Pirelli Gears Up For British GT Season Opener At Brands Hatch

The Brands Hatch circuit in Kent plays host to the start of the 29th season of the British GT Championship this weekend, with a grid of 26 cars, exclusively equipped with Pirelli tyres across GT3 and GT4 set to do battle.

After securing his maiden British GT title last year, Barwell Motorsport’s Sandy Mitchell is looking to become just the second driver in the championship’s history – after fellow Scot Jonny Adam – to retain his title.

That attempt begins with the first of nine rounds in 2021, with a two-hour endurance race on Brands Hatch’s Grand Prix circuit a demanding test on the opening weekend. Even better for the competitors will be the chance to race in front of spectators for the first time since 2019, with the easing of COVID restrictions allowing a maximum of 4,000 people to attend the circuit this weekend.

The challenge

Brands Hatch is a demanding track with a bit of everything, from a tight and twisty opening sector to the faster and more open grand prix loop.

Under the bridge at Pilgrims Drop, the cars reach their top speeds, with the biggest challenge for the tyres coming through the combination of fast right-hand corners at Hawthorns, Westfield and Sheene.

The tyres

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.

Competitors: GT3

There are 14 cars battling for overall honours in GT3 this weekend, with defending champion Mitchell teaming up with Adam Balon for the first time in the #1 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo. Across the garage, Dennis Lind will partner Leo Machitski, while the driver with the most British GT race wins, Phil Keen, has moved to WPI Motorsport to partner Michael Igoe.

The most successful British GT driver of all time, Jonny Adam, returns for a title assault in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage alongside Andrew Howard, having made a one-off appearance at Brands Hatch last season. The pair claimed the championship together in 2015.

Ram Racing returns with two Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars for Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie, plus Sam de Haan and James Cottingham, while Scott Malvern and Nick Jones have switched from Bentley to a Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Competitors: GT4

Last year’s drivers’ and teams’ champions TF Sport will not contest GT4 this season, meaning that two new champions for 2021 are guaranteed. After competing in GT3 last year, Team Rocket RJN will run three McLaren 570S cars this season, with James Kell and Jordan Collard leading the line-up.

The Century Motorsport BMWs and Toyota Gazoo Racing UK GR Supras performed well in the latter half of the 2020 season and should be in the mix for race wins and a title fight.

There are 12 entries across nine teams and seven brands represented in GT4 this season, so the competition should be varied and fierce over the nine-round season.

Rule tweaks for 2021

Driver changes during each race are now ‘free’, meaning that a crew can switch drivers as often as they like. But these must fit in with the minimum and maximum drive times for each car, with GT3 and GT Cup class drivers required to spend 62 minutes in the car, while in GT4 the minimum time is 58 minutes. The maximum drive time for both classes is 70 minutes.

Pit-stop success penalties are not applicable for the opening round, and the mandatory pit-stop times remain the same for this season: 115 seconds in GT3 and 145 seconds in GT4.

Jonathan Wells, Pirelli UK motorsport manager: “After an incredibly challenging 2020 season, we’re delighted to get back to racing this weekend, particularly with such a strong entry. Brands Hatch has its own unique challenges for the drivers but it’s a track which actually helps the tyres quite a lot, due to the natural undulations of the circuit. Paddock Hill Bend allows drivers to carry a lot of speed into it as the entry is quite wide. The Druids Hairpin is obviously the slowest corner, but the front axle is less loaded than many people image as it’s such an uphill gradient on entry. The hardest section for the tyres is the high-speed section from Hawthorns round to Sheene Curve, just because the tyres on the left are leant on for so long. Stirlings, although tight, is another very quick corner, as it’s naturally cambered towards the apex. So, it’s a track where the drivers can really exploit the full performance of their cars and our latest tyres.”

2021 British GT Championship Calendar

Round 1: Brands Hatch GP, 22-23 May
Round 2: Silverstone 500, 26-27 June
Round 3: Donington Park GP, 10-11 July
Round 4: Spa-Francorchamps, 24-25 July
Round 5: Snetterton 300, 7-8 August
Round 6: Oulton Park, 11-12 September
Round 7: Donington Park GP, 16-17 October