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Opinion

How 'regrouping' Ginetta aims to consolidate its UK motorsport status

OPINION: Despite sheer statistics painting a different picture, there's scope for optimism at Ginetta as the British sportscar manufacturer negotiates its future outside the TOCA umbrella

Reza Seewooruthun,  R Racing Ginetta Junior

This was always going to be a far from straightforward year for Ginetta, a stalwart of the UK national racing scene.

The Yorkshire manufacturer not only revamped its portfolio of series for 2023 (axing the GT4 Supercup and merging the GT5 Challenge into a new GT championship), but it also ended its 15-season association with British Touring Car organiser TOCA and committed to running solely at British GT events. Such wide-sweeping changes inevitably bring challenges, even without them coinciding with a cost-of-living crisis that has resulted in many organisers seeing a reduction in entries. It is therefore no surprise Ginetta numbers have been down, too.

Even ignoring last month’s Cadwell Park G Fest event that attracted just 33 cars across the three championships – something Ginetta fully expected given the trepidation with which some view the Lincolnshire venue – the figures, on the surface, still do not make for great reading.

Ginetta Junior has averaged 19 cars, down 17% on last year, while GT Academy fields have plummeted, falling from 28 to 15 this season so far. Then the fledgling GT Championship has attracted 16 drivers on average. It is a far cry from the Ginetta numbers just a few years ago – take the pre-pandemic statistics from 2019, when there were 90 drivers as the cumulative average across the four categories operating back then, spearheaded by 29 in the GT5 Challenge.

However, dig a little deeper into this year’s grid sizes and there are some reasons for optimism. Take the Ginetta Junior figures. Only three drivers have remained from last season, with many of the rest either progressing up the racing ladder or now being too old to continue in the junior ranks.

Therefore, an impressive 17 rookies have joined the series in 2023 and, if a decent percentage stick around for a sophomore campaign, then next year is looking brighter. Similarly, with the GT Pro division of the GT championship, it is worth bearing in mind this is a new series and it can take time for momentum to build.

“GT Pro is picking up nicely,” says Ginetta’s head of motorsport Mike Simpson. “We’ve got a lot of cars in build and we’re testing a few clients per week on average.”

Ginetta Junior grids are down 17% on last year, but feature an impressive 17 rookies

Ginetta Junior grids are down 17% on last year, but feature an impressive 17 rookies

Photo by: Motorsport Images

While the loss of the large trackside audiences and live mainstream TV coverage that racing on the BTCC bill brings could be another factor in the reduction in Junior entries, it does not explain the huge decrease in GT Academy. But Simpson says it is worth taking last year’s burgeoning grids with a pinch of a salt.

“We hit it straight after COVID and people had cash and they bought cars,” he explains. “Grids are generally tailing off now – it’s a tough world out there.”

It is reassuring Simpson and Ginetta recognise it has not been the greatest of years and are now working hard to improve for next season, Simpson talking of a long-term plan to boost grids.

“Our job now is we have to listen, we need to regroup and grow from here,” he says. “We’ve had a year of listening and working hard with our drivers and teams on how we can refill the hopper.”

"Our objective is when you think of going racing, we want Ginetta to be the brand that you give a call to start that – whether it’s a taster day, or a full driver development programme" Mike Simpson

Lots of little tweaks are planned, which may not seem particularly revolutionary, but should all help. For example, there has been feedback that the eight-round GT Academy schedule is too intense for an entry-level series.

“Six British GT events plus two extra ones was a lot when the GT Academy drivers can be quite time poor,” admits Simpson. “It’s seven weekends next year with only six counting towards the championship.”

Similarly, the tyre situation is also being assessed. Previously, the category’s G56s have run on standard road tyres to keep costs down and reduce the chances of locking up. “The tyre’s not designed to be driven flat out for a long time so we’re going to give it more track focus next year and it will still be road legal,” adds Simpson.

Rookies will also now be able to race for other teams rather than the current situation of being obliged to drive for Ginetta’s Want2Race arm.

Ginetta has been eager to listen to feedback to make its series more appealing to customers

Ginetta has been eager to listen to feedback to make its series more appealing to customers

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Another change is a new partnership with the British Racing & Sports Car Club, following the end to Ginetta’s long association with the British Automobile Racing Club. Given the BRSCC operates the British GT events, while BARC looks after BTCC, it makes sense – especially as the BRSCC has already helped provide Ginetta officials this season.

Amid all the changes, Simpson still believes Ginetta has an important role to play in UK motorsport and remains committed to the cause, saying it “upped the ante on the hospitality side” this season as it continues to develop.

“Our objective is when you think of going racing, we want Ginetta to be the brand that you give a call to start that – whether it’s a taster day, or a full driver development programme,” he says. “We’ve looked at what’s not been so successful this year and we have a two-five year plan to grow.”

Success stories such as former GTA racer Darren Leung now being in British GT title contention prove the continued value of the Ginetta ladder. It may have not been smooth sailing this year, but there are clearly still reasons for optimism about Ginetta’s motorsport future.

Ginetta is enacting changes, such as increasing the performance of its tyres and ensuring that rookies can drive for teams other than its own W2R squad

Ginetta is enacting changes, such as increasing the performance of its tyres and ensuring that rookies can drive for teams other than its own W2R squad

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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