The Mercedes darkish horse gunning for British GT glory - Motor Informed
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The Mercedes darkish horse gunning for British GT glory

A lot has modified since Anglo-Bahraini squad 2 Seas Motorsport was final a full-season entrant within the British GT Championship in 2020. Though it gained at Snetterton that 12 months with Jack Mitchell and Jordan Witt, the group’s frequent struggles with unreliability on the McLaren 720S GT3 had been a drain on time and sources.

“We had been using actually good guys, however all of their experience couldn’t be used,” remembers group co-owner Nick Cristofaro, “as a result of we had been all the time specializing in having to maintain the factor going. Motorsport is all about making issues higher and quicker, the place with the McLaren we by no means had any efficiency conferences – it was all the time conferences of how one can make issues higher inside that automobile.”

After exploring choices with Porsche, and discovering that just one automobile was accessible, 2 Seas modified allegiances to Mercedes final 12 months. Then, Cristofaro says, “all the pieces was flipped, we actually simply centered on efficiency.” However plans to area automobiles in each the Professional ranks of GT World Problem Europe and the DTM got here to naught, and the group ran solely a restricted programme in 2021, though it gained on its sole British GT look with Hunter Abbott and Martin Kodric at Silverstone, and claimed two victories from as many weekends in Worldwide GT Open with Kodric and Ethan Simioni.

The squad gained too on its most up-to-date race outing in January’s Gulf 12 Hours, Kodric, Ben Barnicoat and Cristofaro’s 2 Seas co-owner Isa Al Khalifa following up their victory from the earlier 12 months’s occasion with the McLaren. It’s not a group inquisitive about half measures and, with a major contingent of former Strakka Racing engineers and mechanics on the employees who’ve loads of expertise with the automobile, there’s each cause to anticipate 2 Seas to be within the thick of the battle in 2022 with Lewis Williamson and James Cottingham on driving duties.

“The fellows we’ve got are actually clever and we’re fortunate to have them as a result of it’s all about these little two per cents that add up on the finish of the day,” says Cristofaro, who has additionally expanded 2 Seas into the Fiesta Junior Championship with a single-car entry for karting graduate Aaron Walker. “With the Merc, we will work to maximise these two per cents and, while you put all of it collectively as a package deal, that was why Silverstone went so nicely.”

Hunter Abbott and Martin Kodric dominated at Silverstone in 2 Seas' only British GT appearance of 2021

Hunter Abbott and Martin Kodric dominated at Silverstone in 2 Seas’ solely British GT look of 2021

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

For achieved historics racer Cottingham, this might be a primary full season in trendy equipment, however he gave a sign of what to anticipate with a stirring drive in final season’s Manufacturers Hatch opener in RAM Racing’s Mercedes earlier than tangling with Adam Balon at Paddock Hill Bend. If he can construct on that, then Cottingham may very well be a darkish horse for the title along with 2010 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Williamson, a driver with loads of Mercedes expertise and wanting to capitalise on the newest alternative of a stop-start profession.

The 32-year-old Scot, who beat the likes of Tom Blomqvist and Jack Harvey to earn the distinguished prize and a check with the McLaren Method 1 group, was a GP3 race winner in 2011 and appeared destined for the highest as a part of Purple Bull’s junior roster. However, after being abruptly axed by Helmut Marko solely 5 races into the 2012 Method Renault three.5 season with sequence newcomer Arden Caterham, his profession misplaced momentum. A GP3 return beckoned, however no extra wins got here. By the top of 2013, his single-seater goals had been over.

“No-one took it more durable than myself,” Williamson says. “It was my profession and it obtained minimize quick there. Time went on, I went again to a standard day-to-day life and dealing as an apprentice fabricator and welder and I assumed to myself, ‘How can I get again into racing?’”

“I’m simply there to do the great job for the group – I hope individuals can see I’m able to driving as quick as a Professional, but additionally being a very good team-mate to a much less skilled driver and dealing nicely with him” Lewis Williamson

The “life-changing” reply got here within the type of Strakka boss Nick Leventis, who introduced him into the fold in 2016. Williamson made a profitable debut within the short-lived Renault Sport Trophy at Motorland Aragon and raced the group’s venerable Gibson LMP2 4 occasions within the World Endurance Championship. He continued with the group for the subsequent three years for its swap to GT racing – like 2 Seas, initially with McLaren earlier than swapping to Mercedes for 2018 and profitable the Blancpain Endurance Collection Professional-Am title with Leventis and Chris Buncombe.

Williamson credit his time at Strakka with serving to to rebuild his confidence, however Leventis was banned for violating anti-doping guidelines and the group folded after the 2019 season. Williamson made solely two competitors appearances within the following two years, racing McLarens for 59Racing at Imola in 2020 and a couple of Seas in final 12 months’s Gulf 12 Hours, meant as a precursor to a full season.

However now he’s a person in demand as soon as once more. Williamson has a parallel programme in Lamborghini Tremendous Trofeo Europe with Oregon Crew – a squad he’d impressed in his 2016 RS01 outings – and has linked up with 2 Seas for his first participation in a home championship since he completed runner-up within the 2010 Method Renault 2.zero UK sequence.

“If I may, I’d race each single weekend, day by day,” says Williamson, who doesn’t have a supervisor or “anyone else shouting my nook” to open doorways. “I’m very grateful this 12 months for the chance with 2 Seas. Now we’ve simply obtained to maintain the ball rolling.”

