The Countdown is on!

The countdown is on! 01

The winter break never lasts long in motorsport. In just the second week of the New Year, the Autosport International show in Birmingham serves as a preview to the season ahead, catering to both the motorsport trade and to the general public.

For Pirelli, a prominent exhibitor at the event, it’s a chance to showcase its motorsport activities and its high performance products as it prepares for another busy season.

The pinnacle of motorsport, and Pirelli’s participation in it, is of course Formula 1® , and this is always a popular aspect to the show with appearances from drivers and teams and displays of classic and contemporary cars. The F1® tyres will only be a part of Pirelli’s display however, as it also celebrates its growing involvement in the British motorsport scene.

The 2016 season was a big one for Pirelli in UK competition, particularly as the first year of its new deal to exclusively supply the British GT Championship. Another exciting season is in store in 2017, with the news that high-performance models from Ferrari and Mercedes will join the grid to take the fight to the Aston Martin Vantage GT3, which won the 2016 series and will be on display on the Pirelli stand in Birmingham. 

One of the Aston Martin’s title-winning drivers, Derek Johnston, will be another of the drivers taking part in Q&A sessions, describing his championship success and his career so far. Other GT stars on stage will be the Spa 24 Hours winner and factory BMW driver Alexander Sims, and the GT Cup champion Jordan Witt.

Pirelli will also be continuing to supply the GT Cup in 2017 after renewing its long-standing relationship with organiser Bute Motorsport. This will also extend to the championship’s exciting new sister series, the Prototype Cup, which will hold its first season in 2017 following a successful launch race at  Snetterton in October. The series’ LMP3 car, intended as a stepping-stone for teams and drivers wanting to compete in the famous endurance race at Le Mans, will be a newcomer to the Pirelli stand. 

Joining the GT and prototype machinery, single-seaters will be represented by the BRDC British Formula 3 car, introduced in 2016 and part of Pirelli’s commitment to supporting the next generation of racing talent. This also includes its backing of the F1® feeder series GP2 and GP3.

Alexander Sims
After showing promise racing single-seaters, Alexander Sims has gone on to become a leading GT driver and won the Spa 24 Hours in 2016 in his role as a factory driver for BMW.

Sims was highlighted early in his career as a driver to watch, wining the coveted McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2008. After race wins in Formula 3 he was a title contender in the Pirelli-supported GP3 Series in 2011.

In 2012, Sims became a factory GT driver with McLaren, and in 2014 he joined BMW. He competed with the German manufacturer in British GT in 2014-15, winning four races, and in 2016 focused his efforts on the Pirelli-equipped Blancpain GT Series and won its biggest race, the Spa 24 Hours in a BMW M6 GT3. 

He also continued to compete in British GT, and has remained involved with single-seaters, contesting the Macau Grand Prix in November on Pirelli tyres after finishing on the podium in the 2015 event.

Derek Johnston
Derek Johnston has entered motor racing later in life than many, but within a decade has claimed an impressive amount of silverware, culminating with the British GT crown in 2016. 

He started out in the Radical Cup in 2007 in a Radical SR8, coming second in his first season and then claiming back-to-back titles over the next two years. His performances even earned him a drive in the 2010 Daytona 24 Hours through winning the Sunoco Challenge. 

In 2011 Johnston was a champion in the Pirelli Ferrari Open, then in the GT Cup in 2012, also on Pirelli tyres. He began his adventure in the British GT Championship in 2013, showing improvement year-on-year to claim his maiden victory in the final race of 2015.

For 2016, as Pirelli began to exclusively equip the British GT Championship, Johnston joined forces with the reigning champion Jonny Adam in a TF Sport-run Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and the pair were strong contenders from the start, winning the opening races at Brands Hatch and Rockingham. 

Johnston’s speed would prove crucial in the title decider at Donington Park, qualifying the car on pole position and opening up a large lead in the first stint of the race, with their main rival spinning out in their attempts to keep up, allowing Adam to bring the car home in a safe second to wrap up the title. In 2017, they will look to defend the crown.

The countdown is on! 02

Jordan Witt
Jordan Witt is an up-and-coming figure in GT racing, and really made a name for himself in 2016 with a string of impressive displays on his way to winning the GT Cup.

He began his career winning a championship title in his first season in 2010 behind the wheel of a Renault Megane, and then moved into GT racing with Chevron, winning the GTC class in British GT alongside experienced racer Anthony Reid in 2011 and taking victories on Pirelli tyres in the GT Cup in 2012 and 2013.

He was also a winner in the series in 2014 as he switched to racing a Porsche Cup car, before further success with Chevron in the European GT4 Series in 2015.

For 2016, Witt returned to the GT Cup on a full-time basis with a new Bentley Continental GT3 and proved to be the driver to beat, winning numerous races and claiming class and overall titles. He hopes to use his success in the championship as a launchpad, potentially into British GT.

Read more