There wasn’t a huge amount of news around concerning the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at last week’s Autosport International Show in Birmingham, but what there was suggested that another intriguing season lies ahead.
Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici confirmed to DSC that the series is already fully-subscribed, with 28 full-season entry-fees having been paid. The major difference this year is that 15 of those 28 cars will race in the GT4 category, six Ginettas, five Aston Martins, three Lotuses and a Toyota and the potential is for a couple more cars in the ‘lower division’, subject to there being room on the grid to accommodate them.
The big surprise last Thursday was the unveiling of the two Ultra Tek Lotus Evoras, as reported on the day, with James Nash confirming to DSC’s Peter May that he will be combining this programme with another season of Blancpain Sprint.
GT3 news was thin on the ground, with several major teams – Beechdean AMR, Triple Eight (on duty in the Dubai 24 last week) and Motorbase among them – still to announce their lineups. DSC understands that Jody Firth has cancelled all of his racing plans for the year, which may help to explain the delay from Triple Eight.
Ginetta was very much in evidence at the NEC, with Lawrence Tomlinson not only launching the firm’s LMP3 (below) but also announcing a second BGT GT3 for team LNT for Rick Parfitt and Tom Oliphant.
Rather disappointingly, Bentley’s announcement of its 2015 activities didn’t include the BGT, but there are very encouraging signs that Von Ryan will be back with a McLaren. Trackspeed, meanwhile, appears to have not yet been sold, and the prospect of a Porsche being seen in the series this year looks remote.
The plunge in oil prices, while good for consumers, certainly hasn’t helped those whose motorsport activities rely on the price of a barrel being rather healthier. Ron Johnson’s business is one of those affected and, while this won’t completely stop him racing in 2015, he and regular partner Piers Johnson are more likely to be seen in GT Cup than BGT, and even then only on an ad-hoc basis.
Talking of fuel, the BGT will once again be powered by Sunoco-branded petrol after Anglo American Oils won back the contract to supply the series after an absence of three years. AAO boss Anders Hildebrand was very happy to be back in the fold, and even happier that BGT front-runner Phil Keen had won the Sunoco Daytona Challenge;
“I have to say that Phil has amazed a few people already with his driving. His first test at Daytona only lasted eight laps before the engine on his Action Express DP failed – the team had been trying some new upgrades – but despite this being his first time at the circuit and in the car, he was already right on the pace! It was a more impressive debut than even Felipe Nasr’s.” Sonny Whelan, who is sponsoring the Challenge, was a happy man too and has already confirmed that the 2016 Challenge will go ahead.
Keen himself was on duty at the Roar test in Daytona and attended the traditional Rolex 24 conference at the NEC via satellite link. Never the keenest (no pun intended) of interviewees, one wonders how much he is enjoying all the media attention that comes with the prize.
As for the old chestnut of TV coverage for the BGT in 2015, Franassovici said to expect an announcement in two weeks, and that it would be ‘exciting’. The fact that an announcement is being made so early, normally it’s made at the media day, suggests that an improved package is on the cards.
Finally, this year’s media day will be at a new venue, Brands Hatch, on Wednesday March 25th.