen, and Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim – has only resulted in one podium apiece so far this year. But that should all change at Snetterton where the team finished one-three in 2017.
Elsewhere, Graham Davidson’s exceptional opening stint at Rockingham marked the Scot and Jetstream Motorsport out as future race winners, while only a clutch issue ended Sam De Haan and Jonny Cocker’s genuine podium hopes in the second of Barwell’s Lamborghinis.
A change to RJN Motorsport’s line-up this weekend has also resulted in Jordan Witt making his first British GT appearance since 2012. The former GT Cup champion joins Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup team-mate Struan Moore aboard the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
GT4: HHC OUT TO EXTEND ADVANTAGE
It’s little surprise that two of the three crews to have scored points in every race this season occupy first and second in the standings. Nor is it a shock to see HHC’s #55 Ginetta top of the table, just as it was this time last season when Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton headed to Snetterton fresh from victory at Rockingham.
However, the true test of their incumbents Patrik Matthiesen and Callum Pointon is yet to come. 12 months ago Tregurtha and Middleton overturned the full 10s success penalty to win Snetterton’s opening race. And while that alone didn’t decide the championship in their favour, it did set them up for an ultimately successful title tilt. There’s no doubt Matthiesen and Pointon are now the crew to beat following their impressive display at Rockingham, but do they have what it takes to cement their advantage this weekend?
Tolman Motorsport’s Michael O’Brien and Charlie Fagg will be doing their utmost to ensure they don’t. Consistency sees them occupy second in the standings, 12.5 points behind the Ginetta at the start of the weekend but contesting Race 1 handicap-free. A McLaren 570S won Snetterton’s second race last season after Tolman’s Pro/Am entry – which had qualified on pole – had its legitimate victory chances ended by unfortunate Safety Car timing.
Non-scoring at Rockingham saw Track-Club’s erstwhile championship leaders Adam Balon and Ben Barnicoat slip to third in the standings ahead of Century Motorsport’s highest-placed BMW driven by Jack Mitchell and Aleksander Schjerpen. But it was the team’s second M4, in the hands of Ben Green and Ben Tuck, that looked especially racy during the opening stint at Rockingham.
The same can be said of both UltraTek Racing Team RJN Nissans, which comfortably enjoyed their best-ever collective result last time out. Second and fourth on the road translated into a Pro/Am one-two for Stephen Johansen and Jesse Anttila, and Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman. And with the latter crew finishing highest of those without a pitstop success penalty this weekend, few would bet against the 370Z from producing another podium performance.
Like UltraTek, Academy Motorsport enjoyed an impressive outing at Rockingham after Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones came through to finish third overall. But with the resulting pitstop penalty it could be the team’s second, more youthful Aston Martin crew that carries the fight in Race 1. At a combined age of just 35 Tom Wood and Jan Jonck are one of just three pairings after Matthiesen/Pointon and Fagg/O’Brien to maintain a 100% points scoring record this season.
Meanwhile, the vagaries of British GT’s points system see the crew in 12th place overall leading the Pro/Am class. Reigning champions Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson have a knack of scoring when it matters and 2018 has been no different with the Balfe Motorsport McLaren just one point ahead of Johansen and Anttila.
Team Parker’s Nick Jones and Scott Malvern, plus Fletcher/Plowman are another 1.5 points behind, while Balon and Barnicoat complete a top-five separated by 6.5.
Both Snetterton races are streamed live on British GT’s Facebook page and website, as well as SRO’s GT World Youtube channel, this Sunday.
But remember: nothing beats actually being there! Discounted tickets can still be purchased in advance until midday Thursday, while children aged 12 and under can attend for free all weekend. Visit www.snetterton.co.uk for details.
TYRE INFORMATION – PIRELLI
Pirelli supplies the GT3 class with the P Zero DHD2 tyre, which was introduced at the start of the 2018 season for GT racing around the world. The GT4 class uses the P Zero DH tyre. In the event of rain, both classes will use the Cinturato WH wet-weather tyre.
Jonathan Wells, Pirelli UK motorsport manager: “The modern Snetterton circuit provides a varied test for tyres, with its technical infield section as well as the higher-speed corners of the classic layout. However, with a smooth surface, wear and degradation rates are usually quite low, even if fairly high temperatures are anticipated this weekend. This should help to produce some exciting action in the two one-hour sprint races.”
BRITISH GT LAP RECORDS – SNETTERTON 300
GT3 – 1m48.498s – Phil Keen – Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – 2017
GT4 – 1m58.650s – Will Tregurtha – HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 – 2017
PITSTOP SUCCESS PENALTIES – RACE 1
10s – #116 ERC Sport Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Mowle/Buurman
07s – #7 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 – Loggie/Macleod
05s – #99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 – Howard/Turner
10s – #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 – Matthiesen/Pointon
07s – #54 UltraTek Racing Team RJN Nissan 370Z GT4 – Johansen/Anttila
05s – #62 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 – Moore/Nicoll-Jones
Saturday 26 May
09:30 – 10:30: Free Practice 1
12:10 – 13:10: Free Practice 2
15:50 – 16:00: Qualifying – GT3 Am
16:04 – 16:14: Qualifying – GT3 Pro
16:18 – 16:28: Qualifying – GT4 Am
16:33 – 16:43: Qualifying – GT4 Pro
Sunday 27 May
09:25 – 09:35: Warm-up
11:00 – 12:00: Race 1
15:30 – 16:30: Race 2
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ABOUT THE BRITISH GT CHAMPIONSHIP
For 26 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 and GT4 specification supercars tuned to varying degrees of race preparation. Both classes take their cues from road-legal models – examples include Ferrari, Aston Martin, 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 pit-stops, when tyres are also replaced and fuel added. Race durations vary and can last one, two or three hours.