In 2010, the FIA GT1 World and GT3 European championships were the first series to use the redeveloped ‘Arena’ track layout at Silverstone. And this year, the teams, fans and media of these championships were the first to experience the dramatic ‘Wing’ building that houses the brand-new pit garages, hospitality suites and media centre. Of course, both of these ‘first looks’ served as dry runs for the British Formula 1 Grand Prix that followed several weeks afterward, and the occasional teething problem or unresolved detail did manifest itself at various points over the weekend. But the overriding sense is that Silverstone is firmly on the right track, and showing the flashy Asian and Middle Eastern venues that there’s life in motorsport’s ‘Old World’ yet. This is particularly important in light of the FIA’s recent on-again, off-again Bahrain Grand Prix debacle, but at Silverstone this year the main point of conversation was another FIA decision, which came to light mid-way through the weekend.
One issue that has now been resolved is the future of the GT1 category, which, as expected, is going to involve some compromise. From next year, the GT1 World Championship becomes simply the GT World Championship, open to a performance-balanced combination of GT1, ‘old’ GT2 and GT3 machinery. It seems likely, however, that the bulk of the grid will be made up of GT3 cars, such as the new privateer’s favourite the Mercedes SLS and the GT3 version of Nissan’s GT-R. It’s not the vision Stephane Ratel set out at the beginning of 2010, but the mercurial Frenchman does still have a lot to be happy about. His new Blancpain-sponsored endurance series for GT3 cars has been a roaring success, and the GT3 European Series continues to attract healthy grids. However, it seems the combined might of the FIA and the ACO will serve to prevent him laying claim to the true top flight of global GT racing, as he has wanted to do for so long.
All images: Ed Fahey