British GT4 Brands Hatch preview
Six marques spread across 16 entries make the trip to Brands Hatch this weekend, but with only one 2015 race-winning crew present the result appears absolutely wide-open, not least due to the nine Silver-graded driver line-ups comprising young, single-seater converts.
Bucking that trend will be last season’s championship runners-up, Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, who look like strong contenders aboard their PMW Expo/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4. The Pro/Am pairing won first time out at Oulton Park 12 months ago and head into 2016 full of confidence after topping two of the Media Day test sessions. Their case is further strengthened by finishing second at Brands last season and being one of only two unchanged line-ups in the field.
Nevertheless, they’re sure to face stiff opposition from Beechdean AMR whose Silver-graded crews have won the last two GT4 Drivers’ titles. Teenage single-seater converts Jordan Albert and Jack Bartholomew are charged with maintaining that streak aboard the familiar blue and white Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Both drivers certainly have the pedigree to suggest they’ll be near the front.
Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse, so successful in GT3 but making their junior class debut with McLaren in 2016, has also opted for youth in the form of Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell, who - aged 16 years and 41 days - will become the youngest driver ever to contest a British GT race this Sunday. Both know their way around single-seaters but, with this year primarily earmarked as one of development for the all-new 570S GT4, only time will tell how competitive the package is.
Century Motorsport is no stranger to the British GT4 paddock and returns with two Ginettas this season. Team boss Nathan Freke, who finished second during a one-off appearance at Donington last year, partners Anna Walewska while the second G55 features Sean Byrne and 2015 Silver Cup runner-up Aleksander Schjerpen, who remains with Century for a third British GT4 campaign.
One of 2016’s most popular, not to mention loudest, GT4 entries is sure to be the Ebor GT-run Maserati GranTurismo MC driven by Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton. But with team, car and drivers all making their British GT debuts this year, expect the programme to come on stronger as the season progresses.
One outfit eager to hit the ground running is the returning JWBird Motorsport. 2014 GT4 champion Jake Giddings spent last season helping co-driver Kieran Griffin get up to speed and expects the Aston Martin crew to be regular top-six contenders this time around. Continuity could be key amongst a grid comprising many fresh faces.
Lotus were an ever-present threat at the front of GT4 last season and the same ISSY Racing chassis as used by Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw to win the Pro/Am title returns in the hands of Stratton Motorsport’s Robin Shute and American Will Hunholz. Both drivers plied their trade in the US recently but are confident of being on the pace from the start of the season. Stratton’s second entry, an Aston Martin for David Tinn and Robin Marriott, is the only all-Am line-up contesting the class.
BTCC regulars Team HARD make their long-awaited British GT debut with a pair of RCIB Insurance Racing-entered Ginetta G55s, both of which feature intriguing Silver-rated driver crews. Former WRC regular Rob Barrable has his roots in circuit racing and will be counting on all of that experience alongside fellow Formula Ford graduate Wilson Thompson. Junior tin-top converts Jordan Stilp and William Phillips comprise the squad’s second entry.
Generation AMR is another new name this season, although its two Aston Martins race under different identities. The first features promising ex-open-wheel racers Matty Graham and Jack Mitchell who have the potential to be mixing it at the front. The second, SuperRacing-entered V8 Vantage would ordinarily have James Holder at the wheel, but his clashing business commitments mean reigning GT4 champion Jamie Chadwick has been drafted in to partner Matthew George aboard what could prove a very handy all-Silver entry.
Further variety is provided by GPRM’s single Toyota GT86 GT4. Stefan Hodgetts and James Fletcher know the car well and have looked fast when reliability has allowed. The team has worked hard over the winter to improve the package, which went well at Brands last season.
Build and delivery issues prevent the new-for-2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports from attending Brands, but both teams previously scheduled to run them - Lanan Racing and Simpson Motorsport - have worked tirelessly to be on the grid with Ginetta machinery. Although a distraction, both teams feature line-ups capable of challenging. Indeed, expect Scott Malvern and Joey Foster - both former single-seater champions - to be amongst the fastest Pros on show.
Click here to download British GT's Brands Hatch entry list.
British GT Brands Hatch Timetable:
Saturday 16 April
09.30 - 10.30: Free Practice 1
12.10 - 13.00: Free Practice 2
16.45 - 16.55: Qualifying - GT3 Am
16.58 - 17.08: Qualifying - GT3 Pro
17.11 - 17.21: Qualifying - GT4 Am
17.26 - 17.36: Qualifying - GT4 Pro
Sunday 17 April
10.00 - 10:10: Warm-up
13.30 - 15.30: Race
Brands Hatch GP Circuit Lap Record (2.433 miles)
GT4: Marcus Clutton, 2011, ABG Motorsport KTM XBow Crossbow - 1m33.187s
Pirelli tyre information
Pirelli supplies a single compound of slick tyre, the P Zero DHC tyre, for the GT3 class and the DH tyre for GT4. The Cinturato WH tyre will be used by both categories for wet weather – always a distinct possibility in mid-April in England.
These tyres have already proven successful in other GT championships, with ease of use for both professional and amateur drivers a key characteristic together with a quick warm-up, something the British drivers have already benefitted from during winter testing. Drivers have also praised the longevity of the tyres’ performance.
The Brands Hatch Grand Prix loop provides a great challenge for the drivers with fast, flowing and undulating corners, with relatively little room for error. Pirelli can call upon track knowledge from the Blancpain GT Series, which has visited the Kent venue since 2014. Braking and traction demands are low, and although the ever-increasing downforce of the latest GT3 cars is raising the lateral demands through corners, Pirelli’s worldwide experience can be relied upon. In mid-April, cool temperatures are most likely, so tyre performance should be consistent over the race distance.