British GT grid set for Spa Francorchamps

A 34-car grid featuring no less than 19 GT3 entries will take to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium this weekend (July 10/11) for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship’s fifth round of the season and annual ‘away day’.

The 4.3-mile, 20-turn Ardennes venue oozes atmosphere and history, and also offers drivers of all abilities one of the toughest tests in motor racing. It’s these factors that have undoubtedly helped attract a number of new names for this Saturday’s two-hour points-and-a-half-paying encounter.

An additional BMW Z4 GT3 run by crack Belgian outfit Marc VDS & Friends Racing for Cancer featuring the talents of Pascal Witmeur and Bas Leinders should be at the sharp end. There are also two additional Aston Martin Vantage GT3s on the entry list courtesy of Aston Martin Brussels’ Michael Schmetz and reigning Belgian GT champion, Tim Verbergt, and Leonard Motorsport AMR’s Silver Cup driver pairing Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows.

Elsewhere, series regulars Rosso Verde return with their Ferrari for Hector Lester and Benny Simonsen, while FF Corse’s similar 458 Italia features Ollie Hancock alongside Gary Eastwood.

There’s also a fresh GT4 entry following the arrival of Track Group’s Lotus Evora, driven by Adam Balon and Ben Clucas.


Four rounds contested over three different distances have already been completed, but so competitive is this year’s entry that GT3 still awaits its first multiple winners of 2015.

Indeed, it’s consistency rather than outright pace that has proved vital to reigning Drivers’ champion Marco Attard and Ecurie Ecosse team-mate Alexander Sims establishing their slim 11.5-point lead atop the standings. Scoring big in the championship’s two points-and-a-half races, including a victory at Rockingham, helped them overcome a slow start at Oulton Park where their closest title pursuers, Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher, won the hour-long opener for Oman Racing Team.

As if to emphasise the point Triple Eight pairing Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne have yet to finish first this season but remain very much part of the fight thanks to their knack of picking up solid points’ finishes. Second place at Silverstone last time out suggests they’re in contention to make it five winners from as many rounds in Belgium.

Beechdean AMR’s former champions Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam have been at the sharp end all season but have so far struggled converting potential into big points. A victory on the opening weekend at Oulton, plus two pole positions, proves they have what it takes to close the gap.


With plenty of points still up for grabs the destination of this year’s GT4 titles remains anyone’s guess, even if one pairing has come to the fore in recent months…

Indeed, Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn’s back-to-back victories at Rockingham and Silverstone’s two endurance events have helped them seize control of the Drivers’ standings. After letting their enthusiasm slightly get the better of them at Oulton neither Beechdean AMR youngster has since put a foot wrong en route to establishing a 31.5-point advantage over ISSY Racing duo Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw.

They, along with third placed Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson, chalked up the other two victories at Oulton, meaning three manufacturers – Aston Martin, Lotus and Ginetta – have shared the GT4 spoils thus far.

Looking to get in on the act at Spa-Francorchamps will be the Graham Coomes/Jake Hill peddled Porsche 911, which ran at the front for much of Silverstone’s three-hour race. The same can also be said of Academy Motorsport’s Dennis Strandberg and Will Moore in light of the latter’s impressive display in wet conditions last time out.


Mike Lynch, Avon Tyres Technical Manager – Motorsport, runs the rule over Spa-Francorchamps.

“Spa is our only trip abroad with the British GT Championship. The nature of the track and the weather bring unique challenges for the tyres. The long lap with very high speeds and the huge compression at Eau Rouge creates loads in the tyres not seen at other circuits on our calendar.

“Set in the Ardennes, the weather is unpredictable at best. The tyres might have to cope with track temperatures ranging from 10 to 40ºC, from dry, hot surfaces to wet and greasy – often on the same lap. However, the new-for-2015 tyre has been optimised to perform more consistently in all of these conditions. We can expect faster lap times and the racing to be even closer than last year.”



