2017 season heads to the start line with over half the grid set to do battle for overall honours
The Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the fastest single marque GT racing championship in the UK, will begin its 15th season at Brands Hatch on 1 / 2 April with over half the field racing for overall glory in the Pro category. The battles throughout the 22 car grid will stretch across 15 rounds and eight race weekends.
The anticipation of a hotly contested season, headlined by a round in support of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is fuelled by an exceptionally talented and experienced grid. Over half the competitors are ranked in the Pro category, and of those, half again have already won at least one championship in the course of their careers.
Best placed to cause a surprise is a quartet of Porsche Carrera Cup GB Rookies who will be looking to make waves amongst the established Pro contenders. Fresh from his Ginetta GT4 Supercup title, Tom Wrigley from Chirk has already been making the most of the pre-season with IN2 Racing. His 2016 challenger and fellow race winner, Londoner Jamie Orton (Redline Racing), will be resuming their battle in 2017 as both adapt to the rear-engined 911 GT3 Cup.
Established endurance champion and race winner Ross Wylie from Dumfries will return to single marque racing, bringing with him a new team, Slidesports. The partnership began earlier in Wylie’s career and resumed recently with a successful one-off endurance race with the team in a Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
After rising through the single seater ranks to the heights of GP2 and most recently winning races in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, Tio Ellinas is making the switch to sports car racing for 2017 with JTR. Already a winner with JTR in seasons gone by, the Cypriot star brings with him Formula One experience and undoubted race-winning potential as the season unfolds.
Leading the charge of the returnees is reigning champion Dan Cammish (Redline Racing) from Leeds. After taking the record in 2016 for most wins in a season – 12 from 16 starts – the 2015 and 2016 champion will face his toughest challenge yet. Graduating to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup for 2017, Cammish will have to miss rounds eight and nine at Snetterton from his concurrent Porsche Carrera Cup GB campaign due to a clash of dates.
First among those looking to capitalise on this will be Cammish’s closest challenger from 2016, Bristol’s Dino Zamparelli. Launching his 2017 campaign with JTR, Zamparelli will be reunited with former coach Nick Tandy and will race alongside the second-placed Rookie of 2016, Lewis Plato. Plato, from Billericay, showed strong pace in his first season and is ideally placed to convert that into results for his second.
Another driver with championship winning potential is Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2016 / 2017 Scholar Charlie Eastwood from Belfast. Buoyed by taking the 2016 Rookie title and his first race win, Eastwood tasted victory over the winter in a dominant one-off race with the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. Also successfully chasing the winter sun, and off-season experience, was Redline Racing team mate and 2016 podium finisher Tom Oliphant from Leamington Spa. Oliphant made a name for himself in his debut season with a series of fearless overtaking manoeuvres and plans to return stronger than ever.
Joining this top trio at Redline Racing and relishing a step up into the Pro category for 2017 are Edinburgh-based brothers Euan and Dan McKay. Both showed strong pace in their debut seasons, taking first and second in the 2016 Pro-Am1 category respectively, and often raced comfortably inside the top 10.
However, the Pro-Am1 category will maintain its competitive nature with a similar split of newcomers and returnees. Alex Martin (Pro-Am1) returns for the first time since racing the ‘Type 997’ GT3 Cup in 2011, joining championship stalwart and father Rupert Martin (Pro-Am2) at Team Parker Racing.
Alex will undoubtedly feature in the category title race, as will Justin Sherwood (Team Parker Racing) as he looks to build on his seven Pro-Am1 podium finishes in 2016. Another podium finisher, Peter Jennings, returns with G-Cat Racing, while experienced racer Graeme Mundy steps up to a full campaign in the category with Team Parker Racing.
A new team and driver will be joining the Pro-Am2 competition, Welch Motorsport and Matt Telling. Telling has experience of the ‘Type 991’ 911 GT3 Cup from endurance outings, while Welch Motorsport is a veteran of TOCA weekends. The second category newcomer is David Fairbrother, who graduates from the Cayman GT4 Clubsport with Slidesports.
Looking to make the most of their Pro-Am2 experience will be Shamus Jennings (G-Cat Racing), Iain Dockerill (Asset Advantage Racing) and Peter Parsons (The Race Car Centre), all three category podium finishers in 2016. However, favourite to take the honours remains Peter Kyle-Henney (IN2 Racing), the Chopard Fastest Lap winner of 2016 looking to go one step higher after his second place finishes in the category championship in 2016 and 2014.
At the first official tests of the season, on Silverstone’s National circuit and at Donington Park, times looked tighter than ever with fractions separating each car. While the Pro category returnees will undoubtedly go into Friday free practice at Brands Hatch with the advantage of experience, several factors could see that rapidly eroded by the newcomers. An increased tyre allowance (up to three new sets per weekend and a maximum of 24 over the course of the season) may affect the dynamic of qualifying, while points are no longer awarded for pole position or fastest lap.
In both Pro-Am1 and Pro-Am2 categories, times were hard to monitor as various Pro category drivers swapped in and out of cars to help team mates with their pre-season preparations.
Rounds one and two will take place on Sunday 2 April at 10.00 (rolling start) and 15.40 (standing start) respectively, with live coverage of round two on ITV4. Follow the battles at @CarreraCupGB on Twitter and @carreracupgb on Instagram.
(c) images courtesy of Porsche Carrera Cup GB