Amateur and young professional drivers will have new emphasis on them in next year’s British GT Championship, following a format change announced by the series on Wednesday.
Each race weekend will have a further ten minutes of free practice time, with both sessions now set to last 60 minutes. However, the qualifying format remains unchanged, keeping focus on both drivers.
Am drivers will have to drive for at least 60 minutes in the standard-length two-hour races. This has been increased from 50 minutes, taking the pit-stop window to between the 60 and 70-minute mark.
The blue riband Silverstone 500 race, set for June 11, is to have a standalone trophy presented to the winners. Winning drivers’ names will be engraved on base, along with those who have been victorious in the three-hour race since 2011.
Furthermore, the series’ class structure will also undergo some changes ahead of next season.
Most teams in British GT have run a Pro-Am lineup, but an increasing number of semi-pros with budget but little race experience have started entering the series.
As these drivers often fall between the the two classifications, a new Silver-Am class will be created. This will consist of Silver drivers paired with a Bronze, and will provide a more cost-effective platform for teams to compete at the top of the series.
“Silver-Am is a fantastic concept and exactly what’s required,” said Beechdean AMR team owner and two-time champion Andrew Howard.
“I’ve often said that amateurs probably need two or three years of GT3 racing to be truly competitive, and that’s increasingly true for young professionals, too.
“It took time for Jonny Adam to become the series’ GT3 benchmark, which is what the new Silver-Am class provides. Crews can come in, learn together, share the budget and build a partnership. It’s the right decision at the right time.”
Each weekend’s class-winning Am crew, with two Bronze drivers, will receive a trophy, but entrants will also earn 1.5x championship points for finishing inside the top-ten.
Pro-Am will remain for one fully professional driver paired with an amateur, while the Silver class will also continue on for 2017.
Cars running a Platinum-rated driver will no longer have to carry an additional 15kg of weight, adding the incentive for more factories to run their top drivers in British GT.
“Next season’s changes are a great way of maintaining the GT3 class’ current high level while also allowing less experienced Am and Pro drivers a chance to shine both overall and in a category of their own,” said championship manager Benjamin Franassovici.
“It’s actually testament to the strength of our current GT3 teams and drivers that we’ve had to look again at the classifications.
“Ultimately, these changes give amateurs and young professionals a chance to measure themselves against their gradings’ benchmark drivers, learn their craft and also have something to show for their efforts at the end of the season.
“I’m confident this will have a positive impact on next season’s GT3 numbers; domestically, the class looks to be in good shape.”