Its all going at the moment - Part 4

Thursday, March 07, 2019

A beautiful but crisp morning beckoned the 23 cars attending this years British GT Championship's Media Day launch from the Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire on Tuesday.

A disappointing number really considering that the 2019 Championship was later confirmed to feature a record breaking 38 car grid - with an apparent reserve list as well signally perhaps the start of one of the most competitive seasons of national GT racing we have seen to date.

One comment heard during the day was that there was plenty of 'new' - large numbers of teams (some new) running new race cars with new drivers new to the Championship - thats either a simple recipe for disaster or (more preferably) a recipe for some highly contested racing.

For the four Aston Martin Racing customer team contingent entered again into this year Championship, all will be running examples of the marque's new for 2019 Vantage GT3 and GT4 platforms but not all elected to be at Donington for the public reveal for a mixture of reasons.

Optimum at Oulton Park

Available hardware was one issue - both TF Sport and Optimum Motorsport elected not to be at Donington, deciding instead to channel their early season efforts into non restrictive testing at the venue of the opening round of the Championship at Oulton Park. Whilst both teams already had their allotted GT3 platforms, Optimum only had one of their two cars and TF Sport had none so had to resort to the use of the factory's development car instead.

For those of us at Donington at least we had two beautifully designed liveries to admire, one upon the Beechdean AMR Vantage GT3 that team boss Andrew Howard will share with AMR Factory driver Marco Sorensen  in the Championship (but who had AMR reserve driver and new Michelin Le Mans Cup co-driver Ross Gunn by his sidebar the day) and the other one the first of the two stunning silver and black liveried Vantage GT4 fielded by the Academy Motorsport team.

For Academy's three attending drivers, it was their first on track taste of their new race car for Micah Stanley and Ben Hurst who clearly and wisely took their time to become acclimatised to the car as the sessions progressed. Alex Toth-Jones (who will partner with returning team favourite Will Moore) was also in attendance but sadly he was without the car of his own to drive despite earlier hopes in the week that Prodrive could deliver the teams second car in time for the test.

For these three young guns, progress was steady and productive and they also had two further days of testing at Snetterton immediately after the Media Day to look forward to with more track time each as the team looked towards their two GT4 car entry into another dual season of both the British GT Championship and the GT4 European Series.

A slight 'hiccup' for Toth-Jones the evening before as the Championship announced his full season participation before he had actually confirmed that himself but at least that gave him and his sponsors some unexpected but welcome column inches!

Two garages up the pit lane was the temporary home for the two Beechdean AMR cars that will feature in both GT3 and GT4 for 2019. Joining the team fresh from their livery reveal and confirmation of an entry into the 2019 Michelin Le Mans Cup season entry for Andrew Howard and former BGT GT4 Champion Ross Gunn last week was a brand new V8 Vantage GT4 car that team newcomers Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher will race this season - so new in fact that it had only been delivered to the team early that morning after Gunn had given it a brief systems check run out the night before.

For Plowman, the first run out in the first session soon doubled his lap count aboard the GT4 and he soon found himself beating his previous lap best around the circuit from his RJN Nissan GT4 days the year before on only his 5th lap. His amateur driving companion, actor Kelvin Fletcher had never even sat in the car before that morning but safely came back to the garage each time with a large smile of satisfaction upon his face simply describing that experience as 'amazing'. They will be a duo to watch out for!!

Their #11 car was left in its factory supplied white but we were told that the expected livery design would be along similar lines as to Howards Beechdean sponsored GT3 but in a different colour scheme and title sponsor - all will be revealed on the 11th March next week so watch out for that.

Speaking to all of the guys there, the big question for both classes of course hinges around the BoP that the SRO will apply to all of these new GT3 and GT4 platforms that this years British GT grid will field. Each AMR car was running with a self applied level of BoP that the team thought appropriate but until all the cars test together on the same track for the first time at Oulton Park in mid April it will be hard to tell - but it is safe to say that all AMR runners are madly confident!

With only about five weeks between the Media Day and the first timed sessions of the new season, for most of the AMR runners they will only see probably one more day of pre season testing, beyond that things will be limited to sim only testing.

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