The 2023 Intelligent Money British GT Championship gets underway this weekend at Cheshire’s Oulton Park International circuit. Headline numbers are impressive; a 36 car entry evenly split between GT3 and GT4, 72 top drawer drivers including 8 fully signed factory drivers, 9 different brands and ten returning championship winners.
Entering it’s 31st year, the British GT Championship has been under the control of the SRO for 20 of them. Going from strength to strength, the entry was full at Christmas and after four months of waiting, the cars and drivers are ready to hit the track.
GT3 – Factory Drivers Headline Oulton Park’s Easter Extravaganza
The big news of the off season is the influx of factory talent. 8 factory drivers have joined the 72 pilots who will take to the track this weekend. Of the 8, three have won British GT titles before and there are six Blancpain or GT World Challenge titles among the number.
Jules Gounon, who took the series by storm at Oulton Park last year, returns alongside defending champion Ian Loggie. Fresh from another win on the mountain at Bathurst, Gounon now has three winners trophies from Australia’s great GT race, the Mercedes-AMG factory pro has maximum talent which is now allied to a year of experience in the series.
Joining the known name from Affalterbach is Raffaele Marciello. Widely regarded as one of the fastest GT drivers on the planet, the Swiss-Italian driver claimed titles in both the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup and the ADAC GT Masters in 2022. Clashes in his calendar mean he can’t defend his German domestic title and Gounon’s praise for the championship have combined to bring the AMG star to RAM Racing alongside John Ferguson.
From Gaydon and the home of Aston Martin Racing, we have two drivers well known to the championship.
British Factory Drivers Well Represented in British GT
Ross Gunn returns to the championship for his first full season since claiming the GT4 title with Beechdean AMR in 2015. The 8 years since he claimed the title at Andrew Howard’s team haven’t netted any championships but have seen him survive the fall of the Aston Martin factory racing programme and claim victory at the Saleen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Gunn re-unites with his mentor and team boss Andrew Howard for a tilt at the title. Howard achieving success this year will put him on three British GT titles but the going will be hard for the only Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR in the line up.
Talking of the Beechdean and Wycombe Wanders boss, his former pro driver of choice Jonny Adam is also back in the championship on the full season entry list. Factory duties will stop the Scotsman from racing at every event, the blue riband Silverstone 500 and the Donington Decider will run without the greatest champion the series has ever seen. It also means that if success comes the way of the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 this year, 2 Seas Motorsport driver James Cottingham will hold it alone, something that Jonny Adam has experienced before with Andrew Howard.
From Woking the series benefits from British GT experience in the form of Rob Bell. Another factory pro who is bedding in with a new am driver, Mark Radcliffe in this case, Bell’s former regular partner has shifted to Lamborghini for the season to come and partners with another British factory pro. More on that later.
Rob Bell has the honour of claiming the McLaren 720S GT3’s first domestic victory alongside longtime partner Shaun Balfe. He will be hoping alongside Radcliffe in Optimum Motorsport’s line up, to claim the 720S GT3 Evo’s first victory at Oulton Park this weekend.
The McLaren factory presence is bolstered by the addition of Marvin Kirchhoefer to the entry for this year. The German is a well known in SRO circles after a long association with Garage 59, with whom he has raced on several single round entries into the British GT Championship over recent years along with the GT World Challenge.
Kirchhoefer partners Alex West in a 2 car entry from the team, the second running as Sky Tempesta Racing this year.
Young British Talent Completes Factory Representation in British GT
Following on from his 2020 championship win alongside Rob Collard, Sandy Mitchell was picked up by Lamborghini’s Squadra Corse factory programme. It’s with the Sant’Agata Bolognese brand that he races this year alongside Shaun Balfe in a Lamborghini Huracan EVOII.
Another driver who hasn’t claimed a title since his last British GT glory, the difference here is that his career highlights since have all been domestically, with 3rd in the championship in 21, and 2nd last year.
The final factory driver to make an appearance this year is Dan Harper. A BMW protege, with a Nurburgring 24H win and 2nd place in the Nurburgring Langstrecken Serie, Harper was promoted from the Junior team to the full factory line up for this year. He is joined at Century Motorsport by Darren Leung who amazed in his series debut last year at the Donington Decider.
10 Champions and 15 British GT Titles Return
Elsewhere in GT3, 6 former and 1 defending British GT Champions return. Adding to the list of 12 separate titles in the GT3 paddock, 3 former champions, each with one title, come to the GT4 field.
Of course top of the list of returning champions is the most successful title winner in the championship’s 31 year history; Jonny Adam. As said above, Adam won’t be able to defend his title this year due to missing 5 hours of the endurance section of the championship but his British GT experience is almost unrivalled.
In fact the only driver with more wins than Adam, Phil Keen, is sitting out the series for the first time in recent memory.
Andrew Howard at Beechdean is the next most successful championship winner on the grid this year. 2 titles, one of them a solo victory lie on his resume. Our defending champion, hoping to be the first amateur in series history to defend the title, Ian Loggie has one victory to his name. As do Sandy Mitchell and Ross Gunn who each have a single title in GT3 and GT4 respectively.
Another double winner, Marcus Clutton takes the distinction of the only returning championship winner to claim titles in two classes. Enduro Motorsport’s team boss has both GT4 and Supersport titles to his credit.
In GT4 the haul of titles numbers three, with Dan Vaughan claiming the GT4 title in 2020, Stuart Middleton the same in 2017 and Matt Nicoll-Jones GT4 victory in 2008.
