2017 - How things are shaping up already!
The 2017 season for British GT is already looking packed...
Christmas may be approaching fast, but most of us here will probably care more about the upcoming racing season for 2017, and while some drivers are off playing at tracks across the rest of the globe, others are plotting their season in the (off chance of) British sunshine. We've already had a number of entries for 2017 declared - so let's have a look at what we know so far.
Unsurprisingly both the GT3 and GT4 champions are returning to defend their titles - Derek Johnston and AMR Factory driver Jonny Adam will come back with the MSW sponsored Aston Martin Vantage V12 with TF Sport, and Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson will be back with Optimum Motorsport and their Ginetta G55 in the GT4 class.
With the BMW Z4 finally retiring to the GT3 old boys club, AmD Tuning and Rollcentre Racing had to look elsewhere for new weapons for 2017. Cue the introduction of the Mercedes AMG GT3, which was shown off by Black Falcon as a one-off during the Spa round this year. The new Merc is rather spectacular looking and will be welcomed to the British grid. Alas, one of the fans' favourite driver pairings though is no more, as AmD's Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne are separated for the 2017 season. We await driver confirmations for both AmD and Rollcentre, although the continuation of 2016 Am Champions Richard Neary and Martin Short into the new season is pretty tough to argue against at the moment.
MacMillan Racing are returning with both GT3 and GT4 cars in 2017, and Jack Mitchell will step up into the bigger of the Astons with the team after some solid and quick performances in the GT4 car this year. As previously reported, Will Phillips jumps into their GT4 machine after a successful year with Team HARD. They'll be joined in the GT3 Aston Martin line up by Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes, who will race with TF Sport as stablemates to Johnston and Adam. As the Vantage in both V8 and V12 forms is the most popular marque on the grid we can expect to see more from them in due course. Regrettably, Motorbase will not be among them, having decided to concentrate on their BTCC programme in 2017.
Barwell's Lamborghini squad have already confirmed 2 Huracan GT3s for 2017, with the fantastically fast Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen returning for another crack in the Demon Tweeks car. They'll be joined by Liam Griffin and ex BTCC runner up Sam Tordoff, who has left the world of the touring car for a shot at a bigger bolder machine for the new season. It would not be a surprise to see Barwell open up an occasional 3rd car for selected races, with the team taking great success in their first British GT season with the big crazy Lambo.
We've also had confirmation of the first McLaren for 2017, and it came from a surprising source, as Tolman Motorsport switch from Ginettas to the 570S GT4 machine for a tilt at the lower capacity class in the new year. David Pattison stays on as the Bronze grade driver, with Joe Osborne staying in British GT but moving back to the GT4 class after many years plying his trade in the GT3s. Joe is an immensely talented driver, and the step into the baby McLaren will be like a duck taking to water. No word yet from Ecurie Ecosse who will be running their cars next season, although as I write this I wouldn't be surprised if their GT4 runners Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty weren't being considered for moving up into the 650S GT3.
One of the bigger announcements for 2017 that turned up was the return of Ferrari and AF Corse, who had previously come to play with the Ferrari 458. After a couple of years away from the British stage, they return with a 488 GT3 for Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin, who previously raced with M-Tech (notably taking a race win at Snetterton hours after the biggest high speed blow out ever witnessed in British GT)! It will be good to have a Ferrari out full time, after their sole appearance was at the Silverstone 500 with FF Corse in the hands of Marco Attard and Adam Carroll. With this in mind, one half of the eternal sportscar battle of Ferrari vs Porsche is filled - Porsche's latest GT3 iteration has yet to hit these shores, but it would be welcome to see it back. Willing drivers and teams sought!
Ginetta's presence in GT4 will be assured further by the arrival of HHC Motorsport, who transition with a squad of Ginetta Junior drivers - the first pairing confirmed was Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton, who move up from the official Ginetta Junior Championship to share a G55, and Callum Pointon has been confirmed in the second car for the team. With rumours abound that F4 team Richardson Racing are considering a GT4 entry, we could see more young talent in the GT4 pool than ever before... Watch this space!