With the dust still settling on the 2017 British GT Championship finale at Donington Park last weekend, DSC spoke at length to HHC Motorsport commercial director Charlie Kemp, about what the GT4 title means for the team.
This year, with drivers Stuart Middleton and William Tregurtha in its 2017-spec Ginetta G55 GT4, the team managed to take the title down the wire, winning it all at the finale, scoring the G55 its second British GT4 title and Ginetta’s seventh in the past 10 years.
In addition to the GT4 Driver’s Championship, the team also won the Silver Driver’s Championship and the Team’s Championship, with just one car. It was a sweep which has never occurred before in the series, and a set of achievements which Kemp thinks will go a long way in helping HHC reach its ultimate long-term goal: Le Mans.
“I’m relieved the season is over,” Kemp (below) told DSC. “The racing though this year, was absolutely fantastic, anyone watching will know that GT4 racing is like sprint races, so Ginetta Junior championship prepared our drivers perfectly to be honest.
“We were running a full 2017-spec G55, and effectively the main difference between it and the 2016 car is in traction control and ABS. Our title rivals at Lanan were running the 2016 car which didn’t have those features.
“I think in certain situations it was an advantage,” he explained. “In the dry? Not massively, because Silvers are able to all drive the cars well. In the wet though, it made a difference. That’s the great thing about modern cars though, with TC and ABS, you can make it absolutely perfect for pro drivers and amateur drivers. It wasn’t a massive advantage but it was a development, it moved the G55 forward.”
HHC Motorsport, since being founded in 2010, has been making headway in the national motorsport ranks, racing in F3, F4, Ginetta Juniors and the Ginetta SuperCup before taking on the British GT championship this year; and winning it all. The team, which prides itself on developing driver talent in-house, has taken Tregurtha from Ginetta Junior champion, to British GT4 champion, in just one year.
The quality of the GT4 field in British GT in 2017 is what makes this feat even more impressive. With an entry often exceeding 15 cars, featuring multiple maruqes and a real mix of seasoned professionals and up and coming talent, Kemp was full of praise for the series’ organisation and ability to balance the field, making it as fair as possible.
“All the cars in ran well together, the BoP has been good this year,” he continued. “At various points there will be people who think it’s unfair for them, including us, but the racing has been the proof in the pudding. The reality is, that the Ginetta is a car that’s cheaper to buy, and to run than a McLaren for example.
“At that point, there are drivers out there that are more budget conscious, and aren’t fussed about having a McLaren badge or a Porsche badge. There are people out there, which is fine, but the key thing is that there’s a huge number of highly competitive Ginetta single make championships and the drivers involved are very high calibre and already have an affinity with the brand.”
We want to go and run a car at Le Mans. It won’t necessarily be next year, or the year after that, but in the medium to long term, that’s where we want to go
Where does HHC go from here in its rise up the GT ranks? Kemp says, Le Mans is the team’s ultimate goal, but that’s a longer term plan. In the immediate future, racing in Europe is the next step on the ladder.
“For us, when we first started, our goal was to take drivers that we developed and run in championships. We want to go and run a car at Le Mans. It won’t necessarily be next year, or the year after that, but in the medium to long term, that’s where we want to go. We chose to exit F3 and go down the GT route as a company, it was a clear decision and so from that point of view, we’ve done this with drivers we’ve developed like Will Tregurtha who’s won the Ginetta Junior championship with us.
“Will and Stuart (Middleton) are a very young pair, the youngest to win the title. Going into the season, people told us that it was going to be a nightmare, but now they’ve won British GT, and are becoming known in GT circles at 17-years-old. They command that respect, because they’ve learnt, they’ve progressed and British GT has allowed them to do that, it’s allowed them to surprise people.
“It’s a step towards what we want to do. Next year we want to go racing in European GT4, as well as cars in British GT. That’s what we’re trying to do, and this is the first step on that GT road. It’s opened a door, because everyone is always looking to progress and earn a living out of the sport, so to win a title like this, is great for all of us.
“Also, whatever we do next year, I want to continue racing with Ginetta. I’m more than happy with the GT4 car, I like the customer service, they’re a good bunch who want to push things forward. And also, our workshop is based just 20 minutes away from them, which makes life a lot easier!”
I like having GT3 cars on the same grid, it’s a great spectacle, and certainly from what I’ve seen, is that the last three rounds, the amount of people who have wanted to come and watch it all has increased substantially
While the GT4 European Series may be the team’s big programme next year, a parallel programme racing in British GT again is most certainly on the cards.
As it stands, there’s a debate about split grids in British GT, with GT3 and GT4 having separate races each weekend instead of the current multi-class format. According to HHC though, mixed grids provide not only a great spectacle, but a good platform for learning about traffic management. Kemp does however, understand the reason for the future of the series’ format coming into question.
“I like having GT3 cars on the same grid, it’s a great spectacle, and certainly from what I’ve seen, is that the last three rounds, the amount of people who have wanted to come and watch it all has increased substantially,” he said. “There’s a buzz around British GT that wasn’t there two years ago. It’s definitely changing, and there’s a really good feeling in the paddock.
“I think GT3 cars are fantastic but clearly GT4 is outgrowing it in terms of numbers, so I understand what they’re trying to do. If it’s increasing the GT3 grid by running separate races, because they know that GT4 could easily fill a grid and look perfectly acceptable.
“You’d also enjoy winning races outright if that happened, but either way I don’t think it would affect GT4 in the UK, which is why they’re keeping it open at the moment, to see if there’s more GT3 entries that would make it a more rounded grid.”