GT4 – Returnees Headline Refreshed GT4 British GT Field
There are two stories to the GT4 field this year, 50% returning full season entrants, if not from last year from previous. Headlining the returnees are the former champions, all of them mentioned above but their achievements merit mention again.
Daniel Vaughan who claimed the GT4 title in the COVID affected 2020 season with TF Sport. He returns with Team Parker Racing, running the series’ only Porsche alongside the championship’s youngest driver, Zac Meakin. Meakin makes his debut this year.
Stuart Middleton took GT4 in 2017, racing aboard a HHC Motorsport run Ginetta G55 GT4. This year its almost a return to the familiar, the team is Raceway Motorsport but the car is still a Ginetta. The G56 GT4 is very much a development of the car which carried Middleton to the title, while his co-driver has all the benefits needed to get the job done. Freddie Tomlinson has a year of experience in the car and, of course, is the son of the man who owns the manufacturer.
Then there is Matt Nicoll-Jones; the man has been in the British GT paddock in both racing and team roles every year for as long as I’ve been covering the championship. The Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang GT4 couldn’t be much more different from the Ginetta G50 he claimed the 2008 British GT Supersports championship with but Will Moore is a known quantity, the pair have raced before in both the Mustang and it’s predecessor Aston Martin.
Experience Will Be Key in 2023
For other returnees include Josh Miller who impressed massively on his full season debut with R Racing last year. The youngster has a stable platform, remaining with the team for a second year and the company of former rival Seb Hopkins behind the wheel of the Vantage. Matt Cowley continues his long association with Academy Motorsport too, partnering Erik Evans whose round by round entries last year whetted the appetite nicely for a full season tilt this year.
Ed McDermott looks to have a full change, co-driver Michael Broadhurst, team One Motorsport, both look different. But McDermott raced with Broadhurst in GT Cup last year in a dual campaign with British GT. One Motorsport meanwhile sounds new but is an evolution of the Motus One team which campaigned the am driver in the championship in 2022.
Joe Wheeler also returns with Ginetta, from the family who took TVR to its greatest heights, Wheeler showed his pace last year aboard the Assetto Motorsport he shared with Tomlinson. This year he is joined by a series debutant, albeit one with an impressive CV. The only female racer in the entry, Esmee Hawkey, comes from the DTM to race in a Ginetta at Oulton Park for Toro Verde GT.
Then there are the McLaren returnees, Jack Brown whose CV includes Century Motorsport’s BMW M4s in the championship and McLaren experience with Balfe Motorsport, will make his season aboard a new for 2023 Artura GT4. Joined by Visit Cayman Islands Porsche Sprint Cup GB alumni Charles Clarke, the Optimum Motorsport run Artura looks to be a formidable entry.
Tom Rawlings is another driver with Century Motorsport BMW experience whose switched allegiance to the McLaren Artura for the year. He joins Kavi Jundu whose Donington Decider round by round entry last year flashed neon signs of intent for this year in the Paddock Motorsport GT4 effort.
With most of Century’s former drivers racing elsewhere this year, the BMW Customer Racing team have a new look line up and two new cars. Chris Salkeld enters his third year with the team, returning the affectionately named Harriot’s Chariot to the GT4 class. This year he is joined by Michael Johnston, whose sole season of Ginetta GT Academy means he is a relatively unknown but the pair, joined by their team mates for this year claimed silverware in Dubai in January.
The other BMW has Lewis Plato whose series experience came in a very different beast. The RAM Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 was a monster while the BMW is a more refined experience. Carl Cavers has another CV packed full of GT racing experience; Ferrari Challenge, GT Cup and Britcar all feature in his history. The British GT Championship may be the biggest stage he has raced on but GT4 seems very much to be his home.
Respect the Elders; 570S Returns Despite Artura
Then there is the one car we didn’t really expect to see; the McLaren 570S GT4. In the British GT Championship the arrival of a new GT car usually sees the swift and unceremonious departure of the outdated model. For Team BRIT it isn’t as simple; the complex engineering completed at McLaren isn’t enough for the very special needs of the team. They need to further adapt the car for the specific needs of their drivers.
Bobby Trundley could jump straight into the Artura, his Autism requires no special adaptations. His partner in the driver line up does need specific engineering solutions, Aaron Morgan uses custom hand controls to operate the throttle and brake of the car. No hand controls exist for the new car so the 570S GT4 remains the weapon of choice for the team.
The eventual demise of the 570 is a certainty however. The largest single manufacturer in the championship is McLaren and six of the 18 GT4 cars answer to the name Artura. Joining the Jundu/Rawlings Paddock Motorsport run machine and the Brown/Clarke Optimum effort are four others which feature all new line ups.
The Harry’s George and Nunn join Enduro Motorsport, whose expansion to the GT4 class has kept the controversial but incredibly photogenic OnlyFans livery alive for another year. George moves up from Caterham racing while Nunn has history in tintops, with campaigns in the MINI Challenge JCW Championship.
For DTO Motorsport, a team new to the championship, its a pair of Ginetta racing graduates who make their debut in GT4. Josh Rowledge and Aston Millar will stand out this year, hopefully due to their racing but definitely due to their monochrome livery which brings tasteful in a field of bright colours.
Finally, there is the Artura of RACE LAB, whose vital work raising awareness of mental health among men under 45 brings a popup barber shop to the track at each UK round. Ian Gough’s CV includes the Ginetta GT Academy and the Britcar British Endurance Championship. Tom Wrigley has more GT4 experience, and a Ginetta GT4 Supercup title, along with history in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB. This is an alliance which could raise eyebrows, before the Lion’s Barber Collective trims them back.