For the very first time the drivers and teams of the Competition102 GT4 European Series were challenged by a three-hour endurance race. They joined the British GT Championship for the Silverstone 500 event and the field was made up of 51 GT3 and GT4 competitors. After practice and qualifying on a dry track on Saturday, the race was held under wet conditions; making the task of finishing first more difficult. PROsport Performance came out on top, scoring a 1-2 in the PRO division and taking first place in the AM category.
In between the sessions there were more stories to be told, like AM class leaders Allied Racing who are aiming to extend the team’s operations within the GT4 European Series, Liesette Braams who made her comeback, Bernhard van Oranje who will be competing with a LMP3 car in the support race of the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans and the British GT Championship leaders speaking about their European rivals and characteristics of their Ginetta G55 GT4.
Jan Kasperlik and Dietmar Lackinger find themselves on top of the AM championship’s standings. Despite retiring from the three-hour race at Silverstone with five minutes left on the clock, the Allied Racing drivers are surprised to be AM class leaders and are aiming to expand the team’s operations.
“It’s so promising to see us performing so well with the old fashion BMW M3 GT4. The car still delivers good pace and if you are a little bit brave it’s also very competitive,” Kasperlik said. “I’m a little bit surprised we are standing on top of the championship’s AM standings and we will definitely try to stay there.”
Kasperlik enjoys the increased competition within the series, but needed to get used to the large combined field with the competitors of the British GT Championship. They now had to keep track of 50 competitors. “It’s one of the new issues indeed, having so many cars racing. You have to keep an eye on what happens at the front but also behind you. The GT3 cars are faster, especially on a dry track and they have ESP, traction control and such things,” he explained.
The team’s second vehicle did not compete at Silverstone, but it’s likely that the sister car will be back on track during the next round at Spa-Francorchamps. “The interest in the second car is quite high. We could have rented it to someone, but the team and the mechanics they are not prepared to operate two cars yet. For Spa it’s different, then we’ll have more mechanics,” Kasperlik said.
The target is clear: securing the AM title in the remaining three rounds. “Our new aim is securing that title. And for next year we’re exploring opportunities; perhaps a new car, we don’t know yet. But we will stay in the series because moneywise it’s doable as we don’t have a big sponsor. We do everything ourselves, supported by our workshop,” he said.
“However, the team is growing, the energy and spirit are growing and everyone is doing this passionately and that’s amazing to see,” Kasperlik concluded.
Liesette Braams, a regular competitor of the Competition102 GT4 European Series, made her comeback in the championship. The Dutch driver formed a team with the experienced race car driver Frans Verschuur and piloted the BMW M3 GT4 during the Silverstone 500.
Despite difficult weather conditions, Braams stayed out of trouble and was set to finish in an encouraging position. But sadly debris on track hit the oil cooler and therefore the two drivers were forced to retire.
“It was great to get back behind the wheel. I think Frans and I did well. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the finish, but we must have been able to finish ninth in the GT4 class,” Braams responded.
Braams has seen many tracks in her recent history with the Competition102 GT4 European Series, but the British circuit was new to her. “I enjoyed the weekend which included many challenges. I had never driven at Silverstone and it wasn’t particularly easy to race at a wet track with tyres I did not compete with previously. It was therefore not a shame to not finish on the podium this time,” she added.
It’s not sure when Braams will be competing again. However, the Dutch driver keeps strong while undergoing medical treatment and hopes to be back later this year. “Unfortunately I have to undergo another surgery, but hopefully I’m able to prepare my next race very soon,” Braams confirmed.
Van Oranje to participate in ‘Road to Le Mans’
Former championship winner Bernhard van Oranje is set to make its debut at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe in France. Together with Dutch veteran and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Jan Lammers, the Racing Team Holland driver participates in the ‘Road to Le Mans’ race, which is a support programme of the prestigious long distance race.
“It went quite spontaneous. Jan, a good friend, approached me and Le Mans stands high on my bucket list. For that reason, I’m eagerly participating in the support programme ‘Road to Le Mans’. The registration deadline followed quickly, so there was little time to think about it,” Van Oranje explained.
The Dutchman competes in the Competition GT4 European Series with the Ekris M4 GT4, which he shares with Ricardo van der Ende. The GT4 vehicle is logically very different to the Le Mans prototype. He was able to drive his first laps at Circuit Park Zandvoort in front of over 100,000 spectators during the ‘Max Verstappen family race days’. “Let alone the sound. That’s even more impressive from the inside,” Van Oranje smiled. “The LMP3 is very pure racing, no power-assisted steering, no ABS and just driving with a lot of downforce. I’m not used to that, so I needed to adjust myself accordingly. But it’s really cool and fun to drive.”
Van Oranje can’t wait to taste the Le Mans atmosphere and to race in front of a large crowd. “It’s great to be part of the spectacle, to see 300,000 fans along the track and to race such car at this legendary circuit,” he said. Asking about his ambitions to race during the main event, he answered: “It would be great to be able to participate one day.”
A welcome addition
Although not racing them directly, the drivers of the Competition102 GT4 European Series watched their British GT4 counterparts closely at Silverstone. A total of 33 GT4 vehicles entered the 51 car field. Among them were Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, PRO/AM leaders of the GT4 class in the British GT Championship.
The British drivers competed with the Ginetta G55 GT4 for Optimum Motorsport and collected most points during three out of five rounds this season. The Ginetta isn’t a common vehicle in the European championship and therefore most competitors were reminded by the car’s different characteristics.
“There are a lot of differences”, said Johnson. “The European cars are significantly faster on the straight line than us, but we can corner quicker. After we tap our way into a corner, we can’t carry on with the pace so at the next straight we lose sight of them. So it’s definitely a different challenge. But it makes everything quite interesting.”
Team mate Robinson explained that the Silverstone round was expected to be a challenge, not only because of the arrival of the European GT4 race car drivers. “Even in our own championship the car isn’t really suitable here as there are a lot of long straights. We look forward to a bit tighter and twisty tracks coming our way, but I suppose it’s part of the championship; circuits suit different cars. For example we had a good result in Oulton Park, which suits the Ginetta, so we try to maximise where we know we are strong and here we are trying to limit the damage.”
The Competition102 GT4 European Championship and the British GT Championship will compete together at Spa-Francorchamps as well, another track where the drivers need horsepower. “We’re going to get screwed,” Johnson laughed. “But we can do a lot of parts flat where other drivers would dream to go flat in.”
“It’s nice to have the European GT4 drivers on the circuit,” Robinson added. “The plan is to stay out of trouble during the endurance races. I don’t think you need to be fast, you need to be relatively competitive and finish every lap. If you do that, you can get a good result, I can guarantee.”
Next race at Spa-Francorchamps
The next race will be held at the Formula 1 track of Spa-Francorchamps on 9 July were the Competition102 GT4 European Series again joins the British GT Championship. This will be a two-hour endurance race.