The 2018 GT4 European series will be contested over 6 rounds supporting the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup. After various iterations of provisional calendars the 6 rounds were confirmed as Zolder in Belgium, Brands Hatch in Great Britain, Misano in Italy, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Hungaroring in Hungary and The Nurburgring in Germany.
Zolder 7th & 8th April
Zolder is a historic track situated in Belgium. With a rich history of top-tier racing, from Formula 1 to tin-tops and sports cars, Zolder is often a common feature on many series’ calendars. Zolder offers a great challenge of both high speeds and technical corners.
Modified in recent years, the circuit still offers very fast straights mixed in with both tight chicanes and long sweeping corners. Coupled with the various undulations, it’s a circuit requires the driver to understand the balance of the car and keep it settled for the fast turn in speeds but ensure a steady exit speed to make the most of the fast straights that follow.
This will be the first time the GT4 European series has been to Zolder in its current denomination so there may well be a learning curve for some, especially being the first race of the season.
Brands Hatch 5th & 6th May
One of the most famous race circuits on the planet, the 2.43 mile Brands Hatch was described as “the best circuit in the world” by Gerhard Berger. Using the extended GP layout, the GT4 cars will blast through the tight, undulating first sector before turning left into the woods for the extended layout. Long straights and fast right handers await here before the left at Stirlings that takes you back to the Indy track. Through the GP loop, there are plenty of overtaking opportunities, but they require major commitment and a lot of bravery.
Last year the races were dominated by the Ginetta G55 GT4s. With the introduction of the Audi and the massively powerful Mercedes-AMG GT4, it will be a challenge up at the front to maintain the lead with the slipstream and big power making a charge. Staying nimble through the Indy loop and maintaining a defensive line through the woodland area will be key to holding the position around the track.
Misano 23rd & 24th June
Misano is primarily known as a motorbike circuit, with the narrow track making it a challenge for GT cars. It features of fast straights leading into tight corners and long hairpins, with the wider exits allowing different lines to be taken through the corners and encourage overtaking.
Situated on the coast next to the Adriatic Sea, Misano has a beautiful setting. The GT4 European Series last raced here in October 2015 and saw two very different races thanks to the weather. With the 2018 meeting being in the back end of June, we expected the weather to be dry and hope the on track action will prove as hot as the Italian summer sunshine.
Spa 21st & 22nd July
The biggest race of the season takes place at Spa-Francorchamps as part of the Blancpain Spa Speed Week. Huge challenges await the drivers around the 4.3 mile track. Drivers must get the best possible exit from the tight La Source hairpin for the long run down to the daunting Eau Rouge. Getting the perfect line up the hill over Raidillon and keeping the throttle as flat as you dare to get the fastest possible top speed down the Kemmel straight. Here, the focus is on raw power from the engine and using the slipstream from the driver in front to gain a speed advantage and hopefully challenge down to Les Combes. Again, towards the end of the lap, a good run out of Stavelot to carry as much speed through Blanchimont to the heavy braking for the Bus Stop chicane at the end the lap.
A big favourite for both fans and drivers; the circuit is a challenge for the drivers but also provides a great spectacle for the visiting fans. This will certainly be the biggest race of the season and the one to watch.
Hungary 1st & 2nd September
The Hungaroring is a tough circuit to go racing on. Relatively underused, it is often dusty and dirty at the start of the race weekend with it becoming faster the more running is done on it. The circuit surface is very rough with a lot of bumps in several places making following and passing difficult due to stability. The circuit is very heavy on the technical aspects on driving requiring a good chassis with plenty of mechanical grip to get through the technical twisties.
GT4 last raced here in 2016 with strong performances from the Porsche Cayman. The same will be expected with the mid-engine layout and strong chassis. However, the Audi R8 will be very likely to be excellent competition.
Nurburgring 15th & 16th September
The GT4 cars will race on the GP circuit at the final meeting of the season. A good challenging course for the drivers providing slow, tight corners and plenty of fast flowing sections too there are limited overtaking opportunities but the track does promote tight racing through the pack.
Obviously, in the shadow of the legendary Nordschleife, the GP-Strecke is a modern facility meeting and exceeding many safety regulations with state of the art hospitality to boot. The race could take on some serious meaning with it being the last round of the season so championships could well be up for grabs!
Cars and Teams
With there being a total of 44 of cars entered from a range of marques such as Porsche, Aston Martin and Mercedes to Ginetta, KTM and Chevrolet, there is certainly a lot of variety on the GT4 grid with every car having its pros and cons to be considered when setting up for any track.
The GT4 cars are often referred to as track day cars as they are very close to their road-going counterparts; designed to be relatively cheap to access for gentleman drivers. The cars are run to a balance of performance to ensure good close racing and a fairly level playing field. Once the cars are homologated, development is frozen which prevents any costly development wars from breaking out and also keeps the focus on the drivers and teams finding the most performance possible from their cars.
We will have a run through the cars entered in this year’s GT4 European Series and look at what they have going for them.
