British Touring Car Championship leader Gordon Shedden is to swap his Honda for a Ferrari this weekend (24/25 September) to compete in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Donington Park. The 32-year-old Scotsman will join the Rosso Verde team for the longest race of the season, partnering Hector Lester at the wheel of a new Ferrari 458 Italia.
Meanwhile James Nash, who scored his maiden BTCC race victory last weekend, will also make his British GT debut at Donington, driving a GT4 Lotus.
Shedden will be deputising for Lester’s regular team-mate, Allan Simonsen, who is racing elsewhere. It will be Gordon’s maiden appearance in British GT, but not his first sports car outing: he was one of the CRS Racing team which finished fourth in the GT2 class of the Spa 24 Hours in 2008.
As well as bringing in a new driver for the weekend, Rosso Verde will debut a new car, replacing the Ferrari 430 Scuderia it has campaigned so far with a 458.
“It’s a bit of a Scottish/Irish thing,” said Shedden. “John Buchan, who runs the Rosso Verde car, is from Edinburgh and I’ve shaken down their 430 Scuderia a few times over the last year or so. When Allan Simonsen was unavailable, Hector picked up the phone and asked if I fancied it and I thought ‘Why not?’
“It’s a new challenge for me. I did the Spa 24 Hours so I am not totally new to Ferraris, but this is a new car and it should be fun. It’s a fair while since my last GT outing, but a racing car is a racing car with four wheels and an engine, so we’ll see how we go. There is no pressure, and there are no expectations, as the car is completely new and won’t have turned a wheel before we get to Donington. There is a lot stacked against us but if we get our heads down and get the set-up right, hopefully we can have a good run in the race.”
The new Ferrari is not the only addition to the grid for the three-hour Donington race: the JRM Nissan team has entered its exciting new Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3 for Alex Buncombe and GT1 racer Nick Catsburg. It will be the car’s second competitive appearance following its successful debut in the Blancpain Endurance Series at Magny-Cours in August; the GT-R will run as an non-points scoring Invitational class entry as the team assesses its pace ahead of a planned multi-championship GT3 campaign in 2012.
The MTECH team will meanwhile bring the Donington Ferrari 458 count to six, with a second Italia joining that of championship front-runners Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin. The new machine will be driven by David Back and Julien Draper.
Donington’s round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship is not only the longest and most gruelling of the season but also – as it carries more points than usual – crucial to the title hopes of many competitors. There are 37.5 points on offer to the winning crew, which margin covers the top 14 drivers on the leaderboard as it stands.
Father and son pairing Jim and Glynn Geddie head the championship to Donington but are still seeking their first race win in their Ferrari 458 Italia; their team-mates in the Leicestershire-based CRS Racing squad, Alex Mortimer and Andrew Tate, led them home for a 1-2 at Rockingham earlier in September.
Just five points behind them in the standings are erstwhile series leaders Mike Guasch and Matt Bell with their United Autosports Audi, and coming up fast on the rails are Cameron and Griffin, reigning champion David Ashburn in his Trackspeed Porsche and 2009 champions David and Godfrey Jones with their Team Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS.
Donington is home track for several GT3 teams and competitors, not least for the Leicestershire-based Jones brothers, CRS Racing, Tamworth-based MTECH, Lichfield driver Adam Wilcox, and Midlands GT3B driver pairing Aaron Scott and John Dhillon. Leicester’s Stephen Jelley will partner Ashburn.
A field of 18 GT3 cars is expected, including Ginetta G55s for Martin Short, Stourbridge racer Ian Stinton and the Hetherington brothers, Benji and Freddie; the fabulous Speedworks Corvette of Piers Johnson and Ron Johnson, the race-winning Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari of Charles Bateman and Michael Lyons, and the Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard and Jonathan Adam, which scored its debut win last time out.
In addition to the exciting GT3 entry, there is a six-car GT4 battle in prospect which could see the championship title settled. Marcus Clutton and Peter Belshaw are the current points leaders with their ABG Motorsport KTM, with Lotus Evora duo Freddy Nordstrom and Leyton Clarke 19 points behind. The second Lotus Sport UK car will be crewed by Phil Glew and 888 Racing Vauxhall BTCC pilot Nash, for whom Donington will not only be a British GT debut but also a sports car-racing baptism.
Rockingham double GT4 class victors Dan Denis and David McDonald will be out to pull off another in their Scuderia Vittoria-run Ginetta. Newcomers Sergio Lagana and Alan Hellmeister join Peter Erceg in the Secure Racing Aston Martin.