BGT Media Day 6 – 2006 Prospects
So 19 cars on track at Silverstone yesterday (March 22), up to 30 on a provisional entry list for the season – and the prospect of “26 or 27 at Oulton Park”, remarked Stephane Ratel.

“I think it’s OK. People were worrying (about car numbers) over the winter, but there are enough cars.”

M. Ratel used an interesting expression, that “somehow I am competing with myself, with the FIA European GT3 Championship, where we will have 44, 48 or 50 cars.”

But he is not worried for the future: “We will attract more people (to GT racing)”.

There’s the prospect of more GT3 cars in the future, “but the new (British) GT3 Class hasn’t attracted the six cars that we needed for a separate championship this year, but it will develop in years to come.”

For 2006, the GT3s will compete directly with the GT2s: there was some confusion that the GT3s would be up against the GTCs, but that was a misunderstanding. Had that been the case, David Ashburn would have brought out his Trackspeed Porsche 997s – cars that will be otherwise engaged in the Carrera Cup. Ashburn suggested that the team would be running only 997s in 2007 anyway, so there’s one sign of GT3 growth for the future.

In terms of ‘competing against himself’, perhaps that’s part of the reason for the absence of Tech 9 in the British Championship this year (competing in Europe – but Phil Hindley was hoping to run a British campaign again, and win a championship again: the absence of his team is a serious loss. Keith Ahlers pointed out that his team / car are the only survivors from the early stages of the Cup Class in 2003, now that Tech 9 is absent.

“We announced the agreement last summer, with Jonathan Palmer, to return to the big circuits,” continued Stephane Ratel, “that’s Oulton Park, Brands Hatch and Snetterton. It’s a very good season from the calendar point of view, we have a very good support package and the agreement with Avon is very important.”

In terms of promotion, “Jonathan (Palmer) is very good at promoting his events, and with Avon we can help to promote the other events.”

Cooper Avon is certainly very keen to promote the teams and drivers – and in Luke Hines, for example, it has something very promotable!

The GT2 Class will see a small grid, but Stephane Ratel expects to see “very good competition between Ferrari, Panoz and Mosler.”

The Lotus Exiges and, when they race in Britain, the Barwell Aston Martins, will add a great deal to the meetings: the DBRS9 has a unique ‘growl’ and is a fabulous machine.

With Avon, Autocar and Petrochem Carless, plus the better use of UK circuits, plus 26-27 cars at Oulton Park, the Avon Tyres British GT Championship could be on the verge of something significant.

The Avon tyres were the subject of much debate at the media day: the Porsches certainly seem to have ‘found’ a very useable Avon tyre, while the company is making very rapid progress with tyres for other makes. Cars looking to find a baseline yesterday on Dunlops, particularly GTC cars, were quicker on the 2005 tyres, but Avon is pulling out all the stops to come up with rear tyres that suit, for example, the front-engined Morgan and the Team Tiger Mantis.

More on the tyres in news items still to come.

 

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