Beechdean AMR boss Howard backing British GT3 tweaks

Beechdean AMR boss Howard backing British GT3 tweaks
Two-time British GT champion Andrew Howard believes recently announced changes to the GT3 class will attract fresh talent to the series.


Championship organiser SRO has unveiled plans, which include increased track time and a cost-effective GT3 class, designed to encourage more semi-professional and gentleman drivers to join the category from 2017. 


British GT stalwart Howard has competed in the series since 2004 but will step back from driving duties next season to concentrate on running Beechdean AMR’s domestic operation, which is once again planning to field GT3 and GT4 entries.


And the 2013 and ’15 GT3 champion, who played a key role alongside several other team owners in shaping the changes, believes the senior category’s restructuring to include a Silver/Am class for young professionals with budget is the perfect way to help foster new talent. 


“SRO has always been prepared to work with and listen to its British GT teams, so I’m delighted with the changes being made for 2017,” he said. “Silver/Am is a fantastic concept and exactly what’s required. I’ve often said that amateurs probably need two or three years of GT3 racing to be truly competitive, and that’s increasingly true for young professionals, too. 


“It took time for [reigning champion] Jonny Adam to become the series’ GT3 benchmark, which is what the new Silver/Am class provides. Crews can come in, learn together, share the budget and build a partnership. It’s the right decision at the right time.”


Howard cited his own first steps in the GT3 category alongside then-debutant Adam, who retained his drivers’ title at Donington Park 11 days ago, as a perfect example of how a similar Silver/Am category would have been beneficial.


“I remember racing with Jonny in our first season together against the likes of Simonsen and Westbrook in our ageing Aston Martin, and it wasn’t easy,” he recalled. “We were both learning the GT3 ropes and had no way of standing out from the crowd unless we were running at the front. 


“This new Silver/Am classification would have given us that recognition and something achievable to fight for over the season. He’s now the championship’s elder statesman but he had to earn that status.”


The 52-year-old added that any future British GT return would likely be as part of the new category given Beechdean AMR’s focus on promoting young talent.


“If I return to British GT in a few years I’d probably do so as part of the Silver/Am class,” he confirmed. “It would have been perfect for someone like Ross [Gunn] this season. The step from GT4 to GT3 is tough, even as the reigning champion, so having that almost half-way point would have been great for his career progression.”


Meanwhile, Team ABBA with Rollcentre Racing’s Martin Short - who partnered fellow Am Richard Neary this season - believes the emphasis on gentleman drivers will encourage more to look again at British GT.


“I’m really pleased to see a drive toward Bronze pairings, as gents have been the lifeblood of GT racing,” he told Motorsport News. “The issue currently is that as a gent if you want to win you have to fork out £300,000 to hire a factory driver and you pay 100% of the budget. Being two Ams you can share that cost evenly, and suddenly, at £150,000 or so per season, GT3 becomes a much more attractive option.”


The 2017 British GT Championship gets underway at Oulton Park on April 15 & 17.