“I’m satisfied, with out fail, I’ve the very best driver in GT racing with me.” It’s fairly an announcement to make about your team-mate, however John Ferguson has each cause to consider simply that in regards to the driver he’ll be racing alongside on this season’s British GT3 Championship, which kicks off at Oulton Park this weekend.
Considered one of many quickest if not the quickest GT3 driver on the earth, Raffaele Marciello is a person who is aware of win titles. The Mercedes manufacturing facility driver, who’s reigning GT World Problem Europe Endurance Cup and ADAC GT Masters champion, has clearly made his mark on the world of GT racing since switching his focus from single-seaters in 2017.
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The previous Ferrari Driver Academy member is only one of eight manufacturing facility drivers who will compete in British GT’s prime division this season, making it arguably essentially the most aggressive within the championship’s historical past as 16 full-time crews have been confirmed.
Over the previous 12 months, Marciello has progressively turn into conscious of British GT’s rising status, partly as a result of success of fellow Mercedes works driver and team-mate Jules Gounon final season.
“I believe final 12 months I began to comply with a bit extra as a result of previously I by no means actually adopted [the championship],” admits Marciello. “I do know the tracks are mega from TOCA previously once I was taking part in video games, so I all the time wished to drive right here. I spoke with Jules, he loves this championship. I liked once I got here to Manufacturers Hatch and Silverstone [in other series], [it was] all the time stuffed with followers and other people.”
The Swiss-Italian got here near a one-off outing within the championship final 12 months however prior racing commitments meant he was unable to enter a spherical. Nevertheless, it instigated a dialogue with Ferguson, which continued for 9 months and in the end led them to associate collectively at RAM Racing sharing a GT3 Mercedes in 2023.
RAM Racing proprietor Ferguson has secured the companies of Marciello for this 12 months’s championship
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Regardless of having by no means raced in British GT earlier than, Marciello is all too conscious that his Am driver would be the one who could make the distinction come the ultimate outcomes and that consistency shall be essential if they’re to problem for the crown.
“On this championship, I believe greater than to be fast it’s good to rating factors,” he says. “Even should you end each time in fourth then you possibly can win the championship, so greater than the pure tempo it’s essential to remain out of the gravel. With so many GT4 [cars] it’s very easy to have contact so we must be secure.”
For Ferguson, having a driver of Marciello’s calibre alongside is a agency signal of his intention, and forward of the season he’s been placing within the work behind the scenes – shedding 15kg over the winter, as “you possibly can’t get Mr Marciello and never make an effort”.
This 12 months shall be simply Ferguson’s third in endurance racing, having made his British GT debut with a Toyota GR Supra GT4 in 2021 – taking a greatest results of two third locations – earlier than shifting up into the GT3 division with RAM final 12 months. A maiden win got here on the second Snetterton race with Ulysse de Pauw, however Ferguson’s season got here to an abrupt halt after he broken the automotive in apply at Manufacturers Hatch and missed the ultimate two rounds.
“Even should you end each time in fourth then you possibly can win the championship, so greater than the pure tempo it’s essential to remain out of the gravel” Raffaele Marciello
Forward of the 2023 marketing campaign – which begins with the standard Oulton double-header – the 49-year-old already is aware of the areas he wants to enhance upon to offer himself and Marciello the very best likelihood.
“I struggled with new tyres in qualifying, that was my largest downfall, and a heavy gasoline load at first of a race,” says Ferguson. “However the Mercedes is an excellent automotive. It holds its tyres so it’s only a matter of attempting to maintain myself within the combine at first and, by the top of the stint, the automotive actually comes into its personal.”
Final 12 months was the right marketing campaign for RAM. It secured the GT3 drivers’ title with Ian Loggie in addition to the groups’ championship, however the squad has undergone important adjustments over the previous 12 months. Crew founder Dan Shufflebottom departed on the finish of 2022, with British Touring Automobile race winner Tim Sugden now crew supervisor after Ferguson purchased the squad in February final 12 months. The personnel adjustments have been one of many causes Loggie has moved to 2 Seas for the upcoming marketing campaign, the place he’ll look to defend his title alongside Gounon.
