Look back at yesterdays British GT Championship's Media Day

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Twenty four of the now confirmed capacity grid of thirty five GT cars attended yesterdays British GT Championship Media Day from the MSV race track at Snetterton, Norfolk.

As previously reported, 2020 marks a distinct downturn in Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3 and GT4 activity in this years Championship season from the heady days of eleven cars of last year to just six full season cars being confirmed yesterday.

The final piece in the jigsaw came with TF Sport confirming an awesome pairing of young drivers for their #97 car with Dan Vaughan who steps over from the Porsche Carrera Cup GB on the TOCA package to be joined by Jamie Caroline who steps across from a mainly single seater career so far to the GT class of race car for the second time of asking having raced with the HHC team for a single round in British GT last year in one of their McLaren 570S.

They join the already confirmed (and returning AMR GT4 drivers) of Patrick Kibble and Connor O'Brien aboard the teams second bright yellow #95 car.

They were joined at the test day by two of the teams V8 Vantage GT3 cars as AMR Academy and British GT GT4 co winner Tom Canning takes the bold step up to GT3 racing this year in support of Graham Davidson who returns to the Sussex based team to defend his own GT3 crown with their blue liveried car which now proudly displays the number #1

We did hear from Davidson to the fact that he and Canning were then using Mark Farmers GT3 race car as theirs was still away at the AMR factory in Banbury being repaired after chassis defects were discovered over the winter. Once these repairs have been completed they will revert back the chassis that Davidson/Adam won the GT3 crown aboard for the season.

On the opposite side of the garage, Davidson's partner of last year Jonny Adam also returns to the TF Sport team to partner another long term TF Sport customer and returning British GT racer in the form of Ahmad Al Harthy and his Oman Racing Team aboard their #7 car.

Five years absent from the top flight of UK GT racing, Al Harthy has of course been competing in what was the Blancpain GT Series over in Europe with the team, winning iconic races in class like the Spa 24 as well os the overall Pro-Am Championship in the process. We last saw him race in the UK aboard one of Dave Bartram's Motorbase V12 Vantage GT3 cars!!

When quizzed, Al Harthy did suggest that British GT was now the sole, full season commitment for him and his Omani sponsors although one-off entries into races like the Spa 24 would always be on the cards.

All four cars from the TF Sport stable also ran significant miles during testing on Monday before all showed a clean pair of heals on Tuesday with top end performances in both classes despite the changeable weather conditions and cold of an early March day in Norfolk.

This team will next see track activity at Oulton Park in the next few weeks as they work towards the start of the 2020 season at the Cheshire circuit over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in April.

Unfortunately for us at the far opposite end of the pit lane saw the sole Vantage GT3 of the Beechdean AMR team after team boss Andrew Howard had earlier confirmed the single car for the event after their full season racer Valentin Hasse-Clot was allowed to remain at home in Paris in self-imposed isolation after his return from the Far East where he had tested both the Vantage GT4 in Malaysia and the Vantage GT3 in Japan.

Sad for many not to meet the young Frenchman again at Snetterton (he has raced at the circuit before in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB back in 2018) but we did hear about the lengths the AMR factory team have been going to prevent any controllable possibility of this COVID-19 virus from entering their team base via personnel returning from venues of high incident rate - simply as a matter of precaution.

Speaking with Hasse-Clot earlier in the week on social media, he hopes to meet up with the team when they also test at Oulton Park in the next few weeks.

That being said, old (we know that he's not actually old) favourite Jack Mitchell got his very first taste of the new turbo charged iteration of AMR Vantage GT3 having been recently recruited into the team in place of the previous placement of Alex Toth-Jones. Driving what was a brand new chassis (which both Howard and co driver Ross Gunn will race in the Championship with) the former GT4 Champion soon got to grips with the characteristics of the new Vantage to post the sixth and fifth fastest times across the days AM and PM sessions respectively.

Howard has since confirmed that Hasse-Clot and Mitchell will drive their original chassis #01 in their GT3 Silver Cup endeavours.

The biggest surprise with Beechdean came in the confirmation that the Howard/Gunn combo race programme of choice for 2020 was actually the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup but a last minute 'flip of the coin' change of thought saw that evolve to a British GT Championship return for the former GT3/GT4 Champions. That being said, the team shall still test at Paul Ricard in southern France in the next few weeks having already paid for that facility under the previous plans. Howard did state that this was now a full season British GT commitment for him and Gunn.

The biggest laugh however came with Howard's story (or schoolboy excuse) as to his reasons not to be driving at Tuesdays event, effectively blaming the family dog for eating his race licence renewal paperwork before it could be returned and renewed in time for early 2020 track action. He even told this story with a straight face - honest he said!!!

Like Al Harthy, Howard wouldn't be drawn as to whether or not there will be any Beechdean entry into this years Spa 24 either but left enough wiggle room for that to be so if required!!

All that aside, the benefit of consistency going into a second season of racing with the turbo charged Vantage race car platform will put all six cars into a stronger footing as to what was experienced last year where cars were delivered to them 'just in time' leading to little pre-season testing for their new, inexperienced drivers.

The seven round British GT Championship starts in April at Oulton Park before concluding again at Donington Park in mid September. Like with many sporting events across Europe, the mid season round from Spa Francorchamps may also be vulnerable with all this media type about large sporting events and Corona-virus!

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