A rain soaked British GT Media Day still brings out the smiles

Wednesday, March 13, 2024


Having seen another healthy grid of over thirty-six cars as well as an increased Aston Martin Racing powered participation this year, this season’s British GT Championship kicked off with its annual Media Day from an unfortunate rain soaked Donington Park Circuit.

Despite this, the paddock car parks had already filled nicely with a large crowd already milling around the back of the garages and team trailers as the first of three track sessions slowly go underway.

Whilst the rain was at its most persistent, none of the Forsetti Motorsport, Blackthorn Motorsport nor Beechdean AMR teams felt it necessary to risk the cars in such atrocious track conditions, although many did as the Championship never runs in ideal conditions throughout its seven-venue season.

The first race of the year had of course already been done as the Norfolk based Forsetti team had managed to leg it back from Barcelona from where they and their drivers Mikey Porter and Jamie Day had secured all three available Championship wins within the GT4 Winter Series. To conclude that by mid Sunday afternoon and then be ready in the Donington paddock with two AMR Vantage GT4’s on Tuesday was a feat in itself!

This team would be fielding both 17A and 40A versions of the Vantage GT4 for the purposes of the Media Day as drivers Marc Warren and Will Orton awaited delivery of their new 40A car some time ahead of next week’s Oulton Park test ahead of the opening rounds of the season at that venue over the Easter weekend. Whilst both crews would circulate, each would get seat time within the new car with their older cars now destined for further racing within the British GT Sup Championship.

A few garage bays along, we had the Blackthorn Team who were also supporting both 16A and 38A versions of the AMR Vantage GT3 for much as the same reasons as Forsetti (in awaiting delivery of cars and conversion kits as in the case for the #87 car) whilst the team’s #10 16A car had already been converted to the new 2024 specification.

For much of the morning, the presence of just Matt Topham and Josh Rowledge with their #10 car were obvious within the team’s garage as it turned out that Italian racer Giacomo Petrobelli was still on business in London and he would be making his way up to the circuit to meet up with his co-driver, Jonny Adam for the afternoon sessions.

With rain having eased slightly and the Forsetti crews already out in track within their GT4’s, the #10 Blackthorn car of Rowledge was prepared for its first run of the day however, disaster struck only halfway around their out lap as panicky messages were heard over the team radio of big contact being made at the same time as the days first red flag was waved. What that turned out to be was some perhaps ‘over exuberance’ on that out lap that took the #10 car off track and into the tyre wall by itself.

By the time the car was returned to the garage (with the driver already having been confirmed as OK), the damage first appeared cosmetic to the redefined aero panels of the rear half of the car, but the trouble was that the team didn’t have any of the panels available to them such was the supply shortage still from AMR Prodrive factory. There was also unseen damage to the car with and for the case of Topham and Rowledge – their day was already done.

That left the blue and black #87 car of Petrobelli and Adam – a car that co-incidentally was the Vantage GT3 that Topham owned and raced at the Portimao round of the British GT Championship last year alongside Marcus Clutton with Enduro Motorsport. Transferring ownership of the car to the team was apparently part of the deal that Topham had struck with the team so both Vantage GT3’s will be 16A conversions once both get completed in time for next week’s Oulton Park test (such was the plan prior to yesterday’s damage).

Finally, but by no means least, saw Andrew Howards Beechdean AMR team return to the Championship for their umpteenth season – also sporting the test and development 16A Vantage to new 38A 2024 specification but with a whole new package for this year.

Gone has their usual Pro-Am status to run within the relatively new Silver-Am class as Aston Martin F1 Ambassador Jessica Hawkins joins Howard within the #97 car as confirmed just last week.

As well as class and co-driver this season comes a new livery that is apparently in homage to an Aston Martin DBR that Le Mans.

With Howard very familiar of the risks of going out on such a wet track so early into the season, the team did spend much of their time with the comforts of their garage during the morning and only venturing out as and when track conditions had improved. The car was also blighted by an apparent mis functioning sensor within the engine compartment that kept necessitating quick returns to the pit lane for data analyses and inspection.

By the time the afternoon sessions had started, the team had appeared to have remedied that issue to allow (particularly) Hawkins more significant track time within the #97 before they too attend Oulton Park next week.

All in all (and despite the unfortunate incident with the #10 car) it appeared to be a productive day most as whilst many had already been out testing and racing around Europe since the new year, some had not and Oulton Park with a busy grid is never the best place to start your season rusty!!

Game on.
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