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Ferguson is aware of the place he wants to enhance to copy his Snetterton victory final 12 months with Ulysse De Pauw
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“RAM was an important crew, however a little bit of politics was happening – as there all the time is in motorsport,” says Loggie, who spent 4 seasons with the crew. “I’m right here to drive relatively than become involved in politics, so I believe I’ve executed the appropriate factor – 2 Seas will do an important job.”
The Scot is definitely no stranger to the Anglo-Bahraini squad, having pushed with the crew earlier than, together with taking a category podium on the Gulf 12 Hours final January, whereas the outfit has recorded wins in British GT.
“Fairly excessive I’d say,” says Loggie on his possibilities of defending the British GT3 crown. “I believe we’ve bought an honest driver line-up. That stated, the grid is stuffed with superb drivers, so this 12 months goes to be more durable than final 12 months however, like all the time, I don’t suppose it’s a must to be the quickest, I believe it’s a must to be essentially the most constant.
“Don’t make errors and use that have. I’ve been doing it for God is aware of what number of years now however a number of final 12 months was all the way down to not making errors.”
Loggie recorded only one retirement final season after being the harmless sufferer in an opening-lap crash at Silverstone however, maybe extra ominously, he achieved a podium in all 4 races that Gounon competed alongside him. With the Frenchman returning for a full-time marketing campaign in 2023, there’s each cause to consider that a second title could possibly be heading Loggie’s manner.
One of many largest threats on the grid, although, might nicely come from the opposite aspect of the two Seas storage. James Cottingham stays with the squad having completed fourth within the 2022 standings regardless of not fairly managing an total victory. He shall be joined by four-time British GT champion Jonny Adam, the present Aston Martin manufacturing facility driver having raced with 2 Seas at two rounds final 12 months. Clashes with the European Le Mans Sequence imply Adam will miss the three-hour race at Silverstone in addition to the Donington Park decider, however his expertise might nicely information Cottingham to inside a shot of the title come the ultimate spherical.
Adam’s former team-mate Andrew Howard will as soon as once more embark on a full-time marketing campaign, the Beechdean crew proprietor and double GT3 champion (2013 and 2015) this time alongside manufacturing facility Aston Martin driver Ross Gunn – the GT4 champion from 2015.
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Beechdean is again for a primary full season since 2021 with double champion Howard joined by 2015 GT4 king Gunn
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Different manufacturing facility drivers on the roster this season embody Rob Bell, who will drive a McLaren 720S Evo alongside Mark Radcliffe for Optimum Motorsport, and Marvin Kirchhofer, who will associate Alex West in a Storage 59-run 720S Evo.
Dan Harper, the 2019 Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion, is one other manufacturing facility driver who will make his debut within the collection having spent the previous three years racing with BMW within the Nurburgring Endurance Sequence and GT World Problem. He’ll race a Century Motorsport-run BMW M4 GT3 alongside Darren Leung, the Am driver having gained on his British GT debut within the Donington Park finale final 12 months alongside Alexander Sims.
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One of many strongest driver line-ups on paper comes within the type of Sandy Mitchell and Shaun Balfe on the wheel of a Barwell Motorsport-run Lamborghini Huracan EVO2. Balfe has turn into a nearly-man in British GT, ending runner-up in 2003 and taking third in 2019, shedding out on the title by simply 5 factors on that event regardless of lacking the primary two races at Oulton Park.
Exterior of the groups with manufacturing facility drivers, there are some acquainted faces who might nicely problem on the entrance. Amongst them are Marcus Clutton and Morgan Tillbrook, the Enduro Motorsport pairing having taken two wins final season
He and team-mate Adam Carroll gained the opening spherical of final season at Oulton Park in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, however they departed the championship after a puncture triggered a non-score within the three-hour race Silverstone and the duo completed a disappointing eighth at Donington.
Exterior of the groups with manufacturing facility drivers, there are some acquainted faces who might nicely problem on the entrance. Amongst them are Marcus Clutton and Morgan Tillbrook, the Enduro Motorsport pairing having taken two wins final season aboard their 720S earlier than ending third within the remaining desk. With the brand new 720S Evo mannequin on the duo’s disposal, victories are extremely seemingly once more, even in opposition to the quite a few manufacturing facility drivers which might be on the grid this season.
