BRITISH GT 2023 REACHES HALF-DISTANCE WITH SNETTERTON SUMMER SPRINTS
Written by Tom Hornsby – 2023’s Intelligent Money British GT Championship campaign hits half-distance this weekend at Snetterton where a pair of 60-minute sprint races take centre stage on Sunday.
The fourth of seven weekends, as well as rounds five and six of nine, features a 35-strong supercar entry as well as intriguing championship tussles in both classes following the events of Donington in late May when James Cottingham and Jonny Adam (GT3), and belatedly Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley (GT4) collected their second wins of the season.
They’ll now serve the maximum 10-second Pitstop Compensation Time in Sunday’s first race, which – along with the second – is live on Sky Sports F1 as well as SRO’s GT World YouTube channel.
GT3: 12 POINTS COVER THE TOP-FOUR
Fortunes can quickly change in British GT, and nowhere is that more apparent than at the top of the GT3 drivers’ standings where James Cottingham and Jonny Adam now enjoy a 7.5-point lead over Darren Leung and Dan Harper, while the top-four crews are covered by 12.
The 2 Seas duo were initially out front after Oulton but slipped back to fifth following a chastening Silverstone 500 where they scored just 1.5 points. Four-time champion Adam – who claimed his 18th victory last time out to move within one of record holder Phil Keen – knows consistency wins British GT titles, and that will likely be the watchword again on Sunday morning at least when the #4 Mercedes-AMG serves a longer pitstop than its three nearest challengers.
That list is headed by Leung and Harper who would have been serious podium contenders at Donington without the maximum Compensation Time accrued for winning the Silverstone 500. The shoe is on the other foot this Sunday morning, though, when a handicap-free driver change should keep Century’s BMW duo firmly in contention.
They’re joint-second in the standings with 2 Seas’ other Mercedes-AMG shared by Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon who emerged from Donington with a third place finish despite struggling for pace all weekend. They’ll be stationary for an additional five seconds in Race 1 but can be heartened by the Mercedes-AMG’s recent results at Snetterton where reigning champion Loggie has won in each of the last two seasons.
Beechdean AMR’s Aston Martin completes the initial breakaway top-four despite being the only entry not to have won a race yet this year. Instead, Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn’s position owes everything to consistency: they’re the sole crew to have scored double-digit points in all four races held so far. Sooner or later that form will surely result in a victory, and where better than at Snetterton where both drivers recorded their last British GT wins in 2015 and ’16, respectively.
Two more line-ups retain a shot at making this year’s championship a bona fide six-horse race. RAM Racing’s John Ferguson, who is again partnered by Raffaele Marciello, scored his first and to date only GT3 win at Snetterton 12 months ago, while Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell (Barwell Motorsport) claimed pole position last time out. Just one point splits the Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini, which both require big weekends after slipping more than 30 points adrift of top spot.
Further back, Lucky Khera, Euan Hankey and RACE LAB scored their best-ever British GT3 results at Donington where the #13 McLaren finished runner-up. Both drivers will be hoping that uptick in form also translates to Snetterton where they must first overcome seven seconds of Compensation Time on Sunday morning.
The battle for Silver-Am honours looks set to remain red hot after Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt assumed the class lead by winning at Donington. However, the Sky Tempesta duo are just 1.5 points ahead of Barwell’s Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha, while erstwhile table toppers Iain Campbell and James Kell (RACE LAB) have dropped to third, albeit only 5.5 points back.
And what about Chris Hart and James Wallis? The Drivetac duo appear to be out of contention after missing the first two races but showed sufficient pace at Silverstone and Donington to worry Silver-Am’s title contenders. Team Abba Racing’s Richard and Sam Neary, who have upgraded their Mercedes-AMG to Evo specification, complete the five-car class.
Elsewhere, Orange Racing by JMH’s McLaren returns after skipping Donington, and reigning two-time GT4 Pro-Am champion Matt Topham makes his GT3 debut alongside Marcus Clutton at Enduro. Greystone GT’s Mercedes-AMG – featuring 2022 Snetterton winner Callum Macleod – has also been repaired in time following its accident three weeks ago.
