The 2020 Intelligent Money British GT championship finally gets underway at Oulton Park this weekend (1st-2nd August), 111 days later than planned and almost 11 months after the end of last season.
The coronavirus pandemic has obviously shattered SROs original plans, but the organisers have done an incredible job to squeeze in a six date, nine round calendar over the second half of 2020, with the series visiting Oulton Park, Donington (twice), Brands Hatch and Snetterton, before culminating with the Silverstone 500 in early November.
Covid-19 has also taken a huge chunk out of the original full season entry list, with the 35 car entry announced at the media day in March falling to 22 cars for the season opener this weekend. It’s not all bad news, with some intriguing additions and some fancied runners hoping to appear on a race by race basis.
One interesting bit of trivia for the opening rounds this weekend is that they will be the first British GT rounds since Rockingham in 2010 to not feature a GT3 Aston Martin on the grid. TF Sport have been forced to withdraw both of their entries for this season, meaning no spot on the grid for reigning champions Jonny Adam and Graham Davidson. Beechdean AMR will appear in some rounds later this season but will be skipping Oulton Park.
What’s left is still a mouthwatering array of GT3 machinery, with a 13 car entry featuring Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Mercedes AMG machinery.
Of the returning driver pairings, the Lamborghini duo of Adam Balon and Phil Keen were highest placed in the 2019 standings. The Barwell Motorsport pair go into the 2020 season as title favourites, and will be looking for a strong start at Oulton Park this weekend. Alongside them in the Barwell garage will be Sandy Mitchell, stepping down from GT World Challenge Europe this season, with BTCC race winner Rob Collard joining him.
WPI Motorsport are also returning to British GT in 2020, with Michael Igoe again paired with Lamborghini factory driver Dennis Lind for this weekend. The team are based just down the road from Oulton Park in Middlewich, and will be hoping for a strong showing at their home track.
Also claiming home track advantage will be the JMH Automotive squad, based in Holmes Chapel. Their Lamborghini was a very late entry to the race this week, having initially withdrawn from a full season entry. At the moment this race for John Seale and Marcus Clutton is a one-off.
Alongside the four Lamborghini entries will be four McLaren 720S GT3s, with 2 Seas Motorsport entering a pair, and one each for Optimum Motorsport and Jenson Team Rocket RJN.
2 Seas are running Angus Fender and Dean MacDonald in one car, both drivers making a full time step up to GT3 from GT4, and another car for Jordan Witt and Jack Mitchell. Mitchell is the 2018 GT4 champion, and Witt steps down from a planned GT World Challenge Europe campaign to take on British GT.
Ollie Wilkinson and Lewis Proctor team up in the Optimum Motorsport entry, whilst the Jenson Team Rocket RJN entry will garner most of the media attention, thanks to famous team boss Jenson Button and James Baldwin, winner of the World’s Fastest Gamer competition. He is joined by McLaren factory driver Michael O’Brien.
Balfe Motorsport have sadly withdrawn their full season entry, but the car will appear at selected rounds driven by factory driver Joe Osborne and Stewart Proctor.
The AF Corse Ferrari 488 is a welcome addition to the GT3 grid, the long standing pairing of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin returning to British GT after a few seasons of racing in Europe. This car and driver pairing have won in British GT in the past, and will be looking for success on their return to the championship.
Three Mercedes-AMG GT3s will appear at Oulton Park this weekend, two ‘Evo’ spec cars from RAM Racing and an older car entered by Team ABBA Racing.
Yelmer Buurman returns to British GT alongside Ian Loggie in one of the RAM cars, whilst across the garage the newly silver rated Sam De Haan teams up with Patrick Jujala. The Team ABBA entry is very much a family affair, with team boss Richard Neary joined by son Sam in the driving seat.
Rounding out the entry is a single Bentley Continental GT3 for the ever popular Scott Malvern and Nic Jones, the pair stepping up to GT3 with Team Parker Racing after a very successful few years in the GT4 ranks.
The GT4 entry has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with only 9 cars entered for this weekend’s opening rounds.
TF Sport are still present in this class, with a pair of cars entered for Connor O’Brien and Patrick Kibble, alongside Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan.
McLaren also have a strong presence in GT4, with Balfe Motorsport running a car for McLaren Pure Series champion Mia Flewitt and factory driver Euan Hankey in the only GT4 Pro/Am entry. HHC Motorsport also return in 2020 with a pair of 570S GT4s for Jordan Collard / Patrick Matthiesen and Chris Wesemael and Gus Bowers.
Century Motorsport return with a pair of BMW M4 GT4s, running one car for Andrew Gordon-Colebrook and Ben Hurst, and another car under the Team Tegiwa banner for Luke Sedzikowski and David Whitmore, who are stepping up from 750MC Club Enduro competition for a part season.
Academy Motorsport are running a scaled down programme, with a single Ford Mustang GT4 for Jordan Albert and Matt Cowley, who raced in European GT4 last season.
Rounding out the entry is a new addition to British GT, the Toyota Supra GT4 of Speedworks Motorsport. The BTCC stalwarts are returning to British GT with the brand new car, run for Sam Smelt and James Kell.
Despite the obvious challenges brought on by the most disruptive year any of us can remember, it promises to be a fascinating season for the UK’s premier sportscar championship.