Race Notes:
·         Felipe Massa finished fourth and Valtteri Bottas fifth after running 1-2 in the first stint of an exciting British Grand Prix today.
·         After a brilliant start, Felipe took the lead of the race, holding on to the position until the first round of pitstops.
·         Valtteri was racing for second off the start, eventually holding third until he was able to capitalise on a mistake from Hamilton to retake the position after a brief safety car period.
·         Hamilton jumped both cars in the first pitstops before rain played havoc with the field allowing Rosberg and Vettel to move ahead as they stopped for intermediates.
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: There were a few moments in the race where things didn’t go our way. We have to remain positive and proud of our result. The pace we showed throughout this weekend was great, we had a stunning race up until the rain came. We raced two cars against both Mercedes for a majority of the race which shows the hard work and upgrades we are bringing to the car are all working. We closed the gap on second position and moved further ahead of fourth, so it has been a good weekend.
Felipe Massa: It is a frustrating result because the race was amazing today. I had a fantastic start and we were fighting with Mercedes the whole time, it could even have been possible to win the race if it had stayed dry, which is great to see. It was a shame to lost positions in the rain. We waited one lap longer on the second stop which is where we lost the opportunity to be on the podium. That shower also highlighted the car’s weakness in the wet.
Valtteri Bottas: In some ways it was an incredibly frustrating race, and others it was very pleasing. Both cars had great starts and we raced the Mercedes with genuine pace, but when the rain came I really struggled with the intermediate tyre. I was allowed to race Felipe, but it was hard to get through, and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. We have to have a look the race data and make sure we continue to learn from this.


Arden International’s Kevin Ceccon takes victory in GP3 Race 2

 The smile could not be bigger for Kevin Ceccon: The Italian started today’s race from the front row in second place and made a strong start to sneak into the lead. The Arden International driver held off ART Grand Prix’s Esteban Ocon to collect his first win in the GP3 Series and pocketed two bonus points for posting the fastest lap. Jenzer Motorsport rookie Ralph Boschung achieved his debut rostrum in the category with third position.
Race 2 at Silverstone of the third round of the 2015 season was run in much cooler and overcast conditions compared to yesterday’s heatwave. Boschung started from reverse pole but had too much wheel-spin which dropped the Swiss debutant to third, with Ceccon and Ocon making good starts to pass him. Yesterday’s race winner Marvin Kirchhöfer started from eighth on the grid and was up to P5 after an excellent start but as always the opening lap is frenetic with positions changing and after the first lap he had dropped to P8. Koiranen GP’s Jimmy Eriksson was up to fourth ahead of Emil Bernstorff, Matthew Parry and Series leader Luca Ghiotto (Trident).
Ocon was all over the rear of Ceccon’s car on the opening lap, desperate to find a way through into the lead but the Italian covered off his advances and built up a small advantage of 1.2s early on. His Arden International teammate Bernstorff was also on the attack, the Brit was aiming for P4 and attempted a brave move on the outside of Eriksson but unfortunately he carried too much speed into the corner and ran wide. In the process he lost a place to Parry.
All eyes were on the battle of the Koiranen GP teammates: Eriksson and Parry. The Brit was fresh from his first podium yesterday was seeking another and glued himself to the Swede’s machine. This was a titanic tussle that raged throughout the 15 lap race.
Meanwhile at the front Ceccon had control of the race and was busy posting fastest laps and building his lead to 2.3s, but with four laps to go, his French rival Ocon began to light up the timing screens, reducing the deficit to just over a second. The Italian responded however and pulled a small advantage with a mature and confident drive to achieve his debut win in the GP3 Series.
On the penultimate lap, Parry went for the move on his teammate Eriksson and the duo raced side-by-side towards Maggots but the Brit got huge over-steer coming out of Becketts, costing him crucial time in the battle.
At the chequered flag, Ceccon’s joy was clear to see, finishing 1.5s ahead of Ocon, with Boschung seven seconds adrift. Eriksson withstood the gigantic pressure from Parry to clinch fourth, with Bernstorff, Ghiotto and Kirchhöfer completing the top eight.
Ghiotto retains the lead in the Drivers’ Standings: The Italian now has a five point lead over Kirchhöfer (the duo on 82 and 77 respectively). Ocon has moved up to third place on 64, one point ahead of Bernstorff.
ART Grand Prix remain on top inthe Teams’ Standings on 142 points, with Trident next up on 101 and Arden International on 96.
Round 4 will take place at the Hungaroring in Budapest on July 24-26.