GT4: OPTIMUM OUT FRONT AT HALF-DISTANCE
Right now, you’d be hard pushed to find a better British GT combination than Jack Brown and Charles Clark who moved 26 points clear at the top of the GT4 standings by collecting their third podium in as many attempts at Donington.
There’s no doubt Optimum’s McLaren has been the standout performer over the last three races after changeable weather conditions prevented its crew from also converting pole into victory during Oulton’s opening race. Fastest laps across two of the three weekends further underline their dominance, while a second win was ultimately denied by Compensation Time’s post-race application last time out.
A belated second place behind Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley leaves Clark and Brown – who was also a winner at Snetterton last year – with a seven-second handicap in Race 1 on Sunday. And that will come as a welcome relief to their title rivals who must quickly find a way to end the #90 Artura’s early-season purple patch.
Gough and Wrigley, whose overall points total is solely based on victories at Donington and Oulton, could yet pose Clark and Brown’s biggest threat despite having the maximum 10 seconds of Compensation Time in Race 1. Their Pro-Am status translates into a lower minimum pitstop time than the Silver pairings who are, theoretically at least, faster over a race distance.
RACE LAB’s McLaren was immaculate last time out en route to victory but hasn’t yet mustered the consistency to match either Clark and Brown’s podium appetite or the scoring rate of class rivals Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato who top the Pro-Am standings despite lying fourth overall.
The category, which has grown to eight entries, looks set to stage a titanic scrap once again. Century’s drivers are just 1.5 points clear of Gough/Wrigley and Ed McDermott/Mikey Broadhurst (One Motorsport) after collecting a third class – as well as first outright – rostrum of the season at Donington. However, the latter will have its drawbacks on Sunday morning when Cavers and Plato remain stationary for an additional five seconds during their driver change.
Compensation Time for three of this year’s overall top-four should play into the hands of Matt Cowley and Erik Evans who start four points behind Wrigley and Gough but can crucially count on a handicap-free race. Academy’s #61 Mustang has failed to hit the heights of its second place in Oulton’s opener but did finish third at Silverstone and, as is always crucial to British GT title tilts, hasn’t yet come home outside of the points paying positions.
Cowley and Will Moore – who led Academy’s one-two at Oulton – also won at Snetterton in 2021 en route to GT4’s championship runners-up spot. And although another maximum points’ haul in Norfolk won’t be enough to draw level with Brown and Clark, it would give Optimum’s crew something to think about just as the season passes its halfway stage.
McDermott and Broadhurst underline Pro-Am’s prowess by occupying fifth place overall. They’ll continue to campaign One Motorsport’s spare Mercedes-AMG, which features a predominantly black livery this weekend, after their primary chassis suffered significant damage during testing last time out.
Next up are Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge who might well have won at Donington had their McLaren not ground to a halt behind the Safety Car. DTO’s pairing now require a big weekend if they’re to get their championship challenge back on track. The same goes for Josh Miller and R Racing who won the first of Snetterton’s two races last season. The Aston Martin, which also features Seb Hopkins, has remained conspicuous by its absence from the sharp end throughout 2023.
Elsewhere, Century’s other BMW shared by Michael Johnston and Chris Salkeld completes a Pro-Am top-four covered by just seven points, while Raceway’s #55 Ginetta returns to the class – as well as a list of realistic victory candidates – following Michael Crees’ return alongside Tom Holland.
But the bumper Pro-Am entry doesn’t stop there. Toro Verde’s driver re-jig has resulted in two existing cars joining the category at Snetterton where erstwhile Am-Am partners Ian Duggan and James Townsend are now split across the team’s two Ginettas. Joe Wheeler continues to pilot #80 alongside Duggan while Mike Simpson makes his first start since 2021 in the brightly coloured G56.