The British GT Championship’s consideration of split GT3 and GT4 races for next season has been met with mixed reception from competitors.
The possible format change was revealed in the SRO press conference at the Total 24 Hours of Spa and would see GT3 and GT4 competitors entering separate races at all rounds apart from Spa and Silverstone, in which the grids would be combined.
Championship manager Benjamin Franassovici has cautioned that the idea will only be pursued if both grids would be large enough, with 14 GT3 entries likely the minimum number to allow for competitive single-class racing.
“If the number of GT4s continues to grow, and GT3 continues as it is and goes up a bit more, we’ll split it,” he told Sportscar365 at Brands Hatch last weekend.
“If not, and if we have 12 GT3s and similar numbers in GT4, we’ll go up to 34 cars and keep it as it is.”
Having split races would allow for larger grids at circuits including Snetterton and Oulton Park, where garage space is at a premium, and Barwell Motorsport team principal Mark Lemmer supports the idea for that reason.
“Stephane [Ratel] is a positive thinker and he would like to get the GT3 grid back up to 16 or 18 cars, which I do think is possible,” he told Sportscar365.
“There’s probably the demand there to put 30 GT4 cars out. It makes sense, on the circuits where you can’t have huge grids, to split them.”
Conversely, GT4 championship contender David Pittard is one of several members of the paddock who worries the series could lose a level of competition if it lost multi-class racing for most of the rounds.
“Splitting the grid would make it a little bit different for the GT3 guys because I think that part of the heart and soul of endurance racing is racing cars that are slower than you in multi-class racing,” the Lanan Racing driver told Sportscar365.
“Some of the best drivers are the guys who can not only put out a time, but also put out a time lap-after-lap, whilst navigating traffic.
“I think it would be a shame for the GT3 guys and it would be a shame for the championship because it’s nice to have that variety.”
TF Sport team manager Tom Ferrier instead believes that single-class fields would be beneficial for GT3 drivers, arguing that it would reduce the impact of traffic.
“Our testing, by no fault of their own, is compromised by GT4 all the time,” Ferrier told Sportscar365. “We never get a clear lap in testing and in the race you get seven or eight clear laps but then you’re into traffic.
“It would be better for the drivers if it were split but equally I don’t think they want to race against just a few cars. It needs to be a spectacle, still. It depends on where everyone’s going to come from.”
However, reigning GT3 champion and TF Sport driver Jonny Adam believes the element of multi-class racing in the series is very important and prepares drivers as they graduate to international sports car series.
“Personally, I like the racing to be together because it’s good to have a multi-class championship,” he told Sportscar365.
“Anything that these people move up to, whether it’s Blancpain GT, ELMS, Michelin Le Mans Cup, it’s multi-class and you need to know about traffic management.”
On the other hand, he expects a split to help increase numbers in GT3, and so has mixed opinions on the proposal.
“The key thing is to try and keep a GT3 grid as well,” he added. “This year, the SRO has done a good job to keep enough cars on the grid to have the quality.
“It would be a shame if the British championship didn’t have GT3 for people to move up to and aspire to race in. It’s a mixed decision, really.”
Century Motorsport team principal Nathan Freke is concerned of the effect that GT4 no longer being on the headline package could have on the category.
“I hope that it stays as it is right now,” he told Sportscar365. “They’ve got to be careful not to devalue the championship. GT4, we know, is a B-series to GT3, but right now it’s on the headline package.
“There’s a lot of attraction in that and I think the moment that GT4 becomes a B-series not on the headline package, I think the attraction will drop and so will the interest.”
Freke’s team runs factory-supported Ginettas in both categories but admits that the ability to take overall race victories is not something that would make much of a difference for his drivers.
“We look at the GT4 race as our own race anyway,” he said. “The GT3s, of course we’re on track with them, but we don’t take any notice of what’s going on in that race. If we win the race, then for us that’s an overall win.
“Sure, we don’t take the checkered flag first, but having that compared to a race that isn’t the headline act but taking the headline win, I’d pick the former and be on track with GT3 cars.”