At a time when motor racing right around the world is in a state of flux, it takes a brave and determined championship to make the type of change that will see a third of it’s top entries ineligible to race the following season.
There’s no denying that 2020 has been an unusual year for British GT. It’s been chaotic for grids across the board, but for the UK’s premier grand tourers, it’s the stream of new talent that has caused the conundrum. Traditionally the home of fast, ambitious and well-funded amateurs, the recent influx of Silver-rated pairings, whilst adding pace and glamour has also put pressure on the title aspirations of traditional Gold-Bronze (Pro-Am) entries. Of course, the regulations, to an extent, allow for this, but not so where poor track conditions prevail.
The Barwell pairings of Adam Balon & Phil Keen (Pro-Am), and Rob Collard & Sandy Mitchell (Silver) offer perfect examples here. In dry conditions, Balon (Am) will often only be a few tenths off Collard, but add a drenching of rain and the gap widens significantly (maybe by as much as two or three seconds per lap). Over the course of a season, this could (and may well) result in the difference between racing for the championship crown and having to settle for class honours. It’s not what British GT was meant to be.
So it’s a welcome move by SRO; Stephane Ratel has always seen Pro-Am as being the bedrock of GT3 and whilst we’ve witnessed an extraordinary season of racing (thanks largely to the bevy of Silver-rated McLarens), the chances of the likes of Balon, Ian Loggie, Nick Jones and Andrew Howard returning for the long-term would have been compromised had action not been taken.
Likewise, efforts to secure stronger support for one-make GTC cars (lower spec GT3 cars that might have normally raced in Carrera Cup, Ferrari 488 Challenge etc) is another positive step towards not only securing grid numbers but also drivers who might eventually progress to GT3.
These are difficult days for drivers, teams, circuits, championships and sponsors alike, but clear and well thought out strategies, together with strong communication and investment in profile are exactly what motor sport needs if it is to overcome the ravages of COVID 19 and secure sustainable grids for the future.