Two years ago, we wondered if the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic might subdue manufacturer support of top-level motor sport: The answer is now clear.

A capacity grid of 36 GT3 and GT4 cars, from eight different marques and featuring eight of the world’s top factory-backed drivers arrives at Oulton Park this Easter weekend as season 31 of the British GT Championship gets underway with a remarkable ensemble of talent and machinery.

Race winners and champions are in abundance in both catagories; homespun heroes such as Jonny Adam, Rob Bell, Dan Harper and Sandy Mitchell being pitched against the cream of Europe, in the guise of Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon and Marvin Kirchhoefer. Such is the quality of the professionals right throughout the GT3 grid that the only prediction worth making is that the view from the bankings and grandstands will be nothing short of sensational.

With cars and professionals so tightly matched, the race to the title will undoubtedly fall to the Am’s to be settled. 2022 champion Ian Loggie looks most likely on paper but just one wayward moment and a DNF could change everything … which is why we’re going to suggest that the Barwell Lamborghini of Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell may well be the car to watch. Balfe has always been one of the fastest and most consistent amateur drivers whichever car he’s driven, but has so often been constrained by the demands of running his family team. Now, he’s free of those burdens and partnered with Mitchell (2020 champion with Rob Collard), he may well make the difference.

Loggie was fired-up and fastest during the morning's Media Day test session.

GT4 is also populated by former champions, but here, mostly young professionals rising from single-make series’. DTO’s former Ginetta Junior pairing of Josh Rowledge & Aston Millar (in the new McLaren Artura) will be expected to make a swift transition to Pirelli’s slicks, whilst another former Junior pairing, Seb Hopkins & Josh Miller, both with a year’s GT4 experience behind them should prove their pace in the R Racing Aston Martin.

As well as teenage talent, there’s plenty of pedigree lining-up in GT4 too. 2020 champion Dan Vaughan returns, partnering with the grid’s youngest driver Zac Meakin in the Team Parker Racing Porsche. Academy’s Matt Nicoll-Jones was the very first GT4 champion back in 2008, and will be quick from the start with another returnee, Will Moore in the Mustang. Also back for another year is Academy’s serial race-winner Matt Cowley, this year paired with former US single seater contender Erik Evans. It will be a steep learning curve for the young American (who made a one-off appearance in British GT last year) but Cowley’s pace and tutelage will stand the pair in good stead.

The R Racing Vantage was twice a winner with Miller last year. Hopkins will be looking to add his experience to a serious title push.

We’ll be reporting on all the action, GT3 and GT4 throughout the season, and as a taster of what’s in store, here’s a selection of images from last month’s Media Day test.

If ‘quality’ and speed are your things, then you’re in the right place, because this is likely to develop into one of the finest years of racing we’ve seen for a long time; and it’s one that you don’t want to miss. If you can attend any of the rounds and stand by the fence as these magnificent machines, piloted by the best of the best duel with pace and precision, then do it. If you can’t, then watch the action unfold live, either via SRO’s YouTube channel, or Sky Sports. Whichever way you choose, just don’t miss it.


All images: Steve Hindle