Following on from an action-packed Endurance Cup encounter at Monza, the 2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season continues over the weekend of 13–14 May with the opening Sprint Cup contest at Brands Hatch.
The British event is a firm favourite among fans and drivers alike. The track is challenging, the venue has a unique atmosphere, and there's always the prospect of close competition on 3.9km Grand Prix layout. Thinking of joining us in the Kent countryside? Here are five reasons to make the trip.
1. IT'S AN OLD-SCHOOL CLASSIC
Ask a selection of drivers to name their favourite track on the Fanatec GT Europe calendar and Brands Hatch is sure to feature. There's an old-school feel to the circuit, with its gravel run-offs leaving no room for error. For a test of skill and bravery, this is a perfect place to watch the best GT drivers in the world.
The venue is something of a rarity among UK circuits. Most were constructed on former World War II airbases and so they tend to be flat; Brands Hatch was farm and woodland, with plenty of elevation changes. Indeed, the plunge into Paddock Hill Bend, the climb to Druids and the descent back into Graham Hill Bend are a rollercoaster ride, reminiscent of a miniature Spa-Francorchamps.
The track has a special place in SRO history, too. The BPR Global Series raced at Brands as far back in 1996, while it's been part of the Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup since 2014. A recent contract extension means we'll continue visiting the Kent countryside through at least 2025, ensuring its place as a staple of the calendar.
But there's no time like the present. Grab a spot trackside on 13–14 May and watch the best in the business do their thing.
2. THE FANATEC GT SPRINT CUP STARTS HERE
In keeping with tradition, Brands Hatch marks the start of the new Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup campaign. We're in for a real treat this year, with a 40-car full-season grid representing the biggest ever seen in the series. Brands is the first of two events where the grid will be formed of three classes – Pro, Gold Cup and Silver Cup – so 30 of those cars will line up at the British venue. Remarkably, that's still as big a Sprint Cup entry as we've seen in six years.
A record eight manufacturers will be on-track, including a maiden series outing for the Honda NSX GT3. Fans can also see new machinery from Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Porsche, as well as the established offerings of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG. As such, there's more variety than ever on the Sprint entry list.
It's also worth knowing that Brands Hatch features a unique weekend schedule, with practice and qualifying on Saturday and two races on Sunday. That makes it a proper challenge for the teams and their drivers, with no margin for error in the battle for victory.
3. A FASCINATING TITLE TUSSLE IN PROSPECT
There is a real buzz about the 2023 Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup title battle. After securing three successive teams' and drivers' crowns – bringing its total to an astonishing 15 – Team WRT has switched from Audi to BMW. While the unchanged driver pairing of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts are sure to be competitive, this is undoubtedly their sternest test yet.
Indeed, their rivals know that this is a prime opportunity to unseat the Sprint Cup’s most dominant operation. Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy return for a fourth season as teammates in the #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG and will look to finally clinch the crown. They're by no means the only contenders: the line-ups in the #60 VSR Lamborghini (Franck Perera & Jordan Pepper) and the #40 Tresor Orange1 Audi (Mattia Drudi & Ricardo Feller) are also more than capable of mounting a serious title charge.
With further Pro crews from established operations like Sainteloc Junior Team, Garage 59, Emil Frey Racing and JP Motorsport, as well as new contender Comtoyou Racing, 2023 has the potential to produce the most open Sprint Cup title battle in years.
4. A SPECIAL ATMOSPHERE
Brands Hatch isn't a huge venue compared with the likes of Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, but that's part of the charm. The crowd is always big and so the place feels packed with spectators, creating a carnival atmosphere in the countryside. Last year we saw a huge number of Valentino Rossi fans, so expect plenty of fluorescent yellow gear on display.
But this event was busy long before Rossi's arrival, attracting a passionate and knowledgeable crowd of racing enthusiasts. The organisers have also planned a supercar display, so even when the track is quiet there will be something interesting to look at. Kids are well catered for, too, with a funfair and adventure playground, while if you want to test your own driving skills there's go-karting on Sunday. Fun for all the family.
5. AN ECLECTIC SUPPORT LINE-UP
The Brands Hatch support line-up is unique: the series that join Fanatec GT Europe at the British round don't appear at any other events during the season. As such, it's a chance to see something different on-track.
There are four categories in total, combining for no fewer than 11 races across Saturday and Sunday. The 7 Race Series will be on-track with its 1600s and 420R classes, while Equipe Classic Racing features sports cars from the fifties, sixties and seventies. The Sports 2000 series adds entry-level prototypes and there's a wealth of M-powered machinery courtesy of the BMW Car Club Racing Championship.
In short, there's far more on offer than just the GT3 headliners. So what are you waiting for? Book your ticket and join us at the track for a packed weekend of action.
Thinking of joining us at Brands Hatch? Weekend admission costs £38, while individual Saturday and Sunday tickets are also available for £20 and £30 respectively. There are reduced prices for 13–15-year-olds, while under-13s can attend free when accompanied by a paying adult. For more info please click here.
Camping options are also available. The campsite opens at midday on the day before the event (Friday 12 May) and closes at midday on the day after the event has finished (Monday 15 May). Facilities will be provided in full during this time; for more info, please click here.
As mentioned, the weekend schedule is unique, with all the action taking place over two days instead of the usual three. Saturday features free practice (09:00), pre-qualifying (12:45) and qualifying (15:55), while on Sunday there are 60-minute races at 11:05 and 16:10. The usual live streaming will be available in English, French, German and Italian via the GT World YouTube channel.
In terms of support events, there are four races on Saturday and a further seven on Sunday. Two of these come after the headline Fanatec GT Europe contest, with the final chequered flag of the weekend set to fall at 18:25.
This year’s trip to Brands Hatch will be 55th Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup event staged since the series was born in 2013, comprising races 111 and 112. It will be followed by a return to Endurance Cup action at Circuit Paul Ricard (2–4 June) and the marquee CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa (29 June–2 July), with the next Sprint round coming at Misano on 14–16 July.