British GT News: Triple Eight reveals 2015 GT plans, joins Blancpain grid

Triple Eight logoTriple Eight reveals 2015 GT plans, joins Blancpain grid
• Full-season for Mowle, Osborne, Ratcliffe in Blancpain Endurance Series
• Third season for Mowle and Osborne in British GT
• Further drives available with the team in both series
Following a number of successful outings in new series last year, customer BMW squad, Triple Eight Racing, has today announced its largest campaign to date with full-season commitments to both the Blancpain Endurance Series and British GT Championship.

The British team, now in its third season of sportscar competition, will field two BMW Z4s in the top European GT3 series. Regular British GT duo Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle will be joined by Triple Eight Driver Development (TEDD) racer Ryan Ratcliffe, in a PRO-AM entry, with a second line-up currently being established.

Last season the Greatworth-based team took part in two Blancpain Endurance races, before notching a double class podium finish on the streets of Baku in its Blancpain Sprint Series debut last November. After exploring options in both European championships, the Endurance Series was selected by Mowle to realise his goal of competing at some of the finest circuits in the world.

“The Spa 24 is one of those races you just want to do as a driver. Add to that Monza, Ricard and the Nürburgring, plus Silverstone and it’s a great series,” explained Mowle.

“On paper we’ve got a strong team, I think there are ten BMWs in Blancpain this year, so it will be a great environment for us to prove ourselves. We ran last year with two different line-ups so its impossible to say where we sit in the food chain but I think at Silverstone and Spa we should be able to turn in some good performances; I’m really excited about it.”

Osborne is no stranger to Triple Eight, the exuberant British ace has raced with the team since the GT operation was created in early 2013, and his debut season in Blancpain last year resulted in the former European GT4 Champion being locked into a three-way shootout for the Pro-Am title at the final round. It was an impressive debut and one that Osborne is keen to build on with Triple Eight and BMW.

“I think I’m more motivated than ever,” he said. “I’m taking responsibility for getting everyone up to speed with the series. I’m no longer just a driver and I truly relish the opportunity of being the lead driver, because I want to win. It’s the first time I’ll spend all year in the same car and I think that can only be viewed as a positive for our chances of achieving good results. Lee has got a huge year ahead of him, lots of seat time in the same car is a benefit for him as well, and this will be our sixth year working together. I like to think I’ve brought him along well, we’re both keen to kick on and get some wins. Although the grids are huge I think will be fighting at the front of the class.”

TEDD driver Ratcliffe, who took two podiums with Osborne in Baku last year, has been a regular in the Triple Eight ranks since signing with the team’s academy twelve months ago.

The 21-year-old who won the British GT4 Championship in 2013 has developed significantly under Osborne and the tutelage of senior figures at the team, and Triple Eight are confident that the Blancpain opportunity will enable him to develop his abilities further, without the expectations levied at drivers in British GT.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to do my thing removed to some degree from the limelight. At this point of my career I need seat time and to advance my learning; I see Blancpain as the best way to do it. Joe has been key in my career development, as has Lee, so I’m pleased to take this big next step with them part of the team. Blancpain is an exceptional series with a very high profile and it has some of the best GT drivers in the world in it, so it will be good to benchmark myself against them across the season.”

With a long-term plan to make Triple Eight a force in international sportscar racing, the realisation of the Blancpain Endurance Series entries is a big step for a team more commonly associated with touring cars.

Significant changes over the winter have seen experienced sportscar staff drafted in and there is now a separate GT operation at the Triple Eight factory, led by former Trackspeed boss, Keith Cheetham. These changes have taken time to put into place, but Mowle is already seeing a benefit.

“We now have a GT team of staff that is headed by Keith (Cheetham) and he comes with a great deal of experience in endurance racing. He’s been given the opportunity to create the team he wants to go forwards, which is a GT team rather than perhaps a touring car or sprint team that is inherently in the DNA of Triple Eight,” he said.

“From what I have seen since the end of the British GT season, the car where it is today is nothing like the car we ran last year. It’s actually much more like the car we drove two years ago; it’s in a really good place now.”

In addition to the participation in the Blancpain Endurance Series, the team will again field an entry for Mowle and Osborne in British GT, with the duo keen to right the wrongs of 2014.

“This is probably the first year that I’ve been really motivated to go out and win it if I’m brutally honest. In year one I felt completely out of my depth and didn’t know what to expect, it was a big step up for me driving-wise having never raced a GT3 before. We got to the end of that year and were competitive, and started the second year excited, only to have a pretty decent shunt at Oulton Park, Joe to get taken out by his team-mate at Rockingham and me to be driven off the track on lap one at Silverstone; it was all over before it had even started,” revealed Mowle.

“Fast forward to Dubai a couple of weeks ago and I re-found a lot of what I’d lost the year previous in terms of my enjoyment of racing. There are a lot of characters on that grid that I want to beat and for Triple Eight there is a big desire to win stuff so it is probably the most motivated we’ve all been to do the job.”

Osborne is more reflective, but similarly adamant of the new season bringing better fortune: “PRO-AM racing by its nature means there are a lot more factors to take into consideration. You can be doing nothing wrong and suddenly your team-mate just gets taken out; that doesn’t happen so much in PRO series. That said we all shoulder some level of responsibility for 2014. It’s pretty simple in hindsight; we didn’t improve enough in year two. We need to make it happen this year.”

While Triple Eight’s 2015 GT season began with a seventh-place finish in the Dubai 24 Hours just a fortnight ago, its British GT campaign gets underway on the Easter weekend (4-6 April) at Oulton Park, with the Blancpain season beginning a week later (10-12 April) in the sunnier climbs of Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

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