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Can Marciello translate European success to British GT?

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“I’m satisfied, with out fail, I’ve one of the best driver in GT racing with me.” It’s fairly an announcement to make about your team-mate, however John Ferguson has each cause to consider simply that in regards to the driver he’ll be racing alongside on this season’s British GT3 Championship, which kicks off at Oulton Park this weekend.

Thought to be one of many quickest if not the quickest GT3 driver on the earth, Raffaele Marciello is a person who is aware of how you can win titles. The Mercedes manufacturing unit driver, who’s reigning GT World Problem Europe Endurance Cup and ADAC GT Masters champion, has clearly made his mark on the world of GT racing since switching his focus from single-seaters in 2017.

PLUS: How Ferrari’s F1 protege became a Mercedes GT prodigy

The previous Ferrari Driver Academy member is only one of eight manufacturing unit drivers who will compete in British GT’s prime division this season, making it arguably essentially the most aggressive within the championship’s historical past as 16 full-time crews have been confirmed.

Over the previous 12 months, Marciello has steadily change into conscious of British GT’s rising fame, partially as a result of success of fellow Mercedes works driver and team-mate Jules Gounon final season.

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“I believe final 12 months I began to observe a bit extra as a result of prior to now I by no means actually adopted [the championship],” admits Marciello. “I do know the tracks are mega from TOCA prior to now once I was taking part in video games, so I all the time needed to drive right here. I spoke with Jules, he loves this championship. I liked once I got here to Manufacturers Hatch and Silverstone [in other series], [it was] all the time stuffed with followers and other people.”

The Swiss-Italian got here near a one-off outing within the championship final 12 months however prior racing commitments meant he was unable to enter a spherical. Nonetheless, it instigated a dialogue with Ferguson, which continued for 9 months and in the end led them to accomplice collectively at RAM Racing sharing a GT3 Mercedes in 2023.

RAM Racing proprietor Ferguson has secured the companies of Marciello for this 12 months’s championship

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Regardless of having by no means raced in British GT earlier than, Marciello is all too conscious that his Am driver would be the one who could make the distinction come the ultimate outcomes and that consistency might be essential if they’re to problem for the crown.

“On this championship, I believe greater than to be fast it’s worthwhile to rating factors,” he says. “Even if you happen to end each time in fourth then you possibly can win the championship, so greater than the pure tempo it’s vital to remain out of the gravel. With so many GT4 [cars] it’s very easy to have contact so we must be protected.”

For Ferguson, having a driver of Marciello’s calibre alongside is a agency signal of his intention, and forward of the season he’s been placing within the work behind the scenes – shedding 15kg over the winter, as “you possibly can’t get Mr Marciello and never make an effort”.

This 12 months might be simply Ferguson’s third in endurance racing, having made his British GT debut with a Toyota GR Supra GT4 in 2021 – taking a greatest results of two third locations – earlier than transferring up into the GT3 division with RAM final 12 months. A maiden win got here on the second Snetterton race with Ulysse de Pauw, however Ferguson’s season got here to an abrupt halt after he broken the automobile in observe at Manufacturers Hatch and missed the ultimate two rounds.

“Even if you happen to end each time in fourth then you possibly can win the championship, so greater than the pure tempo it’s vital to remain out of the gravel” Raffaele Marciello

Forward of the 2023 marketing campaign – which begins with the normal Oulton double-header – the 49-year-old already is aware of the areas he wants to enhance upon to offer himself and Marciello the very best likelihood.

“I struggled with new tyres in qualifying, that was my greatest downfall, and a heavy gasoline load initially of a race,” says Ferguson. “However the Mercedes is an excellent automobile. It holds its tyres so it’s only a matter of attempting to maintain myself within the combine initially and, by the top of the stint, the automobile actually comes into its personal.”

Final 12 months was the right marketing campaign for RAM. It secured the GT3 drivers’ title with Ian Loggie in addition to the groups’ championship, however the squad has undergone vital adjustments over the previous 12 months. Group founder Dan Shufflebottom departed on the finish of 2022, with British Touring Automotive race winner Tim Sugden now staff supervisor after Ferguson purchased the squad in February final 12 months. The personnel adjustments have been one of many causes Loggie has moved to 2 Seas for the upcoming marketing campaign, the place he’ll look to defend his title alongside Gounon.

