The 2016 British GT Championship was launched today at Media Day at Snetterton. Both Benjamin Franassovice, Championship Manager, and Stephane Ratel, SRO Motorsport Group Founder and CEO spoke about their satisfaction at the way the series has developed.
“Entry wise we’ve progressed quantities there,” said Franassovice. “The diversity is also there. We have some new machinery joining us in both classes. We‘re very excited. We have the Lamborghini returning to us with Barwell. We also have the Bentley GT3 car joining us with Team Parker. We have the return of Audi with Optimum Racing [and we’re] very happy about that and McLaren with Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse. We will have 15 to 16 cars in GT3.”
Franassovice continued: “In GT4 more new models are arriving. We have Ebor with the Maserati which sounds great out there. We have Porsche coming in with the Cayman. We have, just announced today, the McLaren GT4 which is extremely nice so we’re very excited to have this car in British GT and be the first [series] to race it. Overall we are looking good and we can’t wait for the first event at Brands Hatch.”
Stephane Ratel also expressed how pleased he was at the healthy 2016 grid: “Things are going quite well in British GT at the moment really thanks to Benjamin and the SRO team who are really doing a fantastic job. I think the British GT Championship is an amazing example of stability and success.
“We’ve been promoting it for many years and apart from a little dive for two or three years when the economy was in trouble it’s recovered and as is a very good series which has strong principles. The first one is that it’s a Pro-Am series where really a non-professional driver really has a chance to win and usually wins and I think that is the number one characteristic of this series.”
Ratel explained why GT4 grids are also increasing. “The British GT series has helped develop the GT4 category more than any other series in Europe and I think the presence of the McLaren’s new GT4 cars, which we believe will be followed by other manufacturers which are now looking at the GT4 categories, shows that we were on the right way and we were very happy. We see in Europe that a number of GT3 championships do suffer because it is maybe becoming more and more of an international category. So GT4 is the perfect second division and we are very happy with the success it has in the UK.”
The first round of the British GT Championship will be held at Brands Hatch on the 17th of April.
Panis-Barthez Compétition has announced that Timothé Buret will join the team for the 2016 European Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans as part of the driver line-up in its Ligier JS P2, Fabien Barthez having already been confirmed.
Buret, from Montpelier, France, contested the 2015 Pro Mazda Championship with Juncos Racing, winning the Team Championship and finishing 5th in the Drivers Championship. He raced to seven podium finishes over the course of the season, including one win. Buret is currently a junior driver for the LM P1 privateer team Rebellion Racing and has had previous endurance racing experience after finishing second in the VdeV Challenge Endurance Proto series in 2014
“Endurance racing has always appealed to me and it’s the obvious choice after my sprint-racing experience,” said Buret. “I already had the experience of sharing a seat in the VdeV and I really enjoyed this style (of racing). To find myself alongside Fabien Barthez is a wonderful opportunity to combine our respective skills. I can’t wait to wear the colours of Panis-Bathez Compétition.”
The team has previously confirmed its driver line-up for its LM P3 entry into the European Le Mans Series where Eric Debard will be joined by Simon Gachet and Valentin Moineault.
Swiss-based Rebellion Racing has announced that Nelson Piquet Jr will be joining the team for the Le Mans 24 Hours and the first two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone and Spa. He will complete the previously-announced driver line-up of Nick Heidfield and Nico Prost. Piquet Jr is no stranger to endurance racing, having piloted an Aston Martin DBR9 to 4th in class at the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours as well as winning the GT1 class at Mil Milhas Brasil in the same year.
“I am thrilled to be joining Rebellion Racing for several races this season including, of course, the Le Mans 24 Hours,” said Piquet Jr. “That race is one of the most special motorsports events in the world and I loved it so much when I raced there in 2006 that it has been very high on my list ever since to do it again. I couldn’t be happier than to be doing it with such a great team and together with Nico and Nick as my teammates. I can’t wait to get in the car at Paul Ricard later this month to begin our preparations.”
Bart Hayden, Team Manager of Rebellion Racing, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Nelson Piquet Jr to the Rebellion Racing team. As the reigning Formula E champion, Nelson has raced against Nico and Nick, but now the three of them will be partnering together in one car for Rebellion Racing and we are confident they will be strong teammates. Le Mans requires the best level of preparation, so we are also pleased that Nelson will be able to drive at the Prologue and the first two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone and Spa. We are only a few weeks away from the Prologue and are all looking forward to the start the new season.”
Manor has announced that 21-year-old Matt Rao will be joining its driver line-up for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship.
Rao began his racing career in karts in 2009, progressing to cars in 2011 when he finished 2nd in the Formula Ford GB Scholarship class. In 2012 he won the Duratec class as well as finishing in 10th place overall in the championship. 2014 saw Rao finish as runner-up in the British Formula 3 Championship before he graduated to FIA European F3 with Fortec Motorsports in 2015. Rao was given his first experience of driving prototypes when he was invited by Signatech Alpine to take part in last year’s end-of season WEC Rookie test in Bahrain.
“Manor has a history of working with some great young drivers and we are delighted to welcome another talented youngster to the team,” said Manor WEC Team Principal, John Booth. “Matt is a very exciting prospect. Last year’s WEC Rookie Test provided him with an opportunity to get to grips with LM P2 machinery for the first time and we are now looking forward to going racing with him in 2016 and seeing what results we can achieve together.
Matt Rao commented: “I’m really pleased to be part of this exciting new challenge with Manor. They have a fantastic reputation and I know that their experience and professionalism will deliver great results. LM P2 has become an ultra-competitive series which is full of top quality drivers and teams,. I am looking forward to The Prologue and driving the ORECA 05 for the first time.”
Manor’s driver line-up is now complete, the team having previously announced the signing Will Stevens and the return of James Jakes. The Prologue will be held on the 25th and 26th of March with the first round of the championship at Silverstone on the 17th of April.