British GT poised for spectacular Spa Speedweek

British GT poised for spectacular Spa Speedweek

Championship joins continental counterparts in the Ardennes


The 2024 British GT Championship hits half-distance at Spa Speedweek where 38 entries contest this year’s first two-hour enduro on Sunday.

 

Belgium’s famed grand prix circuit is a firm favourite among teams and drivers but hasn’t featured on the calendar since 2022 when Fox Motorsport’s McLaren claimed overall victory and R Racing’s Aston Martin – featuring current title contender Jamie Day – took GT4 honours.

 

The 120-minute duration is a British GT staple. However, this season it has unusually taken until Round 5 for the format – which features mandatory refuelling and driver changes after minutes 58 (GT4) and 62 (GT3) – to be used. Fewer strategic tools are therefore available to teams, which have spent the last two events navigating the championship’s multiple pitstop regulations and, in Donington’s case, a highly unusual rain-affected race.

 

Of course, weather conditions are also notoriously difficult to judge at Spa where British GT headlines a packed Speedweek schedule also featuring Championnat de France FFSA GT and TC, FFSA F4, Porsche Carrera Cup France and MitJet.

 

The event is free to attend and also live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel from Saturday.


GT3: MARTIN AND MITCHELL TAKE SLENDER LEAD TO SPA


A second win in three races propelled Alex Martin and Sandy Mitchell to the top of British GT’s standings at Donington where Barwell’s Lamborghini successfully picked a path through unpredictable weather conditions and accidents.

 

Those maximum points also, to some degree, countered the Silverstone DNF that helped Shaun Balfe and Adam Smalley to inherit the championship lead via victory. Maximum Compensation Time restricted their result at Donington, but they will have no such worries this weekend when it’s Martin and Mitchell’s turn to serve 20 additional seconds when swapping.

 

Garage 59’s McLaren is now third in the standings, 2.5 points behind Collards Rob and Ricky in Barwell’s second Huracan, and another 9.5 shy of the summit.

 

The Collards also race handicap-free after once again scoring double digit points at Donington. They are now the only GT3 crew to have achieved that feat, which has contributed towards them lying second overall.

 

2 Seas’ Ian Loggie and Phil Keen aren’t too far back in fourth but do have the added headache of +10 seconds in the pits on Sunday, while Mark Radcliffe and Tom Gamble (Optimum Motorsport) have 15 after finishing second last time out. That was no mean feat given Radcliffe’s big accident at Silverstone beforehand, without which the 720S would likely be higher than fifth overall.

 

The 21 GT3 entries include two new cars: Greystone GT’s McLaren of returnees Andrey Borodin and Oli Webb, and third Garage 59 720S driven by soloist Miguel Ramos. The latter’s CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa commitments would ordinarily prevent him from contesting the British GT race there one week beforehand, but the Portuguese driver has been granted special dispensation after injury forced him to miss the event’s recent Prologue.

 

However, Century’s #14 BMW ordinarily shared by Michael Johnston and reigning champion Dan Harper is unable to attend.


GT4: OPTIMUM ON A ROLL


Two wins from the last two races and three podiums from the first four leave Optimum’s Jack Brown and Zac Meakin 26 points clear of their nearest rivals as the GT4 season hits half distance this weekend. Their total of 102 points is also the second most-ever at this stage of a season, bettered only by Gus Burton and Will Burns who went on to win 2021’s title at a canter.

 

But neither the team nor Brown – who scored his maiden British GT4 win at Spa in 2021 – will be getting carried away just yet after a similar start 12 months ago gave way to a poor run-in that cost the combination the crown. Things do feel different this time, though, after the crew achieved rare consecutive victories at Silverstone and Donington despite serving maximum Compensation Time in the latter’s three-hour race.

 

The same extra 20 seconds will be more difficult to overcome at Spa where just one pitstop leaves teams little room for manoeuvre tactically. Instead, only a scintillating stint or fortuitous Safety Car timing will afford Brown and Meakin a chance to three-peat – something no-one has managed in any class since Rick Parfitt Jnr, Ryan Ratcliffe and Optimum, coincidentally, achieved the same feat in 2013.

 

They must also overcome three particularly strong crews, two of which have no Compensation Time to serve.

Jamie Day – who won at Spa in 2022 – and Mikey Porter lost ground at Donington after claiming podiums in their first three races. However, they remain Brown and Meakin’s closest challengers and, given the recent success of Silver crews at Spa, also the most likely victory candidates in Belgium where no Pro-Am combination has triumphed since 2015.

 

Their Forsetti team-mates Marc Warren and Will Orton plus Team Parker Racing’s Charles Dawson and Seb Morris are more than capable of re-writing that statistic, though. The two leading Pro-Am line ups firmly remain in overall championship contention, occupying as they do third and fourth respectively. But the balance tips in favour of the Mercedes-AMG at Spa thanks to Warren and Orton’s 15 seconds of Compensation Time after their Aston Martin finished second overall at Donington.

 

There, Dawson and Morris’ DNF owed everything to the sudden downpour that accounted for several cars at Turn 1, resulting in a first non-score of the season. Without it, they would likely be much closer to the top two.

 

The rest of this year’s entries are already more than 70 points adrift of Brown and Meakin whose early results have effectively turned the title battle into a four-horse race before half-distance.

 

17 GT4 cars are scheduled to start this weekend. They include Paddock’s McLaren, which now features the returning Adam Hatfield alongside Alex Walker, but not the Steller Audi that is unable to travel.


SPA SPEEDWEEK TIMETABLE
FRIDAY 21 JUNE
13:40 – 14:40: Test 1
16:20 – 17:20: Test 2

SATURDAY 22 JUNE
09:00 – 10:00: Free Practice 1
11:40 – 12:40: Pre-Qualifying
16:40 – 16:50: Qualifying 1 (GT3)
16:57 – 17:07: Qualifying 2 (GT3)
17:14 – 17:24: Qualifying 3 (GT4)
17:31 – 17:41: Qualifying 4 (GT4)

SUNDAY 23 JUNE
09:55 – 10:10: Warm-up
13:00 – 15:00: Race


LAP RECORDS
GT3 – 2m18.821s – Seb Morris – Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 – 2017
GT4 – 2m31.706s – Matthew Graham – Ebor GT Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4 – 2017


PITSTOP SPECIFICS – TWO-HOUR RACE

The number of driver changes are free but there are minimum and maximum total drive times for the starting driver. In GT4 starting drivers must complete a minimum of 58 minutes, while in GT3 this rises to 62 minutes. All classes share the same maximum starting drive time of 70 minutes.

Mandatory Pitstop Times (pit-in to pit-out)
GT3: 120s | GT4: 150s

Pitstop Compensation Time
20s – #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini (GT3) + #90 Optimum Motorsport McLaren (GT4)
15s – #27 Optimum Motorsport McLaren (GT3) + #47 Forsetti Motorsport Aston Martin (GT4)
10s – #6 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG (GT3) + #44 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota (GT4)

All GT4 Silver Cup entries must serve an additional 24s during their mandatory driver changes and carry 25kg of ballast.

 


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