Williamson will race in the UK for the first time since 2010 after inking a deal with 2 Seas to partner Cottingham

Williamson will race within the UK for the primary time since 2010 after inking a cope with 2 Seas to associate Cottingham

Picture by: Dan Bathie/Xynamic Images

There’s all the pieces to play for this season following the withdrawal of Barwell’s reigning champions Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind, with the adoption of Pirelli’s new P Zero DHF tyres one other unknown Cristofaro says would require a “fully completely different strategy” to handle.

Williamson definitely isn’t missing in motivation, however says he’s centered extra on the larger image of serving to Cottingham than benchmarking himself towards RAM Racing’s Mercedes manufacturing unit driver Jules Gounon. He was, in spite of everything, happy together with his performances relative to long-time works driver Gary Paffett and IMSA ace Tristan Vautier once they raced collectively for Strakka within the 2019 Intercontinental GT Problem. He’s additionally reunited together with his engineer that 12 months, Barclay Danaher, and is optimistic of hitting the bottom working.

“Two or three years in the past, that may have been a giant thought on my thoughts,” Williamson says, “however I drove with some manufacturing unit drivers in 2018 and 2019, so I’m nicely conscious of what I can do in that automobile and I did greater than a adequate job again then. I’m simply there to do the great job for the group – I hope individuals can see I’m able to driving as quick as a Professional, but additionally being a very good team-mate to a much less skilled driver and dealing nicely with him.

“Barclay has obtained a extremely good understanding of the automobile and I do know the automobile very well from earlier years. I’ve obtained little doubt in my thoughts that 2 Seas can do the job required, and I’ve obtained little doubt that the automobile can do the job too. If we simply work collectively as a group and smile, then outcomes will come ultimately.”

Williamson praises 2 Seas for its “phenomenal job in preparations”, not least in managing to proceed with a deliberate check at Oulton Park the day after an electrical hearth at its Aylesbury premises threatened to jeopardise its pre-season.

“It was painful to see one thing like that while you’ve put each minute of day by day into it, and that you simply’ve woken up for the final two years fascinated by how one can construct it up,” says Cristofaro. “It was two years of struggling by means of a pandemic and this 12 months we thought, ‘We’ve obtained clients, it’s going to start out getting simpler.’ However the entire group is unbelievable. We’ve obtained plenty of guys the place the more durable it will get, the extra decided we’re. Everyone makes it occur.”

If willpower is something to go by, 2 Seas will certainly be a British GT Championship contender in 2022. Extra might be wanted than that, in fact, however the substances are in place for a brand new challenger to shake up the established order.

Williamson says the team has done a

Williamson says the group has finished a “phenomenal” job to organize for the brand new season

Picture by: Xynamic

What else is new in GT3?

New automobiles, drivers and groups imply there’s an air of change about British GT this 12 months.

Century Motorsport returns to the GT3 ranks for the primary time since 2019 with the brand new BMW M4 GT3, which makes its UK debut with Taiwanese driver Betty Chen. Her co-driver has but to be introduced on the time of writing.

Among the many highest-profile newcomers is manufacturing unit Mercedes driver Jules Gounon, who joins RAM Racing to associate two-time reigning Professional-Am champion Ian Loggie. Calendar clashes imply Gounon might be changed by Callum Macleod, who gained at Silverstone alongside Loggie in 2019, for the Silverstone, Donington Park (Could) and Snetterton conferences. RAM is again to 2 full-season entries, with 2020 GT4 champion Jamie Caroline stepping as much as the highest class alongside John Ferguson, his co-driver for 2 rounds final 12 months within the Speedworks Toyota.

“The entire group is unbelievable. We’ve obtained plenty of guys the place the more durable it will get, the extra decided we’re. Everyone makes it occur” Nick Cristofaro, 2 Seas Motorsport

Caroline isn’t the one GT4 champion to make his debut within the home GT3 class – 2017 winner Will Tregurtha will associate GT4 graduate Mark Sansom in an Assetto Motorsport-run Bentley. One other GT4 Professional-Am contender from final 12 months, Nick Halstead, steps up in a Fox Motorsport McLaren 720S alongside Jamie Stanley.

There are new and returning groups, too. A number of Porsche Carrera Cup GB title-winning squad Redline Racing enters 2019 GT4 race winner James Dorlin and Porsche Dash Problem GB graduate Alex Malykhin in a Lamborghini Huracan. 7TSIX (pronounced ‘76’) will run a McLaren for 2020 GT4 Professional-Am champions Euan Hankey and Mia Flewitt, who entered three races with Crew Rocket RJN final 12 months. That group makes its full-time return with GT4 graduate James Kell and Simon Watts, whereas Greystone GT steps up from the GT Cup to run Stewart and Lewis Proctor.

Their former Balfe group has minimize ties with McLaren and thrown its lot in with Audi after working an R8 LMS GT3 in Worldwide GT Open final 12 months. The now Evo-upgraded mannequin might be raced by two returning drivers: Balfe group patron Shaun Balfe and the vastly skilled Adam Carroll, each earlier race winners who might be robust if they’ll adapt the automobile to swimsuit the brand new Pirellis after working on Michelins final 12 months.

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In the meantime, Paddock Motorsport pair Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher have switched from Bentley to McLaren, making the Woking marque the best-represented on the grid with six entries.

7TSIX is new to British GT this year, running a McLaren 720S GT3 for Mia Flewitt and Euan Hankey

7TSIX is new to British GT this 12 months, working a McLaren 720S GT3 for Mia Flewitt and Euan Hankey

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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