Mercedes AMG GT4
An AMG 4L V8 with two turbos bolted onto it sit underneath the large hood that stretches out in front of the driver and produces an evil, deep warble as it powers past you. Designed to be easy to drive for the gentlemen drivers; the AMG GT4 may be found to be lacking on the straights thanks to restrictions for BoP but has been designed with this in mind so features some mighty powerful brakes to allow for that extra 10m of power before hitting the braking zone which will pay real dividends throughout the year.
Going in to round 1 of the series, there are four teams who have made use of the Mercedes AMG GT4. They are Leipert Motorsport of Germany with one car, the number 2. Selleslagh Racing Team of Belgium entering with 3 cars, numbers 30, 31 and 32. Bullitt racing of Spain enter with the number 33 and Lechner Racing Team of Austria enter with the number 47.
Aston Martin Vantage GT4
A staple of any GT grid, the Vantage GT4 features the classic 4.7L V8 up front along with a whole host of racing equipment to make this undoubtedly one of the most successful GT cars created. The naturally aspirated engine along with Aston’s 7 speed semi-auto gearbox will give the car great consistency of power especially through tight technical corners and longer, more consistent corners.
Given the popularity of the Aston Martin brand in GT racing, only two teams have taken up the Vantage going into round one at Zolder. Street Art Racing of Belgium enter one car, the number 7, while Academy of Great Britain have entered a 2 car effort, taking numbers 60 & 61.
Audi R8 LMS GT4
The introduction of the Audi R8 LMS GT4 has been hailed as a potential game changer and a lot of eyes will certainly be on the 4 rings. Featuring the signature 5.2L V10 beast in the middle of the car, it will certainly be on top when it comes to chassis balance. However, with the Quattro system being banned in GT4, Audi is using a 7 speed double clutch auto connected to a rear wheel drive system through a mechanical limited slip diff.
Combining both power and poise the R8 is certainly a contender to be considered. There are currently two teams entered; Phoenix Racing of Germany with a strong 4-car entry taking numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6 alongside Racing One, also of Germany, entering two cars taking numbers 16 and 77.
BMW M4 GT4
The development of the BMW M4 GT4 has been heavily based on mileage, efficiency and reliability making it perfectly suitable for entering into GT4 cost wise. It isn’t just about the figures though, the M4 will undoubtedly remain competitive; BMW know how to build a race car!
There are five entries using the M4 GT4 going into round 1. MDM Motorsport of Netherlands enter with two cars taking numbers 1 and 8. Borusan Otomotive Motorsport from Turkey enter with just one entry; number 12. 3Y Technology from France have a three car strong entry taking numbers 37, 38 and 39. W&D Racing Team from San Marino enter with the number 71 and finally RN Vision STS of Germany enter with a team of three cars using numbers 110, 111, 112.
Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R
Bringing some American muscle to GT, the Camaro GT4.R brings its honking 6.2-litre V8 mated to the Camaro’s rear wheels via a six-speed sequential transmission and a limited-slip differential. With the road going ZL1 1LE being built with the racing car in mind, the dimensions are very similar with essential aero modifications to the diffuser and rear wing being the main difference. The already large measurements of the American muscle beast will give the Camaro real presence on the track.
Only V8 Racing of the Netherlands are entering with a two-car effort, taking numbers 9 and 18.
Ginetta G55 GT4
The classic British GT manufacturer Ginetta brings the G55 to the GT4 grid. Powered by a modest 3.7L Ford V6, the big party piece is its weight – the lack of it at just 1085kg. It be left wanting on some power sections but the G55 will come into its own when the going gets technical being able to carry its momentum well.
There are two teams entering with the G55 GT4 starting with the all British effort HHC Motorsport entering the car numbered 55 and CMR from just over the channel in France bring 2 cars numbered 26 and 36.
KTM X-Bow GT4
The first dedicated foray into four-wheeled motorsport for the Austrian manufacturer is with the X Bow GT4 – possibly one of the most unusual entries into the series. Powered by just a 2L VW TFSI engine producing roughly 316bhp and weighing only 790KG the X Bow GT4 will have to rely on the legendary track handling characteristics that many will be familiar with from the track car to keep up with the big boys on some power heavy tracks.
The X Bow GT4 will be entered by two German entrants with three cars altogether. True Racing with numbers 22 and 23 along with InternetX-Reiter taking number 24.
McLaren 570S GT4
Possibly the biggest name on the grid, the McLaren comes with an almost perfect balance of great handling and brilliant amounts of power. Powered by a 3.8L twin turbo V8, power certainly won’t be an issue and within a 570S chassis that is arguably one of the best around, the McLaren certainly looks like a formidable opponent on the grid.
Equipe Verschuur and Las Moras Racing by Equipe Verschuur both of Netherlands bring along two cars in total, number 10 for the Equipe Verschuur car and number 11 for the Las Moras Racing by Equipe Verschuur car. Team GT bring along two cars from Germany numbered 87 and 88.
Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR
Still keeping the 3.8L flat six engine, the Cayman may well be more of an entry-level car on the grid, the drivers will definitely be able to extract the most amount of performance possible from the car thanks to its sheer usability.
Schwede Motorsport of Germany will be entering with two Cayman GT4s on the grid taking numbers 13 and 15. Allied Racing also of Germany will be entering with two Cayman GT4s taking 42 and 43 with the French effort TFT Racing entering car number 222.