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Written by Joe Le Corre

Season 4 of the ACC GT3 Championship saw great action throughout the season whether it was at the front of the field or at the back. So, with Season 5 around the corner, I thought it’d be a good idea to run you through the main talking points before the championship gets back underway on the 29th of October…

The Calendar

A new season obviously means a new calendar, but there are some tracks that have stayed on the calendar from Season 4 (Spa and Monza). Other than those two tracks, the rest are either brand new to the championship or back after a season-long break

For the first time in this championship’s history, Bathurst will be present in the calendar. This round will see the drivers attempt to tame the fearsome Mount Panorama circuit as they fight for the king of the mountain accolade.

Season 5 will also feature an extended 8 race calendar with rounds 4 and 8 being 90 minutes, and the rest will be the usual 60-minute length

Season 5 Calendar:

Race 1 – Zolder (60 mins) – 29/10/2020
Race 2 – Suzuka (60 mins) – 5/11/2020
Race 3 – Misano (60 mins) – 12/11/2020
Race 4 – Silverstone (90 mins) – 19/11/2020
Race 5 – Bathurst (60 mins) – 26/11/2020
Race 6 – Monza (60 mins) – 3/12/2020
Race 7 – Hungaroring (60 mins) – 10/12/2020
Race 8 – Spa-Francorchamps (90 mins) – 17/12/2020

The Title Defense

The main excitement heading into Season 5 is whether or not Killian Ryan-Meenan can defend his overall championship title against an ever-growing field of talent. Killian’s Porsche wasn’t difficult to spot in Season 4 and the bright livery coupled with his rapid pace made for one very quick, very bright blur. However, he has decided a change of pace was in order and will now be using the Mercedes AMG GT3 for the upcoming season.

My guess would be that this change was triggered by the recent BoP (Balance of Performance) adjustment that has seen the Porsche’s considerable advantage at some tracks begged back. Don’t get me wrong, the Porsche is still one of the quickest GT3 cars out there. But the BoP adjustment has taken the Porsche from ‘you’re having a laugh’ quick, back to plain, old quick.

Tracks like Spa and Silverstone are really going to favour the AMG GT3 with its insane top speed, but Killian could start to struggle on some of the tighter tracks like Misano. Ensuring the setup of the car is properly dialed in for the more technical tracks is going to be the key for the AMG to be successful. The driving side of things should be pretty much covered, so there’s no need for Killian to worry there!

Ryan-Meenan’s main rival for this season will be Kieran Sharp, who must be looking at improving from his P2 in the last season’s championship. Capitalising on the tracks where the AMG is at its weakest will be the key to beating Killian, but it most likely won’t be that easy.

The Newcomers

This season will see a large influx of extremely capable Pro class runners that can easily fight for podiums on a regular basis, and maybe even the overall championship. 

Following a season break, Christopher Larson is back with a change of car and a championship ambition. The last time we saw Larson in action was in Season 3 when he was behind the wheel of everyone’s favourite racing boat, the Bentley. This season will see the American compete in the BMW M6 GT3. There isn’t a massive difference between the handling characteristics of the Bentley and the M6, so expect to see Larson hit the ground running when we get to Zolder.

One of the most exciting newcomers to the championship is Jeroen Moerman. Moerman showed brilliant pace and race craft in the first evaluation race at Brands Hatch, and managed to bag P1 once all was said and done. The combination of the Dutchman and the Ferrari 488 GT3 is looking to be one hell of a pairing for the rest of the field to try and beat. It wouldn’t be a stretch to expect Jeroen to be nipping at the heels of Ryan-Meenan in the overall championship.

Jeroen Moerman’s Ferrari at Brands Hatch.

Jeroen Moerman’s Ferrari at Brands Hatch.

A Different Kettle Of Fish

If I had to pick a best newcomer from Season 4, it would be Andrew Pike. Pike entered last season, not just as a OTL ACC GT3 Championship rookie, but an ACC rookie. Following the opening round as an Am class entrant, Pike made the jump to the Pro class. By the end of the season he was 7th in the overall championship, so that move to the Pro class definitely didn’t put him out of his depth.

