Monday, 26 February 2018

Silverstone - Return of the GT3's

After the frenzy of the 24-hour races at Dubai and Daytona, followed shortly by the 12-hour race at Bathurst, it has been a quiet few weeks for many of us endurance racing fans. I refuse to get excited by ACO press conferences, nor by the other announcements of this time of year about who will be driving for whom and in what. I know that it is all supposed to be part of the build-up of anticipation, but I would rather have a real race and some real racing to get my teeth into.

As a result, I now find myself in eager anticipation of Creventic’s extravaganza of races coming up at Silverstone next month and I thought it might be fun to see what, if anything, the races thus far this year have taught us. I must admit, I think it could be a thoroughly good weekend’s racing. If you haven’t already familiarised yourself with the programme, then you should: is your first point of call. On Friday, 9th March there is qualifying, then the first of two 7-race series events (for Caterhams), followed by the first segment (five-and-a-half hours) of racing for the 12 hours, for Prototypes and GT3 cars, followed by night practice for the 24-hours cars.

On Saturday, 10th March, the action starts at 9am with the remaining six-and-a-half hours for the GT3/Prototypes, a second 7-race series encounter, with the 24 hours scheduled to start at 5pm. With sunset at 17:08, the pace car will, quite literally, be heading off into the sunset (or the murky dusk, more likely). Sunday will be a long day…

Compared to the ninety-plus cars that started in Dubai, the entry is small, but one can understand that the prospect of racing in the pleasant winter sunshine of the UAE is more attractive to many than Northamptonshire before the spring equinox. Bearing in mind the weather that greeted the WEC at Easter 2016, or going further back, the International Trophy Meeting in 1973, let’s hope that the weather smiles on Creventic and the BRSCC organisation.

Entirely gratuitous shot of Ronnie Peterson in the snow in 1973!

I like the idea of mixing the GT3 cars with the Prototypes, although I must admit I am more interested in who will take A6 honours than the Prototype division. It will be interesting to see whether a Prototype can stay sufficiently trouble-free to remain ahead to take overall honours (and how many actually take the start too).

Theoretically, the LMP2 cars in the proto class should easily lap five seconds quicker than the LMP3 cars, which themselves are another five seconds quicker than the GT3 cars, which means that the P2’s should lap the P3’s at least every hour, and the GT3’s twice every hour. But still, none of Creventic’s prototype races have thus far really grabbed my enthusiasm, and with only two Simpson-entered Ginettas in the P2 class, it is far from a foregone conclusion that one of them will take outright honours.

Indeed, it is worth making the point that the gap between LMP3 and GT3 is smaller than the gap between LMP1 and LMP2 or between LMP2 and GTE in the WEC. And I am optimistic that the two-part format will work well.

So who will be at the front of the A6 class? At the time of writing, there are 12 published entries in the A6 class – four Mercedes and two cars each from Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Audi. Although there is a BOP-advantage to running as an “amateur” entry, there is no separate class for A6-Pro and A6-Am, so one source of confusion is removed.

There is quite a bit of data worth extracting from the three races at Dubai, Daytona and Bathurst. But for the sake of its relevance to the Silverstone race, I will only take the data relating to those brands that will actually be at Silverstone.

Car No. Team/Car Best Lap Average Lap
3 Black Falcon Mercedes 1m 58.541s 2m 00.327s
777 WRT Audi 1m 58.452s 2m 00.402s
9 Mücke Audi 1m 58.591s 2m 00.607s
12 Manthey Porsche 1m 59.660s 2m 00.646s
964 Grasser Lamborghini 1m 58.199s 2m 00.674s
911 Herberth Porsche 1m 58.792s 2m 00.948s

Car No. Team/Car Best Lap Average Lap
51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 1m 47.663s 1m 48.583s
29 Land Audi 1m 47.896s 1m 48.666s
64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 1m 48.025s 1m 48.822s
12 Grasser Lamborghini 1m 48.207s 1m 48.860s
964 Riley Mercedes 1m 47.964s 1m 48.972s
911 Manthey Porsche 1m 47.668s 1m 49.083s

