While we still await an official entry list for this weekend’s British GT meeting at Snetterton, news has been coming through over the past few days of several driver changes.
The clashing Nürburgring 24 Hours [full coverage on DSC, of course] has accounted for three drivers, with Nissan GT Academy Team RJN stalwart Alex Buncombe, Ecurie Ecosse regular Alexander Sims and IDL-CWS’s Colin White all on duty around the Green Hell. They will be replaced for the two Norfolk races by Jonny Cocker, Wolfgang Reip and Ian Stinton respectively.
Former BGT champion Cocker – somehow still only 27 despite winning the title in 2004 – returns to the series after several seasons absence and will partner series-leader Marco Attard in the #79 BMW Z4 GT3. “I am seriously excited for my return to the British GT Championship and obviously a big thanks goes out to Marco for inviting me to drive in Alexander’s absence,” he said. “The main objective of the weekend will be to assist in keeping Marco at the top of the driver standings. After a very successful test with Marco and Alexander we are confident that we will have the pace to do just that!”
Cocker knows the Z4 well as a result of his ELMS experience this year in the Team Russia BMW, which is also run by Barwell Motorsport.
“Really looking forward to working with Jonny at Snetterton and I am sure he will make a great contribution to the team with all his experience,” added Attard.
Reip, meanwhile, will be making his BGT debut this weekend when he partners Sir Chris Hoy, and the Belgian racer – fresh from completing the first-ever all-electric lap at le Mans in the Nissan ZEOD – will be heading off for the Super GT test after his Snetterton adventure; “This is my first trip to Japan so I am really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve already bought two books so I can learn Japanese and I always listen to the Japanese engineers to see what I can pick up. It’s great that I get to drive at Suzuka; it is one of the legendary old-school racing circuits where there is no room for mistakes.
“It is good timing for me to compete in British GT this weekend,” he continued. “I know the GT3 GT-R very well after doing two championships in it last year but I hadn’t actually driven it for seven months before this weekend. Snetterton will be a very useful refresher for me.”
For Ian Stinton, the chance to return to the British series alongside Tom Sharp’s #40 Ginetta G55 GT3 is a welcome one; “I’m so pleased to be back out in the British GT Championship, this marks my tenth season competing in the series,” he said. “To team up with a BRDC SuperStar like Tom is fantastic, the G55 is a wonderful car to drive and I’m certainly looking for a top ten finish from the weekend.”
“I’ve known Ian for some time now through racing Ginettas,” added Sharp. “He’s a quick driver, and his experience will be an asset to the team. I feel like the team are on top of things with the car now, and I think that we should have a good chance of picking up a pair of top ten finishes at Snetterton.”
With the chance of a proper crack at the British GT title effectively already at an end, United Autosport driver Mark Patterson has decided to scale back his involvement in the remainder of the series to just two more rounds and, as a result, Iain Dockerill will be joining Matt Bell in the #3 Audi this weekend.
“Snetterton will be my debut with the team and my maiden race in the Audi although a test is planned on Thursday for me at Rockingham,” said the 46 year-old, who last raced a Chad Ferrari Scuderia in the series. “I know Matt, he has been giving our GT Cup team some coaching this season, and I’m certain we’ll make a good driver combination while United Autosports is a proven top team.
“Since racing in the BGT I’ve raced quite a lot in Belgium, driving different types of car but never a current GT3 car in a sprint format with a team as professional as United. My only GT3 experience has been in the last two Blancpain Endurance Series Spa 24 Hour races while the last time I raced at Snetterton was in a GT Cup race last year.”
“I’ve enjoyed multiple seasons of wonderful BGT racing but the confluence of on-track incidents when we’ve been in a leading position in the last three races makes winning this year’s championship impossible,” said Patterson.
“I’ll be back for the Spa and Donington races, simply because I love racing on these tracks, but for the other races I’m delighted that United Autosports can introduce new drivers in to its fantastic team well in advance of next year’s BGT season.”
“It’s a great shame that Mark is now only to do the Spa and Donington races but I can fully understand his position being based in the US,” said Bell. “We’ve suffered three DNFs in a row, two of which were as a direct result of Mark unnecessarily being hit from behind. These retirements mean our championship challenge is over so it’s a case of full out attack from the start in each of the remaining races.”
Finally, Optimum Motorsport have announced that Aston Martin GT4 Challenge driver Jade Edwards will be replacing Tania Mann, who has add to withdraw from the series due to other commitments. Edwards will join Matt Draper in the #41 Ginetta G55 GT4.
“I’m so happy to be joining Optimum Motorsport and the Avon Tyres British GT Championship grid for Snetterton,” she said. “I’ve raced at the track before in lower level racing so I’m confident myself and Matt will make a good pairing in GT4. Of course, joining halfway through the year does put me on the back foot slightly, but I’m always happy to step up to a challenge and I can’t wait to get started!”