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Episode 40

Ginetta’s New GT Academy:

Have They Missed The Point?

Ginetta are replacing their rookie series, with their GRDC series making way for the new GT Academy. Question is, will the replacement be a success?

The world of grassroots motorsport actually had some news this week, with Ginetta announcing their all-new GT Academy series. Arguably the kings of single-make championships, Ginetta’s latest competition is set to become the first rung on their GT car ladder. The question is, though, does it actually serve it’s intended purpose?

GT Academy used to be synonymous with the Gran Turismo-Nissan project where a group of gamers vied to gain a professional racing contract. Unfortunately, to my knowledge that particular venture no longer exists. Fortunately, the man behind the idea behind the series set up an alternative: World’s Fastest Gamer. Either way, this is a digression. Now, GT Academy is an all-new-for-2021 racing series put together by Ginetta, cited as an ‘entry level GT racing series.’

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The car itself is claimed to be derived from Ginetta’s GT4 car, which in its own right is the ‘most successful GT4 chassis in history,’ and features a shedload of serious racecar equipment. Up front, the workhorse is a 3.7-litre Ford V6, which pumps out 270bhp. Admittedly, that’s not massive considering the capacity of the motor, but the 405 lb-ft (550 Nm) of torque should give you plenty of low-end shove, and the engine is designed to be near-on indestructible in order to reduce costs.

Moving on, and that engine is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed Quaife helical ‘box, operated by a set of flappy paddles. Whilst you won’t be hearing any straight-cut whine from those gears, they should be able to take a beating, and the auto-blip throttle should also aid the longevity of your drivetrain. The rest of the car’s composition is also a clever blend of thoroughbred and refined, with your LCD dash and race suspension complimented by road-legal Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, sound-proofing and air con. All in all, a happy medium for many casual motorsport-ists.

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Alongside the car, the GT-A race series has also been announced. The plan is for a 5-weekend season accompanying the British GT calendar, with each weekend featuring 65 minutes of track time, split between a 20-minute qualifying and a triplet of 15-minute races. Ginetta are expecting a bumper grid for the new competition, too, as they’ve said that the field of equal cars will be split into two classes, one just for rookies. Further to that, there will be Chairman’s Cup awards for drivers who have survived 45 years or more, to add to the inclusivity.

All of these features come at a price, though, and this is where my problem lies. This ‘entry level’ racing series is seriously expensive! You may recall an article I wrote earlier in the year about the G40 GRDC series run by Ginetta, which was penned as the entry point for rookies. In that article I estimated that a season in the GRDC would cost the average person circa £50,000, which is a lot of money of course, but in the grand scheme of motor racing is about the sweet-spot for an all-inclusive, factory-supported racing series for first-time racing drivers.

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The first piece of bad news is that the GRDC will cease to exist with the advent of this new series. The second piece of bad news is that the required budget for this replacement series is about double that of the old one! Yep, the cost of the car itself is £62,500 + VAT, so effectively £75,000. Then, as a racing virgin, you want as little hassle as possible, and so you plop for the £17,000 + VAT ‘Rookie Package,’ which includes car transportation to each event and storage in between, alongside a whole raft of other benefits like technical support and driver coaching at race meetings. At this point you’re already topping £95,000. Ninety-Five Grand! For an ‘entry-level’ series! Need a racing licence and something to wear during races? Those itches can be scratched, for a combined £3,500 inc.

And we’re not even close to the end of the list. Whilst I won’t spell everything out at this point, as I’m sure my point is clear, I must pick out the ‘Winter Testing Experience.’ For a shade under six thousand pounds (inc.), Ginetta will be happy to ship you out to Spain over the winter to help you get to know your machine, with two days of testing at Guadix in Spain. I’m sure this experience will be an incredible one with fantastic accommodation and two days of driving joy, but even so. Six Grand for a two-day holiday?

Overall, with every option ticked, a new driver would be looking at £133,000 for their first season of racing, and that doesn’t even include tyres. When compared to the GRDC, which I estimated at around £50,000, that’s a big step up. Honestly, my opinion is that Ginetta have gotten a bit greedy here. Their current ladder of G40, GT5, GT4 seems perfectly accomplished, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of new drivers still enter the sport via the G40 Cup (which is continuing, just not the rookie-specific GRDC) or GT5 Challenge. I expect the series as a whole will prosper, considering the GT-A will be filling an ever-increasing price gap between GT5 and GT4, however the rookie element will have certainly priced out the vast majority of people looking to begin their racing journey in Ginettas.

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