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A Journey to the Deep End: Racing for the British GT

Sailesh Bolisetti (Picture courtesy Sailesh Bolisetti)

The first time I spoke to Sailesh, I was surprised. Here was a quiet guy with oodles and oodles of talent. Sailesh Bolisetti made his début in 2008 driving at the JK Tyre National Racing Championship. He soon shifted his focus to touring cars – Le Mans is his dream. In 2010, he won the inaugural Volkswagen Polo Cup in India and won a fully paid drive in the European VW Scirocco-R Cup for 2011. This year, he makes his début at the British GT, representing Lotus Cars UK and driving the Lotus Evora GT-4. He will be writing and sharing his experiences racing for the British GT at Riding Fast and Flying Low for the rest of the season.

British GT: A Curtain-Raiser

By Sailesh Bolisetti

I got my first taste of international racing just about a year ago. So, people were surprised by my early move to the British GT – one of the most fiercely competitive tin-top racing series in the world. VW Scirocco at best was a low-key season for me. A lack of experience on different circuits (given that we pretty much had only one proper circuit in India until last year), coupled with the extremely low amount of track time available in practice, meant I was always left getting to grasps throughout the weekend – all the way until the last lap of the race, instead of getting my best lap times in qualifying on fresh tyres.

The experience left wiser and more importantly, more attuned to my racing needs – the emphasis on track time in particular. Given that my ultimate aim is to race in Le Mans – the pinnacle of sports car racing – I find more favour with long, endurance-style racing rather than 30-minute sprint races.

At my level, I realised that British GT suited my requirements to the dot – plenty of track time through the weekend, two drivers sharing a car and the shortest race being an hour-long, going up to three hours in some cases. In short, it is the perfect stepping stone for someone aspiring to reach the top of endurance sports car racing.

This year’s 35-car grid has four categories – the GT3, GT3B, GT4 and GTC, based on engine and overall performance.

The GT3 line-up has racing versions of the world’s fastest road-going supercars, like the McLaren MP4-12C, Nissan GT-R, Ferrari 458, Ferrari 430 Scuderia, Aston Martin Vantage, Audi R8 LMS, Mercedes SLS AMG, Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 997 GT3 RS, BMW Z4, Lamborghini Gallardo and so on.

The GT3B allows slightly older GT3 specification machinery to compete. These are identical to the GT3 cars in terms of technical modifications. The line up consists of Ferrari 430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Aston Martin DBR S9, and the Dodge Viper.

These are the big boys. But since this is my first outing in the British GT, I’ll be driving in  the GT4 category with sports cars like the Lotus Evora GT4, Nissan 370Z, BMW M3, Aston Martin N24, Ginetta G50 and Mazda MX5 GT.

Just like my factory-backed Lotus Sport UK outfit, many other entries from those mentioned above, are directly fielded by manufacturers, showing the championship’s importance and its competitive nature.

Coming to the racing side of things – the points’ scoring system is exactly the same as prevalent in Formula 1, starting from 25 points for the winner to a solitary point for the tenth-placed finisher. Of course in the British GT, points are given according to the class (for GT3 and GT4 for instance) even though we are all race at the same time.

In simple terms, if a driver in GT4 class crosses the line in 5th overall, but is the first in the GT4 class, he gets a full haul of 25 points in the category. However, the GT4 drivers aren’t eligible for the overall championship title. That is decided by the points table of the GT3 category.

The weekends that have two races scheduled will be an hour each. The single race weekends will feature two-hour races. There’s even a one-off, three-hour endurance event at Silverstone in September that’s on the menu – one I am looking forward to the most! One pit stop is compulsory during the one-hour race, while the two and three-hour races need a minimum of two and three stops.

The championship is predominantly based in the UK, although there is one round at Germany’s infamous Nurburgring Circuit, coinciding with the legendary Nurburgring 24-hour weekend. Sounds like an epic weekend in the making. But for now, my focus is on the job immediately at hand – the season opener at the Oulton Park Circuit on April 7th.

Bring it on!

British GT 2012 season calendar

Oulton Park: April 7th

Nurburgring: May 17th

Rockingham: June 9th

Brands Hatch: June 23rd

Snetterton: August 4th

Silverstone: September 9th

Donington Park: September 29th

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Categorised in: BritishGT, Four Wheels Or More, India

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