25-05-2017 – Laurie Southern
British GT Is Back
Endurance  – Events

A trip to Oulton Park on Easter Monday has only ever meant one thing; British GT is back in town.

We’re all aware by now that car people don’t do ‘lie ins’ and today was no different. An early rise to pack the car full of food camera gear and before I know it I’m on my way to pick up Tomm. A quick detour via a local supermarket car park to meet the rest of the bunch and we’re on our way to the track. In record time, I might add.

Of course we weren’t early enough. When has anyone ever got here on time? Upon arrival the circuit was live with support categories and the rain had well and truly begun to fall. The roar of engines was a sure sign that sleepy Cheshire had awoken.

I’m reminded every time I turn up at Oulton Park just how beautiful it is. The rolling hills swallow up the elevation changes in such a way that you’d be forgiven for assuming you were deep in the Eifel region. It’s perfect for spectators too. The limited run off areas allows for public areas to be closer to the action than I’ve ever seen before.

Our dodgy timing meant that we wouldn’t see the big guns come out until after lunch, but that wasn’t so bad. I’m a sucker for anything race-prepped. The support races that run alongside the British GT series are hand picked to be just as exciting. I’ve been overtaken on this very track by a Mini almost identical to this one and let me tell you, they are not ‘mini.’ 

The VAG Cup has been a long-time companion to the GT series. As the year number ticks increasingly higher each year, so it seems does the budget of this championship. What started off as a track day play toy challenge has now grown into one of the most formidable in the UK. It’s heartwarming to see.

This ‘accessible’ motorsport discipline hits the nail on the head for a lot of people. There’s nothing like seeing a family car pushed to within an inch of it’s life like this.

Here at Grip’n’Slide our favourite time of any race day is lunch. Most people take this time to have a look around the open pit lane and paddock areas…

…We just eat. I mean, it’s lunch time. What else did you expect?

Joking aside there are few times you’re able to get so close to machines with such presence. The paddock is still live despite the public access. Teams of mechanics hurry around vehicles repairing damage sustained in morning sessions. Some cars however just sit pretty and patiently wait to be released in anger once more. This TT Cup car was even treated to a wash. Got to keep those sponsors happy.

First to break silence would be the British Formula 3 pack. I spotted a couple being moved into the pre-race staging area and had to take a closer look. With nothing more than four wheels, two wings and a steering wheel this is as raw as they come.

I’m still shocked each time I’m reminded that these guys are in their early teens.

A short while later and it’s time. Nothing prepares you for that first lap of a round of the British GT. The sound of these cars rolls through the countryside like thunder. You can feel every fly by and gear change in the pit of your stomach. The Bentley in particular sounded like a Spitfire starting up in the next room.

This particular stop on the calendar has been my yearly pilgrimage for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen it grow and change over more than a decade, and I’ve a lot of love for it.

As a national championship it’s refreshing to see that it can compete with larger-known series like the Blancpain Sprint. It’s multi-class racing at it’s finest, with GT4 alongside GT3 in perfect harmony. The variety of cars competing in the current form really does it for me. The usual top dogs from BMW, Lamborghini and Aston Martin are followed up by their little brothers from the lower class. These two McLaren 650S’ look right at home.

There’s even a little JDM love, with UltraTek Racing’s 370Z entry.

 

British GT is in a good place at the moment. Things change from year to year with manufacturers dropping in and out however at the moment it’s just right.

Of course if you look back a decade or so, the cars on track were vastly different to what we watch today. Listers up against Vipers, and British odd balls like the Marcos running up the front of the pack. Teams were more creative. They had to be though as there wasn’t as much aerodynamic trickery as we see today. Rules were bent, every experiment made for an exciting development from a spectator angle.

I feel the series then hit a dry patch for a couple of years. Just as technology was evolving and becoming more apparent within racing. Traction control and stability systems won out over driver skill and raw mechanical capability, all the while the number of marques represented also decreased.

As they say, what goes down must go up (or something) and the low spell has come full circle. Cars are becoming raw again. Aerodynamics is the word of the day and it’s creating some incredible racing. I can’t describe how glad I am that the spectator zones are getting busy again, come rain or shine. If you follow one championship this year, make it the British GT.