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Why three UK sequence occupying the identical turf are thriving

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The UK is blessed with an abundance of championships and sequence that cater for an enormous number of machines, maybe none extra so than with GT racing. Three key championships – British GT, GT Cup and the British Endurance Championship – are usually not solely surviving however thriving, regardless of occupying an identical house out there.

This yr all of them are set to function sturdy grids as soon as once more, as organisers capitalise on the distinctive attraction of every which, though not essentially obvious on the floor, is the inspiration of their success.

Created in 1993 by the British Racing Drivers’ Membership, British GT was identified for the primary two years of its existence because the Nationwide Sports activities GT Problem. In 2003, it was acquired by Stephane Ratel’s SRO organisation and since then has continued to develop, changing into the main GT sequence within the nation and attracting producers {and professional} drivers yr after yr.

The 2023 marketing campaign might effectively be British GT’s strongest so far because of a capability entry of 36 vehicles – 18 every in GT3 and GT4 – with one-off entries anticipated at sure rounds. Not solely that, however there aren’t any fewer than eight manufacturing facility drivers within the GT3 class together with Mercedes stars Jules Gounon and Raffaele Marciello, in addition to four-time British GT champion Jonny Adam.

“It highlights that British GT is at that degree with the depth of worldwide expertise,” says championship supervisor Lauren Granville. “With Gounon, Marciello, and Adam coming again, it actually will up the sport and to be trustworthy you’ll be able to carry the very best Execs however the Ams enhance them as effectively. The extent of the Am drivers is unbelievable. There are very proficient and devoted Am drivers that put a whole lot of time and assets into their driving.”

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The GT3 class in British GT has predominantly moved in direction of a Professional-Am aspect in recent times, with the silver-silver division eliminated ranging from the 2021 season. Sandy Mitchell won the GT3 title in 2020 alongside ex-British Touring Car Championship driver Rob Collard as a silver-silver line-up. The Barwell Motorsport and Lamborghini manufacturing facility driver feels that the choice made by organisers two years in the past to take away the sub-class is already reaping rewards, and the championship is now the primary vacation spot in Europe for Professional-Am line-ups.

PLUS: How to get the best out of amateur racers

“Professional-Am racing is a large a part of GT racing, you’ll be able to see that even in a number of the large races which have occurred over the winter on the likes of Bathurst and Kyalami,” says Mitchell. “There’s a whole lot of Professional-Am vehicles and possibly not as many Professional vehicles in some {cases} and I feel, for British GT going that route, it has simply made the championship much more aggressive.”

Lambo manufacturing facility ace Mitchell (left), believes Professional-Am focus is a key a part of British GT’s success

Photograph by: JEP/Motorsport Images

Extra focus has been positioned on longer races, with a second three-hour race added to the calendar this season on the Algarve Worldwide Circuit. The Portuguese observe is a brand new venue on the British GT calendar, with Spa dropped for this season. For Granville it’s “continually a piece in progress” to attempt to adapt the schedule and preserve issues as contemporary as potential, with visits to Oulton Park, Silverstone, Donington Park (twice), Snetterton and Manufacturers Hatch additionally scheduled for 2023.

Better reside TV protection, which has included races being aired on Sky Sports activities F1, has additionally helped to publicise the championship to a broader viewers, as did the one-off outing by 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button at the Silverstone finale in 2020.

One key aspect of the championship is the appliance of success penalties, with the highest three general in each GT3 and GT4 handed a penalty to serve within the pits on the following spherical. The regulation signifies that it’s extremely troublesome for one crew to fully dominate and nearly at all times retains the title battle alive. It has sometimes brought on issues up to now, although, with ongoing appeals from the previous round impacting the awarding of the success penalties. No matter any draw back, Granville is adamant that it’s an integral a part of the championship’s success.

“We type of see ourselves as a feeder sequence for British GT. They [drivers] type of study with me and go up after which come again to me once they’ve retired” Hannah James, GT Cup

“It goes all the way down to the wire yearly and I feel it serves its objective in that you just don’t have a runaway championship contender,” factors out Granville. “There are at all times 4 or 5 crews that mathematically nonetheless have an opportunity [at the finale] so, for me, that’s super-exciting to see that. You must be constant all year long. It’s one thing which makes the championships thrilling and I’m in favour of maintaining.”

Consistency is what helped Ian Loggie safe the GT3 title final season, after scoring factors in any respect however one of many races aboard his RAM Racing-run Mercedes-AMG. The Scot launched into an intensive racing programme final yr, finishing greater than 80 races, which included outings within the GT Cup.

Created in 2007 by Marc Haynes, the GT Cup championship continues below the management of his brother Chris after Marc died in 2016. Like British GT, the GT Cup has additionally continued to develop in recent times and has positioned itself as one thing of a stepping stone into the SRO championship.

“All of us provide one thing fully totally different,” says championship director Hannah James. “We type of see ourselves as a feeder sequence for British GT. They [drivers] type of study with me and go up after which come again to me once they’ve retired.”

The attraction of GT Cup is the deal with the Am driver and shorter race distances throughout a weekend. The format consists of a 15-minute apply, two 15-minute qualifying periods, a 25-minute dash race and 50-minute pitstop race throughout each Saturday and Sunday, that means loads of observe time and racing alternative.

