British GT Media Day done - next stop Oulton Park next month for season opener

Wednesday, March 15, 2023


For the first time in three years, another long trip up the M1 beckoned yesterday as the British GT Championship held the return of their Media Day ahead of this season’s opener that will be around the beautiful circuit of Oulton Park on its traditional Easter Bank Holiday weekend date.

Confirming another capacity GT3 and GT4 split grid, the 2023 season has seen another increase in the top-flight GT3 class with GT4 cars also returning to levels last seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.

With thirty six cars equally split across both classes, it was somewhat disappointing to see confirmed (we have to admit) that the Aston Martin Racing brand was again only being represented across just two teams as the R-Racing GT4 crew from Norfolk return with another pairing of teenage tearaways but also with Andrew Howard’s Beechdean AMR team making another comeback to the national series after something of a ‘disappointing’ dual car entry into the larger GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup Series last year. Take up of certainly the AMR Vantage GT4 across the globe arena is still running at an unprecedented level will new cars still being delivered to customer teams and despite its age!

Last year’s GT4 Pro-Am winners and near overall GT4 Class winners in Matt Topham and Darren Turner will not be back this season as Topham and the Newbridge team are expected to reveal confirmation of their 2023 plans later this month.

Reports of blizzard like conditions along the motorway between the areas of around Silverstone and up to Donington apparently hampering timely progress for many making their way up to the circuit, it was the R-Racing team who were all present and correct in time for the start of the morning’s test session ahead of the Championship’s more formal tracking shot session before lunch. A further test session would then see out the day as the attending teams saw fit.

With track conditions starting very wet and very cold, there was little point looking at the timing board for progress as it would have been all too easy to mess up and plant your car heavily into the barriers even before the season had begun.

For the new teenage duo of Josh Miller (returning to the team after an excellent GT4 debut with them last season) with new recruit Seb Hopkins (having moved to the team from the Team Parker Racing Porsche team of last season), today was all about seat time as both had only been out in the car a couple of times at Silverstone and Donington Park before today as both looked to those behind the time for early guidance as they both returned to the racing seat. Multiple podiums behind both drivers already in the Championship, their young age (both still 17) is far from their own drive to learn and succeed within the class before each look at the next racing avenues later in life.

Next door within the Beechdean garage – all was quiet for a couple of hours after Howard had already indicated to us that track running on media day would already be somewhat ‘limited’. By that he obviously meant that (a) co-driver Ross Gunn was already over at Sebring in time for his IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship duties with the Heart of Racing AMR team but also (b) were most of the Prodrive engineering crew – both with IMSA and the World Endurance Championship AMR teams who also race their first race of the season at the Floridian circuit this weekend as those who usually make up the Beechdean contingient.

For him, that left him with just three, still ably engineers to help fire up the #97 Vantage GT3 in time for him to get in just two laps before he had to come back in again to prepare for the official tracking shot photography session. “What’s everyone else on? – just slap on some wets and we’ll see where we are at later if we have to” were his words as he quickly donned his race suit and jumped into the car and went.

This was the second time that he had been out on track pre-season testing having also been at Silverstone last week when running was blighted with that persistent rain and heavy snow fall – something that led (we understand) to something of a race suit colour changing off track excursion for Howard but at least no damage to the car was sustained beyond that.

For us, it was also great to see the Beechdean car back to its ‘traditional’ blue and white themed livery for 2023 after having run for too many years with that yellow theme, for which the #97 looked great in the early Spring sunshine (whilst that lasted!).

Casting an eye down the entry list, the number of works drivers within the GT3 machinery at the front end of the grid is incredible but nearly half of the grid have never raced British GT before meaning that the opening rounds at Oulton Park will have even more potential for ‘carnage’ as Howard put it, so the need for constancy, keeping out of trouble and decent points scores – per round will be more important than 

The opening two one-hour races of the season will be run from Oulton Park on the 10th of April.
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