Car No. Team/Car Best Lap Average Lap
74 Jamecpem Audi 2m 02.932s 2m 03.803s
37 WRT Audi 2m 03.524s 2m 04.498s
56 Strakka Mercedes 2m 03.416s 2m 04.536s
991 EuroMechanica Porsche 2m 03.583s 2m 04.604s
75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes 2m 03.477s 2m 04.632s
12 Ice Break Porsche 2m 04.173s 2m 05.021s

What does it all mean? Well, the most noticeable thing is how close it all is. In terms of percentages, none of the average lap times is more than 1% behind the best, and in the case of Dubai and Daytona, the gaps are practically all under 0.5%. On paper, looking purely at the manufacturer’s hardware and the outright pace, Ferrari and Audi seem to have the upper hand, with Lamborghini not far off, but Mercedes and Porsche slightly slower (it is possible that Black Falcon’s performance at Dubai is an ‘outlier’ and in any case Black Falcon is not at Silverstone).

But of course there is more to it than outright pace, that’s why long races are such fun. On paper, I reckon the Scuderia Praha Ferrari is the strongest contender for class (indeed, let’s face it, outright) victory. But you can’t overlook the Herberth Porsche or the ROFGO or RAM Mercedes, although the data above suggests that they may be short on pace. And Grasser proved at Daytona that they have a winning car also. So pick any one from five!

However, as the podium celebrations for the Silverstone 12 hours are finishing, and the anthems fading away, preparations for the 24 hours will be in their final stages, as less than an hour after the finish of the 12 hour race, the TCE and GT4 cars are due on the grid for their race. (There’s also the small matter of a half-hour thrash for the “7 Race Series” to be squeezed in as well).

Whereas on paper, the 12 hour race should be easily won by a prototype, the balance between the Touring Cars in the TCR class and the Grand Touring cars in the GT4 and SP3 classes is far less clear. Indeed, although GT4 and SP3 are separated into two distinct classes this year, the Ginetta G55 is still an anomaly: two entries (from Colin White) are in the SP3 class, and one (from Team HARD) is in GT4.

That said though, I think that just like in Dubai, the race will liekly boil down to a battle between the TCR class cars, although only five of the TCR entrants from Dubai are expected at Silverstone.

Looking at the lap times from Dubai is interesting, as unlike the A6 class, there are big differences between the cars. I’ve excluded cars at Dubai that are not in the provisional Silverstone entry list.

Dubai TCES
Car No. Team/Car Best Lap Average Lap
129 LMS Racing Seat Leon 2m 12.198s 2m 14.153s
125 Bas Koeten Audi RS3 2m 12.990s 2m 15.563s
115 Bonk Audi RS3 2m 13.825s 2m 15.872s
303 Red Camel Seat Leon 2m 14.177s 2m 17.188s

Missing from Dubai, but entered for Silverstone are the Team Bleekemolen Seat Leon which won last year’s race by 5 laps (with the same driver line-up), the Team Denmark Hyundai, (featuring Jakob Kristensen), Holmgaard Motorsport with their potentially rapid Golf and Motorsport Developpement, also with a Golf.

Not wanting to put the ‘curse’ on them, but I reckon that Michael Bleekemolen’s family-run team will be a tough act to beat again this year. They proved both in 2016 and 2017 that they had the pace – in 2017 they proved they had the reliability too. Anyone wanting to beat the Dutch squad is going to have to have a fault-free run and be quick in the pits.


  1. Which entry list do you have access to? Right now (Feb 26, 17:17 CET) has 6 A6-Pro, 5 A6-Am and 2 undeclared (I have the fleeting suspicion we'll see maybe 1 of these 'undeclared' GRTs, possibly none, unlikely to be both). The #911 Herberth crew notably returning to A6 Pro, their 2 outings in Am having been not entirely successful.

  2. Hi RTL,
    That's what happens when it takes me two weeks to write a blog post... when I started this Attempto's Lambo wasn't on the list, and the A6 class was not sub-classified into Pro and Am.

    So when I wrote "at the time of writing", it was true, but that was on 15th Feb!

    I then spent a long time trying to get inspired about the TCE race...

    1. Thanks for the clarification - was a bit afraid that your lower numbers would indicate the number of entries going down.