The FIA GT Championship gets underway this weekend at the home of British motor sport, Silverstone. Twenty eight GT1 and GT2 super sports cars are set to shake the Northamptonshire circuit to its very foundations as they compete for the oldest trophy in motorsport, the RAC Tourist Trophy.
Ryan Sharp is one of the UK's top sports car racers and this season he switches from driving an Aston Martin DBR9 to a Saleen SR7, sharing the driving duties former F1 pilot Karl Wendlinger. Sharp and Wendlinger won the Tourist Trophy last year, so they are both well aware of what it takes to win it. "The car handles really nicely, overall it's possibly not as quick as the Aston over one lap, but I think that over race distance, and possibly reliability wise, we'll be better than we were last year, and hopefully it will give us a shot at the championship."
It was something of a surprise Sharp and Wendlinger switching from the Aston, but they were instrumental in the choice to go with the Saleen this season. "Myself and Karl sat down with the team before we brought a car to race, to discuss all of the options, and we all felt that the Saleen was the best all-round option for us. We chose it with winning the Championship at the top of our list."
One of the unique features of GT racing is that each car has two drivers, who swap over at pit stops. It is vital that both drivers have confidence in their partners' ability. Sharp and Wendlinger have built up that trust between them. "Karl is a great driving partner, he's been there done it and is super confident in his own abilities. He doesn't mind helping any one else out, including myself with advice and support. This is our third season together and I have learnt loads from him."
"I think that its good to keep the continuity, set up wise we both like the car very similar, and that a hugely important that you share a car with someone who likes a similar handling car. Our only down side is the difference in height between us, it makes seating position and pit stops a bit tricky."
Sharp is raring to go and ready to test the new car in anger for the first time. "I can't wait for Sunday it's been such a long winter, especially as we missed the last race of the season, so we've had an extra month off. I'm just looking forward to getting out there and blasting away the cobwebs and get racing."
"People tell me that I have a home track advantage at Silverstone, well I only live five minutes away from the circuit. I've always gone well there, and last year was a fantastic race. Hopefully it will be dry and sunny and the spectators turn out in force. We are at some great circuits but I feel that its one of the best."
While having enormous confidence in their own abilities as well as in the Saleen package, Sharp is very aware that they will need to be at their best to win races and to challenge for the Championship. "We'll have to look closely at the Vitafone Maserati. I don't know what their one lap pace will be like, if you look back I can only remember them winning one pole, but they have won so many races, and they've won the Championship three years running. Whoever beats Vitafone will win the Championship."