Do British GTC Cars Have A Future In 2007?
The FIA GT Newsletter which was released last Sunday evening (ironically just after the British GT Championship Cup Class [GTC] runners had been racing around Pau) included an interview with SRO’s Stephane Ratel.

The interview largely related to the European FIA GT3 Championship, which got off to such an exciting start at Silverstone early last month. But there were also comments in connection with the future of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship – comments which the teams were incapable of absorbing earlier this week, but which have brought forth some fairly firm reactions since.

The significant comments from Stephane Ratel (full interview here) were as follows:

“GT3 will become the standard class in National Championships. I will propose it for the British Championship next year, to go all GT3, and we are working on the concept of GT3 National Championships in a number of countries, and I think it will become very important.”

“We, as SRO, have been instrumental at creating the concept, and will look at the implementation of it in the national championships. If we want it to work, it has to be in the same spirit, with the same regulations. The principal is that none of the national championships would clash with the European one, so that a team can build up a good programme. In the UK, we have already 12 cars which could race at home, with a non-clashing programme, so that is what we are going to push.”

Keith Ahlers, who was keen to point out that he is the only entrant who has been involved at every race since the formation of the current Cup Class in 2003, was adamant that “I will not be in the British GT Championship next year if it is a GT3 Championship.”

As a Morgan man through and through, there’s the simple matter of that company not producing a GT3 car – plus the obvious fact that his current car becomes ineligible for the domestic series at the end of this season, if the championship becomes GT3 only.

For other entrants and drivers, the situation is different, and their perspective is subtly different. Piers Masarati, as team manager of an outfit (Trackspeed) with GTC and GT3 Porsches, has this view: “If it was GT3 and GTC, I think it would be a winner. To expect 25 GT3 cars next year would be unrealistic. It’s not going to happen.”

Calum Lockie, as a professional driver seeking drives in GT cars, has this opinion: “For all those GTC people who have supported the championship and have helped it grow – for them to have nowhere to go next year (in British GTs) would be very unfair. GT3 as the leading class, with GTC supporting it, would be great. Almost every championship has more than one class, so I don’t understand a desire to have GT3 only. In an ideal world, GT3 only would be great if there were enough cars – but where are all the cars going to come from? One of the worst things you can do with a championship is to create uncertainty – and end up with 15 cars.”

Andrew Howard is the entrant of the Beechdean Ferrari 360 – a newcomer to British GTs this year, the team having moved from Britcar at the end of last season.

“This is not unexpected,” says Andrew Howard. “But I feel that a desire to lose the GTC level of racing in the British GT Championship will signify the end of large grids.

“For four years we have worked our way through the different levels of the sport to get to the pinnacle of GT racing in the UK,” continues Andrew Howard. “Having raced in the British GT Championship this year, we’ll reach that level by racing in James Tucker’s Championship in 2007.”

RPM’s Robin Mortimer was at least as outspoken as Beechdean’s team owner.

“It’s disturbing that no one from SRO has bothered to consult the entrants to see what they think,” begins Robin Mortimer. “I already own GT3 cars (as well as GTC cars), and although I think the concept (of GT3 only) is correct, the implementation is too soon. Cutting off GTC at the end of this year is completely impractical.

“I agree with those who have suggested that grids will shrink next year. It’s poorly thought out and shows a lack of consideration for the entrants.”

The other issue is that of the GT2 class – which would also, according to Stephane Ratel’s proposal, be wound up at the end of this year. GT2 numbers are currently hovering around the minimum number required for full points to be scored (six), and the class is heading towards a championship showdown, on current form, between Scuderia Ecosse and Team LNT.

These two teams are focused on another event entirely at the moment – Le Mans – but Chris Pollard at Eclipse admitted that he “wasn’t surprised to read Stephane’s ideas for next year, because the opening event of the GT3 Championship was such a success last month.”

Every entrant’s position is slightly different – Scuderia Ecosse with its international ambitions, Team LNT as agent for the Panoz marque in Europe, and Eclipse entering a car, the Mosler, that isn’t currently homologated for some international events, for example – but GT2 numbers do suggest a problem with this class for 2007.

GTC has been thriving in comparison, and has been the core of the 2006 Avon Tyres British GT Championship. Will the Cup cars race in the championship in 2007, or will they become a four-year component of British GTs, with no chance of a fifth?

Yes, they will race next year - see next news item for a hasty change of plan for the Cup cars in 2007.

 

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