Interview: How an in-form GT star defied numerous full stops to reach stardom

Ferguson knows where he needs to improve to replicate his Snetterton victory last year with Ulysse De Pauw

Ferguson is aware of the place he wants to enhance to copy his Snetterton victory final 12 months with Ulysse De Pauw

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“RAM was an excellent staff, however a little bit of politics was occurring – as there all the time is in motorsport,” says Loggie, who spent 4 seasons with the staff. “I’m right here to drive relatively than get entangled in politics, so I believe I’ve executed the correct factor – 2 Seas will do an excellent job.”

The Scot is actually no stranger to the Anglo-Bahraini squad, having pushed with the staff earlier than, together with taking a category podium on the Gulf 12 Hours final January, whereas the outfit has recorded wins in British GT.

“Fairly excessive I’d say,” says Loggie on his probabilities of defending the British GT3 crown. “I believe we’ve received a good driver line-up. That mentioned, the grid is filled with superb drivers, so this 12 months goes to be more durable than final 12 months however, like all the time, I don’t suppose you must be the quickest, I believe you must be essentially the most constant.

“Don’t make errors and use that have. I’ve been doing it for God is aware of what number of years now however a number of final 12 months was all the way down to not making errors.”

Loggie recorded only one retirement final season after being the harmless sufferer in an opening-lap crash at Silverstone however, maybe extra ominously, he achieved a podium in all 4 races that Gounon competed alongside him. With the Frenchman returning for a full-time marketing campaign in 2023, there’s each cause to consider {that a} second title could possibly be heading Loggie’s method.

One of many greatest threats on the grid, although, may nicely come from the opposite facet of the two Seas storage. James Cottingham stays with the squad having completed fourth within the 2022 standings regardless of not fairly managing an general victory. He might be joined by four-time British GT champion Jonny Adam, the present Aston Martin manufacturing unit driver having raced with 2 Seas at two rounds final 12 months. Clashes with the European Le Mans Collection imply Adam will miss the three-hour race at Silverstone in addition to the Donington Park decider, however his expertise may nicely information Cottingham to inside a shot of the title come the ultimate spherical.

Adam’s former team-mate Andrew Howard will as soon as once more embark on a full-time marketing campaign, the Beechdean staff proprietor and double GT3 champion (2013 and 2015) this time alongside manufacturing unit Aston Martin driver Ross Gunn – the GT4 champion from 2015.

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Beechdean is back for a first full season since 2021 with double champion Howard joined by 2015 GT4 king Gunn

Beechdean is again for a primary full season since 2021 with double champion Howard joined by 2015 GT4 king Gunn

Photograph by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Different manufacturing unit drivers on the roster this season embody Rob Bell, who will drive a McLaren 720S Evo alongside Mark Radcliffe for Optimum Motorsport, and Marvin Kirchhofer, who will accomplice Alex West in a Storage 59-run 720S Evo.

Dan Harper, the 2019 Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion, is one other manufacturing unit driver who will make his debut within the sequence having spent the previous three years racing with BMW within the Nurburgring Endurance Collection and GT World Problem. He’ll race a Century Motorsport-run BMW M4 GT3 alongside Darren Leung, the Am driver having gained on his British GT debut within the Donington Park finale final 12 months alongside Alexander Sims.

OPINION: Is this British GT’s Super Touring moment?

One of many strongest driver line-ups on paper comes within the type of Sandy Mitchell and Shaun Balfe on the wheel of a Barwell Motorsport-run Lamborghini Huracan EVO2. Balfe has change into a nearly-man in British GT, ending runner-up in 2003 and taking third in 2019, shedding out on the title by simply 5 factors on that event regardless of lacking the primary two races at Oulton Park.

Outdoors of the groups with manufacturing unit drivers, there are some acquainted faces who may nicely problem on the entrance. Amongst them are Marcus Clutton and Morgan Tillbrook, the Enduro Motorsport pairing having taken two wins final season

He and team-mate Adam Carroll gained the opening spherical of final season at Oulton Park in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, however they departed the championship after a puncture triggered a non-score within the three-hour race Silverstone and the duo completed a disappointing eighth at Donington.

Outdoors of the groups with manufacturing unit drivers, there are some acquainted faces who may nicely problem on the entrance. Amongst them are Marcus Clutton and Morgan Tillbrook, the Enduro Motorsport pairing having taken two wins final season aboard their 720S earlier than ending third within the ultimate desk. With the brand new 720S Evo mannequin on the duo’s disposal, victories are extremely seemingly once more, even in opposition to the quite a few manufacturing unit drivers which are on the grid this season.

Reigning GT Cup champion Simon Orange additionally graduates full-time into British GT alongside Michael O’Brien, having impressed within the Donington decider final season, once more on the wheel of a 720S.

