British GT Media day round-up
There was plenty going on during the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s pre-season Media Day on Tuesday. But while the capacity 35-car entry was undoubtedly the top talking point, several other details might well have slipped through unnoticed. Well, fear not British GT fans! Here’s everything you might have missed from Snetterton.
BIGGEST GT3 ENTRY SINCE 2014
Sure, you probably saw this. After all, it was the second bullet point in yesterday’s announcement! But it bears repeating: 2020’s full-season entry features 19 GT3 cars! That’s four more than last year and the most since 2014 – also, incidentally, the last time GT3 outnumbered GT4.
Two of the TBAs were confirmed this morning with news that Barwell’s second Lamborghini will feature British GT record holder Sandy Mitchell (youngest driver to claim victory, pole and fastest lap) and 15-time BTCC race-winner Rob Collard, while Steller Motorsport – who weren’t included in yesterday’s GT3 entry – announced soon after that their Audi R8 LMS has secured an entry for this year. Could they be the owner of our mysterious 19th slot? Time will tell!
GT4 DRIVER ANNOUNCEMENTS
Several GT4 teams chose Media Day to confirm their full-season line-ups. Optimum were first to do so on Monday afternoon when they revealed two new McLarens crewed by James Pickford/Nick Moss and Ollie Millroy/Brendan Iribe would replace their Aston Martins.
Next it was TF Sport’s turn, the reigning champions confirming that former Ginetta Junior and British F4 champion Jamie Caroline will join forces with Porsche Carrera Cup front-runner Daniel Vaughan in the same #97 Vantage with which Tom Canning and Ash Hand won the 2019 Drivers’ title.
Finally, Tolman got in on the act by finally revealing their two McLaren DDP partnerships. Alain Valente and Michael Benyahia share the #4 570S while Katie Milner and Harry Hayek join forces in #5.
BALFE AND TF SPORT TOP THE TIMES
Ok, so pre-season testing on a cold, damp day at Snetterton is hardly a barometer for the year ahead. But, nevertheless, it was Balfe and TF Sport that topped the times over the course of two sessions.
Shaun Balfe, who set the day’s fastest time in the morning, finished less than a second shy of 2019’s GT3 Am qualifying benchmark, while the afternoon’s best set by Jonny Adam was just over a tenth slower.
Elsewhere, TF Sport finished one-two in both GT4 sessions after #95 and #97 shared the spoils. However, it was Daniel Vaughan who claimed intra-team bragging rights courtesy of his 1m57.355s in the morning.
There were new looks galore up and down the paddock, some of which were making their public debuts.
Team Parker’s Bentley – which Nick Jones and Scott Malvern also saw for the first time on Tuesday – features a particularly pleasing baby blue and matte-grey-with-sparkly-bits ensemble reminiscent of the duo’s circa-2017 Porsche Cayman. By contrast, JRM’s Continental GT3 featured a plain navy livery that forms the basis of its 2020 colour scheme. Expect the final design to be revealed just before Oulton Park.
One of RAM Racing’s two new Mercedes-AMG’s was also on site, and there was no missing the pink and purple example shared by Sam De Haan and Patrick Kujala! However, it wasn’t the only pink machine on show: has there ever been a livery with a greater combination of fluro colours than Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien’s McLaren 570S?!
Speaking of Balfe, its GT3-spec McLaren now also features several white accents around the headlights that channel the spirit of Team Salzburg’s Le Mans-winning Porsche 917, while ABBA Racing’s subtle changes have somehow improved their already very handsome green and black Mercedes-AMG.
Oman Racing with TF Sport’s #7 Aston Martin and Optimum’s McLaren GT3 also made their first public appearances, but it was Tolman’s new black and bright yellow/orange schemes that possibly turned most heads.
SPEEDWORKS SIZE UP THE OPPOSITION
Speedworks won’t receive their new Toyota Supra until mid-March but team boss Christian Dick plus drivers Sam Smelt and James Kell were all at Snetterton to check out the competition with a road-going version of the car they’ll campaign this year.
And it was no small undertaking for Christian who’d flown in from Knockhill after overseeing the team’s BTCC test on Monday.
ACADEMY CLOSING IN ON FOURTH DRIVER
Academy had already confirmed that Matt Nicoll-Jones, Will Moore and Jordan Albert would be racing its two Ford Mustangs this year, but the fourth seat remained TBA. Matt Cowley, who raced with the team in Europe last season, tested the #61 entry alongside Albert at Snetterton ahead of a possible full-season programme.
NEW PIRELLI TYRES MAKE BRITISH GT DEBUTS
Pirelli’s new P Zero DHE and DHB tyres will be used in the GT3 and GT4 classes, respectively, this year, and the constructions made their championship debut at Snetterton.
The new designs, which replace DHD2 and DH, provide an even more consistent and stable tyre that is capable of delivering optimal performance throughout an ample range of track and weather conditions.
It’s the fourth iteration of Pirelli’s GT3 tyre but first upgrade for GT4 since Pirelli initially introduced the DH in 2015.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF GOLD NUMBERS
Did you spot them? Several GT4 entries trialled gold windscreen numbers yesterday in a bid to distinguish them from GT3 cars.
The two classes featured fluro yellow and pink numbers and banners in recent years but Intelligent Money’s new title sponsorship has required a change. GT3’s white numbers correspond with their windscreen banner design and it was hoped gold could be used for GT4. Time will tell whether they adopt white or stick with the more blingy option!