Firth and Hughes switch to Triple Eight for expanded GT campaign‏

Highly competitive British racers Jody Firth (Wakefield) and Warren Hughes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) have signed with multiple BTCC Champions and front-running GT squad Triple Eight Race Engineering, agreeing a deal that will see the duo complete the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship in a BMW Z4 GT3 and take part in a series of other endurance events before the year ends.As well as British GT, the deal with Triple Eight will see Firth and Hughes take part in the Blancpain Endurance Series finale, the Nürburgring 1000 km (19-21 September), as well as the Gulf 12 Hour in Abu-Dhabi (10-12 December) and the 2015 Dubai 24 Hours (8-10 January), with yet to be revealed driving partners.“We’re chomping at the bit for Brands,” quipped recent birthday boy, Jody. “It’s an amicable split from Trackspeed. I regard Keith (Cheetham - Trackspeed TM) as a mate now and the guys did nothing wrong. It’s a funny situation, but you have to do what you can to be competitive. We’ve only spent a day with Triple Eight, but we feel like we’re in experienced and capable hands already.“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my sponsors, W H Marren Ltd and Brian Yeardley Continental Ltd for the continued support and understanding in switching team.”Following several years of driving LMP and GT machines together, 2014 has seen Firth and Hughes compete in the first five weekends of British GT with Porsche-outfit Trackspeed, taking a season-best finish of fourth last time out at Spa-Francorchamps. However, the weight adjustment applied to the duo by series organisers SRO (to balance their combined experience) hasn’t been carried as effectively as thought by the Porsche chassis.Jody explains: “We went with the Porsche because we had the logic that a rear-engined, torque heavy car should have good traction and thus carry the penalty weight better. We saw Motorbase take two wins in a Porsche last year with the weight and the car was competitive until the final race of 2013. We thought that was the best option for us, and that we’d be alright. Never in a million years did I think the cars or quality would move on that quickly or to that degree, but they clearly have.“In hindsight, despite upgrades being frozen, things have progressed and the Porsche is essentially a five-year-old car with comparatively weak aero. Logic was applied, but perhaps it was a little flawed. Triple Eight were on pole for both of the remaining rounds last year, so we should be up there challenging, despite the weight adjustment.”As ‘Silver’ and ‘Gold’ graded-drivers respectively, Firth and Hughes carry an extra 75kg in their car, and following a successful test at Snetterton recently to evaluate the effect of the additional ballast in the BMW, the pair have signed up with the Greatworth-based team.“They’re very different animals,” remarks Warren. “I’d say they’re at almost opposite ends of the scale. The Porsche has traction and low-end power. Where perhaps it isn’t so strong is on the aero-front and the unique weight distribution of the Porsche, with the engine over the back wheels, makes it an unusual car to drive. The BMW is far more instinctive to drive with a strong aerodynamic feel, which is something that Jody and I are more accustomed to with our experience of LMPs.“We had a chance to try the car with and without weight at our test, and there’s no escaping the fact that 75kg is a harsh penalty. The BMW managed the weight better than we expected, but we’d like to see a revision to the penalty ahead of next season; perhaps a time penalty, or even a drop to say 50kg. Currently it takes us out of contention in a normal race and we need circumstances to come to us, which isn’t really racing.“We hoped the BMW would be more like the prototypes and give us more reassurance and ability to push courtesy of the aero; it did that in spades. I’d go as far to say it’s like no other GT car I’ve driven from that point of view. It generates confidence and we were quickly on the pace on old tyres. We’re hoping to be more competitive with Triple Eight, as the year so far isn’t an accurate reflection of our abilities.”Hughes used to compete against Triple Eight in British Touring Cars, but is pleased to be joining his former rivals in GTs, as he explains below.“There are a few familiar faces that’s for sure. John Waterman (engineer on #888) was a thorn in my side for those years in the BTCC, and as for H (Ian Harrison – Founder/Team Principal), I’d much rather have him on my side than against me. It’s still early days for Triple Eight in GTs, but it’s fab to join the team; they’re bursting with potential and both Jody and I are hoping to evolve with the team. We’re keen to get that first win for them too.”The news obviously sees Triple Eight expand its British GT effort to a three-car BMW line-up for the remainder of the season, which in turn aids the desired expansion of the GT-arm for the crack British engineering outfit. “We’ve made no bones about the fact we want to grow the GT side of Triple Eight,” said Founder and Team Principal, Ian Harrison. “Having a pairing like Jody and Warren on-board gives us two drivers who approach the car differently. They come from an aero background and drive the car as such; we’ve noticed that already. I’m genuinely very excited about where we’re heading. First of all we must concentrate on the next race, Brands Hatch, a circuit where we did very well last year. Can we get three cars in the top-ten? It’ll be a heck of a challenge but we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t thing we could.”The penultimate round of the season, a two-hour battle on the historic Brands Hatch GP circuit awaits on the final weekend of the month (30/31 August), with Triple Eight looking to replicate results from last year, which saw both Z4s finish in the top-ten.