British GT- GT4, Not Just A Sideshow

One of the relatively unique features of the British GT Championship is the inclusion of a GT4 class in every race of the season. Whilst GT3 has the spectacular sight of full aero and pounding engines, the GT4 class presents a fantastic opportunity to go racing in an international level series, again with the Pro/Am driver format providing an added zest to each race.

What’s the deal with GT4, I hear many of you cry. Well, GT4 relies on some excellent sports cars with less aerodynamic aids and a little less power output than their bigger GT3 brothers. In British GT, you can see the link between the two classes, where manufacturers like Aston Martin and Ginetta put out GT3 and GT4 versions of their machinery out to race in both classes.

Over the last couple of seasons, the spotlight has been on the Beechdean Aston Martin GT4 entry. Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie took a fine championship in 2014 driving the V8 Vantage GT4, whilst the incredibly young talented pairing of Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn swept the GT4 Silver Cup with ease in 2015. Since then, Wylie and Gunn have both stepped up to GT3 drives, and both will return to Aston Martin machinery in the GT3 class with the Motorbase Performance and Beechdean squads respectively.

It was a fine year last year for Aston as Academy Motorsport, running cars for Will Moore and Dennis Strandberg alongside Chris Webster and a myriad of drivers including at one time team principal Matt Nicoll-Jones, took the team title with their pair of Vantages showing consistent and often exciting performances. Academy sadly have moved away from British GT for 2016, but Will Moore’s blistering drives from the start line saw him signed up to Optimum Motorsport’s new Audi R8 GT3 machine for 2016.

Ginetta were never far behind, and while the G55 GT4 may look more “out of the box” racer than the Aston Martin, it proved to be a fine fighter in the title race. The G55 has been developed from the success of the G50, which was a winner in 2012 and 2013 in the hands of Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes, and Rick Parfitt Jnr and Ryan Ratcliffe. Again, Fannin, Parfitt Jnr and Ratcliffe have all stepped up to GT3 from their successes.

But why is GT4 so important? Well, first of all, it guarantees an excellent race of its own. Last season there were battles all the way to the chequered flag, and the balance of Pro/Am drivers was almost spot on. Moore’s blistering starts meant the field would often be burning fuel and tyres hard to keep up with the flying Aston man, and this meant that the pro drivers had their work cut out to make the podium.

With such hefty driving ability on show, the talent pool in GT4 is a fine place for the GT3 teams to discover drivers for the future. From the 2015 season, Ross Gunn, Will Moore, David Pattison and Luke Davenport have all made the step up to the bigger class, following in the footsteps of Fannin, Parfitt Jnr, Ratcliffe, Wylie, Andrew Jarman, Lee Mowle and Phil Keen (to name but a few)! Let’s also not forget Joe Osborne, who proved his GT potential by winning one of the first GT4 series in 2009!

It’s also a fine place to debut new machinery in the sports car world. For 2016, there are debuts for the Porsche Cayman GT4 with Lanan Racing and Simpson Racing, while Ebor Racing are stepping up with the Maserati Gransport GT4. It’s not often we see brand new manufacturers in the British GT series, but the GT4 with lower individual car costs is a fine place to introduce a new machine to the cut and thrust world of tin top racing. Plus with the standard of driving and the growing interest in GT racing as a means to expand and grow a racing career means there is all kinds of reason to grow what is already a popular class.

Whilst British GT is the only series to have a dedicated GT4 class as part of its main races, there is scope for the grid and the excitement to grow further. We are still awaiting confirmation if there will be return entries for Lotus for the 2016 season at the time of publishing this article, which would only serve to increase interest and competition. Paying a visit to the championship at the Silverstone 500 round will be the GT4 European Series, and it will be a fine time to compare the machinery in both series. With an advertisement for different cars from the European Series like the SIN R1, the Arrinera Hussarya GT and (the potentially slightly more tangible) BMW M4 and Chevrolet Camaro machines, it could provide food for thought for those seeking future entry.