British GT4 Rockingham preview

British GT4 Rockingham preview

Following a short two-week break the 2016 British GT Championship roars back into life at Rockingham Motor Speedway this weekend for round two of the new campaign.

Brands Hatch’s opening race generated plenty of excitement and surprises as teams and drivers across both the GT3 and GT4 classes battled for early bragging rights. But will the same combinations excel during Rockingham’s two-hour race which, for the first time since 2011, is being held on the slightly shorter 1.94-mile International Super Sportscar Circuit?

The combined efforts of PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport, Century Motorsport and RCIB Insurance Racing ensured Ginetta G55 GT4s locked out the podium positions at Brands Hatch. But with the same pit-stop success penalties applied as in GT3, Rockingham’s winner is likely to come from elsewhere.

Aston Martin seems like a good place to start given that five V8 Vantage GT4s should line up for Sunday’s race. Chief among those will be Generation AMR SuperRacing whose driving strength again features Matthew George and reigning class champion Jamie Chadwick. The latter’s Brands Hatch qualifying misdemeanours forced the pair to fight through from 13th on the grid to finish fourth on the team’s British GT debut. And with no success penalty to serve, allied to Chadwick setting Rockingham’s fastest race lap 12 months ago, this is an entry worth watching.

The same goes for Beechdean AMR who dominated last year’s race with Chadwick and Gunn. Its new teenage Silver Cup pairing of Jack Bartholomew and Jordan Albert finished fifth on their British GT debuts at Brands and should be amongst the front-runners again.

Meanwhile, Generation AMR Macmillan Racing’s Matty Graham was fighting for second before an accident with Phil Dryburgh ended his and the team’s involvement. The Aston, which features a Hesketh-inspired livery, should be back at the sharp end at Rockingham provided its extensive damage has been repaired in time.

McLaren’s new 570S GT4, which is being developed exclusively in British GT this season, enjoyed a reliable if low-key run to sixth at Brands Hatch with Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse drivers Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell at the wheel. The teenage pairing, who have both stepped up from racing junior single-seaters, will only become more competitive as the campaign progresses.

As for Ginetta, Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson enjoyed a relatively comfortable win at Brands after starting second but will have a 20-second success penalty to contend with at their pit-stop. It’s a similar story for Century Motorsport’s Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke who qualified on pole before finishing runners-up. They were chased all the way by series debutants RCIB Insurance Racing, William Phillips and Jordan Stilp, who broke British GT4’s long-standing Brands Hatch lap record while pursuing Freke.

Ebor GT’s new Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4 showed glimpses of its potential at Brands but still has a little way to go before challenging for podium places.

Saturday 30 April
09.45 - 10.45: Free Practice 1
11.55 - 12.45: Free Practice 2
15.35 - 15.45: Qualifying - GT3 Am
15.49 - 15.59: Qualifying - GT3 Pro
16.03 - 16.13: Qualifying - GT4 Am
16.18 - 16.28: Qualifying - GT4 Pro

Sunday 1 May
09:25 - 09:35: Warm-up
13.00 - 15.00: Race

GT3 1m21.433s Alex Mortimer CRS Racing Ferrari 458 Italia 2011
GT4 1m26.075s Marcus Clutton ABG Motorsport KTM X-Bow 2011

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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.

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. Drivers have also praised the longevity of the tyres’ performance.

Rockingham is characterised by its banked oval, a portion of which forms the pit straight and first corner of the 3.12-kilometre International Super Sportscar Circuit. A heavy braking zone for the Deene hairpin leads the cars off the oval and onto the technical infield section.

In contrast to Brands Hatch, this is made up mostly of slow-to-medium-speed corners where tyres have to withstand continual braking and traction energy, although Turns 5, 6 and 7 put high lateral energy into the right-hand-side tyres. Through there and in Turn 1, which is banked up to seven degrees, the downforce of the GT3 cars will deliver the speed, but the rest of the lap demands good mechanical grip from the tyres. With little time for the tyres to rest, wear is expected to be fairly high.

However, after qualifying and race lap records were broken in both British GT classes at Brands Hatch, teams and drivers can once again feel confident about the grip available.