After a year off in 2020, the British GT Championship will return to the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the fourth round of the season. Exclusive tyre supplier for the championship Pirelli will again play a crucial role in the outcome of the race around the 7.004km track, one of the most demanding in the global motorsport calendar.
As part of the SRO Speedweek, the British championship acts as something of a curtain-raiser for next weekend’s jewel-in-the-crown 24 Hours of Spa, in which Pirelli will also be the exclusive tyre partner for the latest round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season at the same venue.
After making his debut last year, the GT3 competitors will again use Pirelli’s P Zero DHE tyre: an evolution of the previous DHD2, with modifications designed to make it even more versatile for the wide variety of GT3 cars and drivers that use it.
The P Zero DHB will again equip the GT4 class cars this year, having replaced the outgoing DH at the start of 2020.
The Cinturato WH tyres remain in place for wet weather. All the tyres have been designed to work with a variety of car set-ups and drivers, delivering maximum performance 100% of the time.
Spa-Francorchamps has a bit of everything and is renowned for its demanding nature on both the car and the tyres. It has a mix of heavy braking zones, most notably at the end of the Kemmel Straight for Les Combes and the Bus Stop chicane towards the end of the lap and the first corner as well as a number of high-speed, long radius corners such as l’Eau Rouge de Raidillon, Pouhon and Blanchimont.
With this in mind, the tyres take a lot of pressure throughout what is the longest lap of the year, with the right-hand side taking the majority of the load during the lap, particularly in the final sector.
As ever with the Ardennes circuit, weather – even during the summer months – can be very unpredictable and downpours are a common occurrence. Such is the length and undulation of the track, some parts can be soaked with water while others remain dry, meaning that choosing the correct tyre at the right time is crucial.
Following a dramatic weekend at Donington Park last time out, the title battle is evenly poised in the GT3 class, with Beachdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam tied on 67.5 points with the Ram Racing Mercedes of Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman, while the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini pairing of defending champion Sandy Mitchell and Adam Balon are level on 52.5 points with Donington winners Sam and Richard Neary (Team Abba Racing Mercedes).
Making its first appearance since 2012 is the German team Leipert Motorsport, which will field a Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo for Kiwi Brendon Leitch and German Fidel Leib.
After another triumph at Donington, Will Burns and Gus Burton (Century Motorsport BMW) head to Spa-Francorchamps with a healthy lead in the GT4 standings. Their team-mates Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Chris Salkeld are second in the points, while Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding (Steller Motorsport Audi) are third. There are 11 GT4 entries this weekend, spanning seven brands.
Jonathan Wells, Pirelli UK motorsport manager: “Spa-Francorchamps is an iconic circuit in world motorsport and certainly will throw up more than its fair share of challenges for the teams this weekend. This will be the first time the championship has raced here since 2019 and, therefore, the first time with the new Pirelli P Zero DHE and DHB tyres. So, it will be a little bit of a learning weekend for a lot of teams out there. That said, they know the tyres and we are very happy with how they have performed over the past year now, so we don’t anticipate any surprises this weekend. As for the track itself, there are a number of key areas where the tyres will be pushed to their limits, for example through the sweeping Eau Rouge section at the start of the lap, where the lateral load is high. Then there’s a lot of long-radius corners which puts a lot of stress of the tyres so preservation will be key here. Naturally, you can’t talk about Spa without keeping one eye on the weather, and sadly we know just how bad the rain can be in this part of the country given the terrible flooding in recent weeks. From a racing point of view, tyre selection will be important as it always is, but knowing which tyre to put on and when is the tricky aspect.”