GT Cup champion Simon Orange graduates to British GT this year, proving promoter James's point that the series serves as a stepping stone

GT Cup champion Simon Orange graduates to British GT this yr, proving promoter James’s level that the sequence serves as a stepping stone

Photograph by: JEP

One driver with a singular perspective is Marcus Clutton, the 2020 Radical Problem champion who raced in all three GT championships final season. Alongside Morgan Tillbrook, the duo took two outright wins in British GT and went to the Donington Park finale with a shot on the general GT3 title earlier than ending third. The Enduro Motorsport McLaren duo additionally contested a number of rounds of GT Cup with the aim of making ready Tillbrook for upcoming British GT occasions on the identical venue, one thing that Loggie and others have additionally accomplished.

“It’s very a lot an Am-based championship and I feel Hannah would agree that it’s a very good stepping stone to British GT,” says Clutton of the GT Cup. “Loads of Ams go and study the circuits, study the GT3 vehicles, do tyre runs, qualifying, race begins after which they go and do British GT. It’s good apply and it’s actual. It’s OK doing qualifying simulations in testing however it’s not actual. There it’s actual, and you must study shortly.”

Whereas many Am drivers use the sequence as a testing floor and launchpad into British GT, GT Cup nonetheless has a loyal driver and workforce base who’re content material to stay within the sequence. A household environment and never needing “110% dedication if you wish to do effectively” like in British GT, based on Clutton, make it a super place for Ams to take pleasure in a weekend of GT racing. A larger spending on numerous areas by the organisers has additionally helped be sure that it’s a well-liked vacation spot for a lot of.

“I don’t suppose you’ll be able to essentially put your finger on one factor – we’ve accomplished numerous issues,” provides James. “The technical facet of issues has improved dramatically. With utilizing the information loggers there’s now a technical workforce, relatively than simply the one person who we used to have. The social media facet has elevated. There’s tons of people that just like the livestreaming and the cash we’ve invested in that basically helped.

“And we’ve invested in our new unit, which we’ve now bought for catering and all that facet of issues. It’s an entire package deal that we provide. We go to our clients and say, ‘what would you like?’ as a result of, on the finish of the day, we’re there for them, we’re not right here for us. We run this as a customer-led championship.”

Whereas GT Cup’s focus is on shorter race distances, on the different finish of the spectrum, the British Endurance Championship seeks to provide rivals longer stints behind the wheel. Created because the Britcar Endurance Championship, it was based in 1997 by Willie Moore and James Tucker with the intention of reintroducing a 24-hour race to the UK.

Claire Hedley purchased the rights to the championship forward of the 2016 season and has labored laborious to lift falling grid numbers. A slot on the World Endurance Championship help invoice at Spa in 2020 was a testomony to its rising success however, like many sequence, it suffered within the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the non-championship occasion came about in Belgium with considerably decreased numbers.

Regardless of this setback, the sequence has continued its upward trajectory. It grew to become one of many first nationwide racing contests to embrace esports at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, and continues to take action to at the present time.The Brabham BT62 made its racing debut with the sequence, it was the house of the Praga Prototype Cup in 2021 (and which it can return to working this yr), and it has launched the Britcar Trophy for extra production-based vehicles.

Grids have steadily grown for the British Endurance Championship, which takes place over one day

Grids have steadily grown for the British Endurance Championship, which takes place over sooner or later

Photograph by: Mick Walker

Final season the Britcar competitors was granted official British championship standing by governing physique Motorsport UK, changing into the British Endurance Championship. That’s a title it can retain till no less than the top of the 2024 season, and Hedley is set to increase the settlement past that time.

“I undoubtedly suppose it was the appropriate transfer to develop into a British title, it places us on one other degree,” she says. “The Britcar identify may be very revered within the trade however placing it right into a British title we’ve needed to up our sport tenfold and I’m very blissful that we’ve accomplished that.”

An uncommon facet of BEC is that, though races are between two to 3 hours, all of the motion takes place on the Saturday – a key attraction for novice drivers.

“I have a look at it from an Am perspective – they get to spend Sunday at dwelling,” says Clutton, who raced within the championship final yr with Peter Erceg. “So it really works for household or it really works for enterprise commitments. They’re not knackered at work on Monday once they all return into the workplace; they nonetheless get that Sunday off.”

“All three championships have totally different factors of view about the way you wish to method your GT racing. there’s one thing for everybody, no matter your method” Marcus Clutton

Hedley provides: “Loads of my clients have stayed due to the customer support and the way in which we glance after them. That’s to not say GT Cup and British GT don’t do the identical, I simply suppose some are very loyal and I do really feel like our one-day conferences make fairly an enormous distinction to household gentleman drivers, which are bringing within the Execs as effectively.”

Hedley’s final ambition is to carry a 24-hour GT race again to the UK for the primary time since 2018, though the idea has already returned within the digital world. A six-hour contest for GT4 vehicles and beneath is because of be held this yr at Donington Park as a part of that course of. Hedley can also be eager to develop on the present construction of British Endurance Championship weekends by together with a junior sequence as a part of the roster and creating one other GT pathway.

It’s one other instance of how laborious work from organisers in all three championships is paying dividends. And at a time when there’s arguably too many sequence and championships that take from one another’s entry pool, the main three GT classes have all struck a nice stability whereas complementing one another’s strengths.

“I feel all three championships have totally different factors of view about the way you wish to method your GT racing,” argues Clutton. “You’ve bought your super-serious British GT, and for those who’re not severe there you’ll be behind the grid.

“You then’ve bought your GT Cup which is the center floor, and I wouldn’t say it’s any higher than BEC actually – there’s only a distinction of their race weekends. I feel there’s one thing for everybody, no matter your method. There’s one thing on the market that covers all choices.”

Clutton (left) has a unique view on the respective options, which he says play to their own strengths

Clutton (left) has a singular view on the respective choices, which he says play to their very own strengths

Photograph by: JEP/Motorsport Images

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