Reigning GT Cup champion Simon Orange additionally graduates full-time into British GT alongside Michael O’Brien, having impressed within the Donington decider final season, once more on the wheel of a 720S.
Ferguson’s perception that Marciello is the very best GT driver will definitely be put to the take a look at over the season’s nine-race calendar, as they’ll want each ounce of ability in opposition to probably the most aggressive fields ever assembled by British GT. All of which makes the 2023 season probably the most extremely anticipated within the championship’s historical past.
Mitchell and Balfe look set to be one of many strongest lineups as Barwell eyes a return to the summit with its new EVO2 Lambo
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New and outdated goal GT4 title
The British GT4 class guarantees to be simply as aggressive in 2023, with new and returning faces making up the 16 full-time entry record that accommodates no fewer than seven producers.
The 2 main crews from final 12 months – champions Sennan Fielding/Richard Williams (Steller Motorsport) and Darren Turner/Matt Topham (Newbridge Motorsport) – are each absent from the grid this season, leaving the way in which open for brand new challengers to take the crown.
A type of might nicely be Josh Miller, the 17-year-old having starred in his and R Racing’s inaugural British GT campaigns final 12 months, as two wins – the primary of which at Snetterton gave Miller the report for the youngest successful crew alongside Jamie Day – allowed them to complete third total on the finish of the 12 months. Miller shall be joined within the Aston Martin Vantage by Seb Hopkins, who himself impressed with Crew Parker Racing on his British GT debut final time period, and collectively the duo will make a formidable Silver-Silver pairing.
“With a second 12 months of expertise below our belts I believe it’s all to play for this 12 months, I positively suppose we might be in with an opportunity,” says Miller. “We’ve simply bought to maintain our heads down and we must be there on the finish of the season.
“You’ve bought to minimise all errors, and I believe that’s the essential factor in British GT – end constantly all through. It’s not all the time all about successful and pushing as onerous as you possibly can, it’s nearly constant factors scoring and on the finish of the 12 months it provides up.”
Matt Cowley is one other driver able to mounting a severe title problem this time period, remaining with Academy Motorsport for a fourth season having recorded wins within the earlier three campaigns. This 12 months he’ll associate Erik Evans within the Ford Mustang, the younger American having made a one-off look within the Donington Park finale final 12 months with Will Moore.
Cowley has gained not less than as soon as in every of the final three seasons with Academy’s Mustang and is an anticipated contender in 2023
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“We all know that it’s a successful formulation, Academy and the Mustang,” says Cowley. “We’ve been title contenders yearly we’ve been in it, we’ve simply had unhealthy luck and issues haven’t gone our manner. Hopefully this 12 months we are able to have a little bit of luck and perhaps do a little bit of a greater job.”
One of many dark-horse pairings could possibly be Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge, the 2021 and 2022 Ginetta Junior champions becoming a member of forces on the wheel of a new-for-2023 McLaren Artura operated by DTO Motorsport. Regardless of each drivers being new to the championship, Millar believes they’ve each likelihood of difficult for wins and in the end the title.
“We’ve bought an important crew round us so hopefully we are able to use their expertise to push us alongside as nicely – on daily basis we exit we’re studying extra,” says Millar, who’s now a McLaren Academy Driver. “Some folks would possibly say we’ve bought no expertise [in British GT] however we’ve simply bought to study the onerous manner.”
Whereas this 12 months’s grid accommodates loads of new faces, there are additionally some beforehand profitable drivers making a welcome return to the championship. Dan Vaughan, the 2020 GT4 champion alongside Jamie Caroline, and Stuart Middleton, champion in 2017 with Will Tregurtha, will each compete this season. Vaughan will race alongside Zac Meakin in a Crew Parker-run Porsche 718 Cayman, whereas Middleton will associate Freddie Tomlinson in a Ginetta G56 operated by Raceway.
Century Motorsport can even seemingly function close to the pinnacle of the sphere with two new-for-2023 BMW M4s pushed by Michael Johnston/Chris Salkeld and Carl Cavers/Lewis Plato. With these two pairings, plus an additional 5 Professional-Am line-ups serving to to make up the GT4 area, there’s an added ingredient to the general championship that when once more guarantees to go to the Donington Park finale in October.
The final two Ginetta Junior champions Millar and Rowledge are a darkish horse aboard the brand new DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura
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