F1Weekly podcast # 684

Clark and Nasir share their British Grand Prix preview with all the listeners. This weeks Motorsports Mondial has a special bonus…Peter Brazier’s Formula E report from London. And our extra bonus… some thoughts from Nico Hulkenberg on this weekends Grand Prix.

Nico: “I’m really looking forward to Silverstone – the team’s home race. We go there with a lot of momentum following the strong performance in Austria where we really maximised everything. The circuit suited us, of course, but the field was really close and it was up to us to get a good result, which we did. Finishing sixth was probably the maximum we could get from the race and to come away with a good bunch of points was very satisfying. I am really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the upgraded VJM08 at Silverstone, which will give us the first impression of what we can expect in the second half of the season.
“Silverstone is one of the best races on the calendar. The fans are great and it’s hard to find an empty seat anywhere. The atmosphere is buzzing and that always gives me an extra boost. I usually go to the campsites to see the fans and it’s great to see everybody having such a good time. Because it’s our home race, I also get to spend more time at the factory with the team members who don’t usually go to races.
“As a circuit, Silverstone gives you a great feeling when you’re driving, especially in the fast corners: to get a good lap together on such a difficult track is an amazing feeling.”

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Haryanto leads the way in Silverstone

Rio Haryanto’s good form has carried over to Silverstone where the Indonesian topped the timesheets in this morning’s free practice session, leading the way ahead of Williams test driver Alex Lynn and McLaren tester (and points leader) Stoffel Vandoorne by less than a tenth.
The Indonesian driver stopped the clock with a time of 1:40.659, half a second quicker that Raffaele Marciello’s best time in this session last year, a third of the way through the session on a clear track when most of his rivals had returned to the pits for fresh tyres and, despite having plenty of time left, they were unable to match his time.
The session got underway under glorious sunny conditions, with Pierre Gasly, Johnny Cecotto, Marciello, Alexander Rossi and Vandoorne all setting the early pace. The Belgian looked to have the session under control when he returned to the pits for new tyres and a debrief, but Haryanto stayed out to take advantage of the clear track, stealing the top spot in the process.
Alex Lynn had been close to the quick times all session long, and threw everything he had at the top spot with 8 minutes remaining: the Englishman ran a great lap by missed out by just 3 thousandths in a period where few of his rivals improved, a good sign for qualifying this afternoon, but just behind him countryman Nick Yelloly, Rossi, Arthur Pic, Gasly, Marciello, Sergey Sirotkin and Jordan King, who will all be looking to break into the top 3 in just a few hours’ time.


Williams Martini Racing British Grand Prix Preview

‘The Home of British Motorsport’ is naturally a treasured place in Williams’ heart and not only because the team won both its first and 100th Grand Prix at the circuit. The track consists of long sweeping corners and fast straights, making it one of the quickest laps on the calendar. The race at Silverstone is the joint-oldest  consecutively staged Grand Prix along with Monza and a race Williams has won the British Grand Prix no less than 10 times (eight times at Silverstone and twice at Brands Hatch) including four consecutive years from 1991 to 1994. Williams were once again on the podium with Valtteri Bottas in 2014.
Silverstone should be another circuit, like the last two, that suits the characteristics of our car. We have a car that is very strong in a straight line, aided by the Mercedes power unit and the low drag configuration that we tend to run. In addition the car is strong through the high-speed corners. Last year it was an exceptional circuit for us with Valtteri coming from near the back of the grid to second position. Our target is to replicate the result from last year and get our third consecutive podium of the season. One thing we must consider is the weather, as it can be changeable throughout the weekend and will be key in our operations. It’s always great to have a home grand prix and the team get a great reception from the passionate crowd which resonates well with all the guys. We hope we can put on a good performance for them.
I always enjoy the race at Silverstone. This is normally the only chance some of the team from the factory get to see the car on track which is important. We do expect to be strong here, as the overall downforce has improved with the updates we took to Austria. After a podium for me last year and two podiums for the team in the last two races, I think we should be looking, once again, to take the fight to the cars around us in the Championship.
Silverstone is a great circuit, with long high-speed corners which will suit the car’s characteristics. Heading to the team’s home race, we are looking to make it a hat trick of podiums, and spirits within the team are high right now. I hope we can give the home fans another positive result and we can continue the positive momentum from the last few weeks.

The Premiere Motorsport Podcast