This week saw several teams head to Oulton Park for some pre-season testing. In attendance were United Autosports, Barwell Motorsport, AF Corse, Vita4one Italy, 888 Optimum, CWS Racing and the Ginetta works team. Whilst there was no official timing system in place, we headed to the paddock to find out who was doing what and how.
Spotted in the pit-lane at the Oulton Park test, was Alaisdair McCaig, who narrowly missed out on championship glory at the end of last season, but alas, he wasn’t shaking-down any cars. The Scotsman has been assigned silver driver status by the SRO, which means if he wishes to enter the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT season, his car would be given a 65kg penalty ballast – something that would prove costly against such a competitive field. There is hope on the horizon for McCaig though, as he eyes other series, and may consider a move to the European Le Mans championship.
Joe Osborne believes that the 2013 season will see the biggest jump in performance for many years. He thinks it’ll come down to the balance of performance testing and subsequent limitations applied, plus the quality of the bronze graded gentleman drivers. The former European FIA GT4 champion, who laid down a time in the low range of 1m 36s during the Oulton Park test, estimates the pole position will be claimed at around 1:34.7 for the opening race of the season – weather permitting.
Top performer during the test day was the Vita4one Italy Ferrari 458 of Matteo Bobbi, who allegedly set a pace of 1:35.1 (allegedly because there was no official timings on the day). Team principle and British GT debutant Bobbi, who will be partnered by Jay Palmer for the 2013 season, set his time on brand new Avon tyres, but the car specifications were unknown (the Ferrari could have been in Blancpain specs from last year). The sister team of Michael Bertel’s German-based Vita4one outift, will be hoping to be setting the pace at the opening round of the season on Easter weekend, once the balance of performance testing has been completed.
Whilst on the topic of the 458 Ferrari, the AF Corse model of Aaron Scott and John Dhillon was sporting some upgrades, including a new rear spoiler, and splitter. Scott, who moved with his team-mate from Scuderia Vittoria at the beginning of the year, was enthused at the progress that Dhillon has made. Unofficially, the bronze ‘gentleman’ driver set a time in the low 1m 40s, an improvement of four seconds from last season, and a reflection of the progress Dhillion as made in just 11 months. AF Corse’s main objective for the test at Oulton Park and a future one at Rockingham next week, is to get accustomed to the 458 on Avon tyres, which is a new type of rubber for them.
Also finding Avon’s tyre a different proposition to what they’re used to, was Richard Abra and the Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage. Following a move from Britcar that uses Dunlop as it’s tyre supplier, Abra is now discovering the smaller peak operating window of the Avons, with the rear of the car particularly punishing on them. During a recent test at Snetterton, the Englishman also had an opportunity to try out the wet weather versions, and found them equally tough. With tests at Silverstone and Rockingham still to come, Abra is confident of finding the optimum from the new tyres, once he gets more laps under his belt.
Oli Bryant, who returns to the British GT Championship in the Eccurie Ecosse BMW, is pleased with the latest upgraded model the Barwell run team have received. This year the new Z4 comes with some aero updates in the form of a new spoiler and splitter, in addition to a higher revving engine (thanks to increased capacity of the exhaust inlet). On top of that, the handling has been adjusted by switching to KW dampers, and a new differential. Like many in the Oulton Park paddock, Bryant believes the key to success in 2013 will be the performance of the bronze drivers, so he is spending a lot of time getting his new co-driver, Marco Attard, up to speed with the nuances of the Z4.
United Autosports brought three cars to the Oulton Park test, one Audi R8 and a pair of Mclaren MP4-12s, accompanied by Zak Brown, Mark Patterson, Martin Brundell, Matt Bell and Richard Meins. However, their test day was marred, when Meins had a major collision with the tire barrier close to the Brittens chicane, which sent him to the medical centre with a suspected broken rib, and the Mclaren GT3 to the garage with major damage to it’s left side.
Although there was no Porsches at the test day, the new 997 that will be fielded by Trackspeed this season, was the talk of many in pit-lane. A new aero package, that adds down-force, should in theory slow the car down; but a reduction to the restrictor means the 997RS will have more engine grunt in 2013. This leaves many to wonder if the car will continue to hold the advantage in straight line speed, like it did last season.
Next week, the SRO will host it’s ‘balance of performance’ testing at Paul Ricard, where the British GT, Blancpain and FIA GT cars will be put through their paces against each other. Then depending on the results, adjustments such as ride-height changes, will be applied to help bring the cars in line with each other and make the field equal. Racing.GT will be there to bring you all the news and analysis on what is arguably the most important test session of the season.
For a gallery from the test click HERE