Next season’s British GT Championship will place renewed emphasis on its amateur and young professional driver contingent following a number of important changes to the series’ GT3 format and classifications.
While its 2016 edition concluded at Donington Park just 10 days ago, series organiser, SRO, has been consulting with its GT3 teams for several months over developments aimed at attracting fresh talent to the class. Both parties are confident the plans announced today will achieve that.
Together, they have analysed all aspects of British GT’s format and devised the following:
1. Race weekends will feature an additional 10 minutes of free practice time. The second session therefore now lasts one hour, the same as FP1. The 2x 10-minute qualifying format remains the same, thus maintaining the Am driver’s key role.
2. Each Am’s mandatory race stint length has been increased in two-hour races from 50 to 60 minutes. Pit-stops will therefore take place between the 60 and 70-minute mark. Minimum Bronze-graded drive-time will also increase at the championship’s blue riband, three-hour Silverstone 500 round.
3. To reaffirm the event’s significance, a special standalone trophy will be designed and presented to the victorious Silverstone 500 crew. Their names, along with the winners from 2011 onwards, will be engraved on the base.
Important changes have also been made to British GT’s class structure.
The championship enjoys a rich history of pairing fully professional drivers with their amateur counterparts, known as Pro/Am. However, ever-increasing numbers of talented semi-pros with budget but little experience – who perhaps fall between these two traditional classifications – also now see GT racing as a viable career option.
A new GT3 Silver/Am classification aims to give this group greater recognition by offering crews an opportunity to fight for silverware and appear on the British GT podium each weekend in a more cost-effective way. These typically less experienced Silver drivers will likely contribute around 25% of the season’s budget when paired with a Bronze, which – along with previous experience and SRO’s discretion – will help define Silver/Am eligibility.
It’s a similar story for Am/Am partnerships. They’ll receive 1.5x championship points for finishing inside the overall top-10, while each weekend’s class-winning partnership will also receive a trophy on the podium.
As it is now, Pro/Am will be reserved for one fully professional and amateur driver, while the Silver/Silver class has also been retained. Meanwhile, cars featuring Platinum-graded drivers no longer have to carry an additional 15kg, which should encourage even more factories to run them at the front of British GT.
British GT Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici:
“Next season’s changes are a great way of maintaining the GT3 class’ current high level while also allowing less experienced Am and Pro drivers a chance to shine both overall and in a category of their own. It’s actually testament to the strength of our current GT3 teams and drivers that we’ve had to look again at the classifications.
“Clearly British GT3 has become incredibly competitive. That’s proven by less than three tenths covering our top-seven amateur drivers and four different manufacturers in qualifying at Donington Park. The Pro class is also operating at an incredibly high level thanks to several factory drivers plying their trade with us. But while this is something we’re proud of and have no intention of restricting, it’s also an area that SRO and our teams have identified as a potential stumbling block for new drivers. We’ve worked very hard on rectifying this and, in terms of co-operation and understanding, I don’t think the organiser and teams have ever enjoyed a better relationship. All are committed to a thriving GT3 class.
“Ultimately, these changes give amateurs and young professionals a chance to measure themselves against their gradings’ benchmark drivers, learn their craft and also have something to show for their efforts at the end of the season. I’m confident this will have a positive impact on next season’s GT3 numbers; domestically, the class looks to be in good shape.”
Beechdean AMR Team Owner and 2x British GT3 Champion Andrew Howard:
“SRO has always been prepared to work with and listen to its British GT teams, so I’m delighted with the changes being made for 2017. Silver/Am is a fantastic concept and exactly what’s required. I’ve often said that amateurs probably need two or three years of GT3 racing to be truly competitive, and that’s increasingly true for young professionals, too. It took time for Jonny Adam to become the series’ GT3 benchmark, which is what the new Silver/Am class provides. Crews can come in, learn together, share the budget and build a partnership. It’s the right decision at the right time.”
2017’s nine-round British GT Championship campaign begins at Oulton Park on April 15 & 17.