British duo Ross Wylie (Dumfries, Scotland) and Jake Giddings (Wisbech, Cambridgeshire) have been announced today as drivers in the inaugural GT4 campaign for top GT3 squad, Beechdean-AMR. The 'exotic' pair will drive the latest version of the popular Aston Martin Vantage GT4 that has featured in British GT for the past three seasons.
After conquering British GT in 2013, taking boss Andrew Howard to the GT3 Drivers Championship, Beechdean now has its eyes set on taking the GT4 honours as well as defending Howard's GT3 crown. The ice-cream impresario explains:
"This isn't about running a gentleman racer with loads of money to burn, its about helping young drivers who have a bit of budget and some proof they can race at the sharp end. I think GT4 is a great option for the future potential pros, and I think the way GT4 is set up, it gives young drivers an opportunity to prove themselves. GT4 should be a proving ground for future GT talent.
“The key for us running in GT4 was that over the last two years with Jonny I’ve seen young drivers try to crack British GT and fail for various reasons; there isn’t an easy opportunity for people to get into British GT. I thought it’d be great to come up with a junior team that could discover the next Jonny Adam or Darren Turner for Beechdean or Aston Martin Racing (AMR)."
While there is support from AMR, it’s not an officially sanctioned project and is very much a Beechdean Motorsport run operation. Howard is clearly passionate about developing talent, as he continues to explain his plans behind the GT4 project.
"Our job is to help them realise their potential. It’s not just about the driving, it’s about their inter-personal skills, their media ability, can they handle everything? We’ve put them through some tests, and they are polite, nice people, and well rounded individuals. Both lads have done racing and view racing as their future careers, but have quite a long journey to go before they hit the big time - we're here to help that happen."
Scotsman, Wylie, who is mentored by FIA World Endurance Champion Allan McNish, has a strong karting heritage and only made the switch to car racing in 2012 where he joined the Mini Cooper Cup, impressing in the Celtic Speed prepared Mini taking two wins, two poles, four fastest laps and six podiums in all. From here the 22-year-old moved into the APR Volkswagen Racing Cup. Wylie's maiden year ended with three wins, two poles, and an impressive 10 top ten finishes from twelve starts.
“I’m really excited to be joining Beechdean and racing an Aston Martin Vantage which will be very, very cool,” beamed Wylie. “Racing in British GT will be a completely different adventure for me. The races are much longer in duration and feature two drivers, the Aston will have much more power than I have ever had at my disposal previously, while I’ve never raced a rear-wheel-drive car.
“I’ve not ‘shared’ my racecar with another driver and it’s vital that my co-driver Jake Giddings and I work well together. It's hard to say where we will position ourselves without having been out on track, but I am confident with this team around me, we can challenge for GT4 class honours. I certainly won't be racing to make up the numbers.”
Giddings comes to British GT via his driver coach, Howard's team-mate in the GT3 Vantage, Jonny Adam who coached the 19-year-old in the hotly contested AirAsia Renault Clio UK Cup for the past two years. Prior to that Giddings earned his stripes with three years in Ginetta Juniors, taking a number of podiums on the way.
As a result of his front-running pace in the 2013 Clio Cup, Giddings was asked to drive a Vauxhall Astra VXR in the Production Touring Car Trophy, where he finished third in the championship and racked up nine podiums and 3 lap records - all this despite joining halfway through the season. Importantly, a maiden endurance outing at the Dubai 24 Hours last year yielded a fourth in class result, again driving a Clio.
"It's very different from what I've done before," confessed Giddings. "It's a fantastic opportunity, and they've given me full support. My driver profile has boosted from being with them already, I think it's going to only get better."
"It's going to be great to be with a team of the quality of Beechdean. I haven't driven the car yet, it's still in build, but it's great to be associated with such an iconic brand. There is lots of buzz around the Aston for 2014, so hopefully we should have some front-running pace. I think the quality of racing will be great and the British GT grids keep on growing. One thing I'm really looking forward to this year will be driving at Spa. I raced there for the first time last year, so to go back in an Aston will be fantastic.
"Ross and I both come from the same sort of background (front wheel drive), and while I've had experience of rear-wheel drive with Ginettas, its been a while since I've driven one. We're a good pairing on paper and it's reassuring to have a quick team-mate, I think we'll push each other along as the season progresses."