Ferguson’s perception that Marciello is one of the best GT driver will definitely be put to the take a look at over the season’s nine-race calendar, as they’ll want each ounce of ability in opposition to probably the most aggressive fields ever assembled by British GT. All of which makes the 2023 season probably the most extremely anticipated within the championship’s historical past.

Mitchell and Balfe look set to be one of the strongest lineups as Barwell eyes a return to the summit with its new EVO2 Lambo

Mitchell and Balfe look set to be one of many strongest lineups as Barwell eyes a return to the summit with its new EVO2 Lambo

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

New and {old} goal GT4 title

The British GT4 class guarantees to be simply as aggressive in 2023, with new and returning faces making up the 16 full-time entry listing that accommodates no fewer than seven producers.

The 2 main crews from final 12 months – champions Sennan Fielding/Richard Williams (Steller Motorsport) and Darren Turner/Matt Topham (Newbridge Motorsport) – are each absent from the grid this season, leaving the way in which open for brand spanking new challengers to take the crown.

A type of may nicely be Josh Miller, the 17-year-old having starred in his and R Racing’s inaugural British GT campaigns final 12 months, as two wins – the primary of which at Snetterton gave Miller the report for the youngest profitable crew alongside Jamie Day – allowed them to complete third general on the finish of the 12 months. Miller might be joined within the Aston Martin Vantage by Seb Hopkins, who himself impressed with Group Parker Racing on his British GT debut final time period, and collectively the duo will make a formidable Silver-Silver pairing.

“With a second 12 months of expertise beneath our belts I believe it’s all to play for this 12 months, I positively suppose we will be in with an opportunity,” says Miller. “We’ve simply received to maintain our heads down and we must be there on the finish of the season.

“You’ve received to minimise all errors, and I believe that’s the essential factor in British GT – end persistently all through. It’s not all the time all about profitable and pushing as onerous as you possibly can, it’s nearly constant factors scoring and on the finish of the 12 months it provides up.”

Matt Cowley is one other driver able to mounting a severe title problem this time period, remaining with Academy Motorsport for a fourth season having recorded wins within the earlier three campaigns. This 12 months he’ll accomplice Erik Evans within the Ford Mustang, the younger American having made a one-off look within the Donington Park finale final 12 months with Will Moore.

Cowley has won at least once in each of the last three seasons with Academy's Mustang and is an expected contender in 2023

Cowley has gained at the least as soon as in every of the final three seasons with Academy’s Mustang and is an anticipated contender in 2023

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“We all know that it’s a profitable system, Academy and the Mustang,” says Cowley. “We’ve been title contenders yearly we’ve been in it, we’ve simply had unhealthy luck and issues haven’t gone our method. Hopefully this 12 months we are able to have a little bit of luck and possibly do a little bit of a greater job.”

One of many dark-horse pairings could possibly be Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge, the 2021 and 2022 Ginetta Junior champions becoming a member of forces on the wheel of a new-for-2023 McLaren Artura operated by DTO Motorsport. Regardless of each drivers being new to the championship, Millar believes they’ve each likelihood of difficult for wins and in the end the title.

“We’ve received an excellent staff round us so hopefully we are able to use their expertise to push us alongside as nicely – day by day we exit we’re studying extra,” says Millar, who’s now a McLaren Academy Driver. “Some folks would possibly say we’ve received no expertise [in British GT] however we’ve simply received to study the onerous method.”

Whereas this 12 months’s grid accommodates loads of new faces, there are additionally some beforehand profitable drivers making a welcome return to the championship. Dan Vaughan, the 2020 GT4 champion alongside Jamie Caroline, and Stuart Middleton, champion in 2017 with Will Tregurtha, will each compete this season. Vaughan will race alongside Zac Meakin in a Group Parker-run Porsche 718 Cayman, whereas Middleton will accomplice Freddie Tomlinson in a Ginetta G56 operated by Raceway.

Century Motorsport may even seemingly characteristic close to the top of the sector with two new-for-2023 BMW M4s pushed by Michael Johnston/Chris Salkeld and Carl Cavers/Lewis Plato. With these two pairings, plus an additional 5 Professional-Am line-ups serving to to make up the GT4 discipline, there’s an added aspect to the general championship that when once more guarantees to go to the Donington Park finale in October.

The last two Ginetta Junior champions Millar and Rowledge are a dark horse aboard the new DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura

The final two Ginetta Junior champions Millar and Rowledge are a darkish horse aboard the brand new DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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