As the British GT Championship season reaches its halfway point, Sportscar365 caught up with Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici at Snetterton last month to discuss series growth, the Safety Car incident at Rockingham, and more.
With three events completed so far this year, as well as the new live TV deal, how has the fan reaction been?
“We’re seeing growth, last year and this year again. Rockingham went up by 15 or 20 percent. Oulton Park was big as it always was, but even higher. Last year was at 19,000, this year was 20,000. And these are real figures, they’re not fluffed-up!
“When I left Rockingham and looked at the car park, you could see the real difference. It was a clear increase. At Snetterton, we got a lot of people here on Saturday, which is unexpected.
“It’s difficult to get public to come and we don’t actively spend money on getting people here with billboards et cetera, because it’s a waste of money.
“We do social media, we do competitions, we work with MSV, who are very proactive. British GT and the Formula 3 with us is a growing package which is attracting people.”
“There are people watching on Facebook, it’s better exposure and it feels right. [The TV deal with Front Runner] is an expensive investment, so we have to make it worth it.”
What do you make of the smaller GT3 field this year, and are we likely to see increased numbers for Silverstone or later in the season?
“I’m not going to try and be a promoter and say, ‘Oh, [the numbers are] great, and so on.’ Let’s be frank. But the quality is very good. You’ve got Lamborghinis, Bentleys, the Ferrari 488, the Aston Martin. They’re all top-level.
“I’m expecting one or two to join us later in the year. We had the Ginettas sadly not attend [Snetterton], and I’m trying to see if we can get them back, or at least one, later in the year. We’re going to get 12 or 13 average, and people have got to look at the quality.
“Yes we’ve got ten cars here but we’ll go up to 12 again, and we’re pushing for next year. I think it’s very possible that we’ll have the same numbers next year, if not a couple more.
“We’ve got two or three [extra entries] coming in, and for Spa as well there is interest – in both classes.”
While many other SRO series are solely using the 60-minute race format, British GT has kept its variety of race lengths. Why has this been?
“It’s always worked here and I think it’s quite unique. No other series has that mixture of sprint, two-hour and three-hour, and people like it.
“There are reasons why we don’t have two or three-hour races here because we couldn’t with the pit lane. We don’t have enough garages for cars. I like the mixture and I think teams always want it.
“They like the two-hour, they like the one-hour although we don’t have many, and the three-hour at Silverstone has become a blue riband event. The mixture of format works well, and no-one has ever complained.”
The race-deciding incident with the Safety Car at Rockingham caused a lot of controversy. What measures have been taken to avoid this in the future?
“It was an anomaly and a situation which we inherited. We had a very thorough driver briefing [on Saturday morning at Snetterton] where we went through the usual and the procedures that we want to implement and clarify to people, to avoid what happened at Rockingham.
“We had this five-second time added live, which I disagree with. We have a format here that those teams with a track infringement will have their penalty and will be penalized, but they know that those cars will have whatever penalty, which will be added on at the chequered flag.
“It’s more natural and more controlled. What was practiced before was to the MSA rulebook which was fine until it didn’t work when the safety car came in.
“We’re rectifying that, we’ve told the teams what the plan is with the safety car deployment, and we’ve warned again about track limits. Everyone is very clear.”
Code 60 was introduced briefly last season before being scrapped after complaints. Would it have prevented the incident at Rockingham?
“Code 60 is something we can’t implement either. With Safety Cars, there’s always something funny coming out of it because someone will gain from it and someone will not. It’s hard to get the exact scenario where everyone will be happy.
“That’s what we try to achieve and we have everything in place for it. Rockingham had an anomaly and now we have acted on it.
“I’ll try and see if we can do [Code 60] properly and practice it during Free Practice if we have all the elements in place and can adequately control the car speed.
“I’ll see if we can implement something by Silverstone, but we’ve got something else for Silverstone, which might change the topic a little bit.”