So what does that mean for Season 5? Well, this season he’s ditched the Aston Vantage, and instead selected everyone’s favourite racing truck, the Jaguar XKR-S G3. The decision is already showing its promise, with Pike putting on a strong showing in the second evaluation race at Zandvoort. You definitely won’t miss Pike’s Jag either, with its purple and gold livery. He’s even got a pretty good team name too: Peter Files Performance. It would be amiss to count Pike out of a very strong championship position once the season is finished.

The Title Defense – Part 2

The Pro class may be full of some of the best talents in ACC, but we also have the Am class in this series to enjoy. Last season’s champion Ash Gleadall was fighting with Am class veteran Martin Legg for the majority of the season before some unfortunate events took Legg out of the running. Ash will have to look over his shoulder for most of the season as Legg will be looking to bounce back from disappointment to snatch the Am class title. 

Unfortunately for Ash, he won’t only have Martin Legg to fight. Antony Pellicano was one of the most capable Am drivers from last season, and he’s back for another season ready to launch an Am class championship tilt using the Ferrari 488 GT3.

Gleadall will also have to keep last season’s third-place Amateur driver Sebastien Magotteaux at bay if he wants to retain his title. Magotteaux will be a real Am championship protagonist with him still driving his Porsche 911 II GT3 R this season. Strangely, Magotteaux will be the only driver in the Porsche this season. It feels very weird to say that.

All bar one of the Am class title contenders will be in the same cars that they used last season. Apart from the defending champion, who will be moving from the McLaren 720S GT3 to the Lexus RCF GT3. If there’s a wet race, I’ll bet my left arm that Ash will be right at the front of the Am class. Actually, I’ll bet my right arm, I need my left one for writing.

Taming The Beast

As I mentioned earlier, Bathurst is a brand new edition to the championship for this season. It’ll be interesting to see who can tame the fearsome Mount Panorama circuit and claim the victory. Expect to see cars like the AMG GT3 and Audi R8 LMS go very well in this round.

Getting a car set up right for Bathurst is all about being comfortable through the poo-inducing mountain section. That’s the trick to Bathurst: comfort first, speed later. That being said, don’t expect to see any of the drivers going slow during the race, as they fight for the unofficial ‘King Of The Mountain’ title that I’ve just made up.

Who Will Be The Champions?

Writer’s Choice

Pro: My pick for the Pro class champion this season is Kieran Sharp. This season, Sharp will be driving the Lexus RCF. This combination of car and driver looks to be the strongest one on the entire grid. It certainly won’t be easy though, as it will be a proper fist fight between him and Killian for all of the season, but I think Kieran has got the car underneath him to really take the fight to Killian this time round.

Am: For the Amateur championship, it is between four drivers: Martin Legg, Antony Pellicano, Sebastien Magotteaux, and Ash Gleadall. Personally, I think Pellicano will come out on top. Last season, Pellicano had the pace, at some tracks, to fight with some of the drivers in Pro class, so I’d expect him to build on last season and produce a proper championship tilt this time round.

Commentator’s Choice 

Pro: It’s hard to look past Killian Ryan-Meenan after his performances in the Porsche in Season 4, however, his move to the AMG for Season 5 leaves me wondering if we may see him less comfortable and with the pack behind closing the gap. I predict Kieran Sharp will be closer to Killian this time round.

We also have a few newcomers like Jeroen Moerman, Vitor Sousa, who looked very strong in the evaluation races, and also Mattia Brugnara back to try and push a little further towards the front. Anyways, time to get off the fence now! I’ll predict Killian to narrowly beat Kieran and Vitor to the title.

Am: I’ll be totally honest, the Am category is one I enjoy just as much if not more so that the Pro! There are multiple drivers vying for the AM crown and it’s hard to choose! We’ve had the Am title going down to the wire in the last two seasons and I expect more of the same again. Ash Gleadall is right on the cusp of being in the Pro category, so if he stays in Am then he’ll be right up there again. Saying that, there are another 4 or 5 drivers (and that’s just those returning from previous seasons) that could take the crown. Magotteaux, Legg, Pellicano, and Bouche can all go into the season with realistic ambitions of challenging for the category title, and others like Gardner, Bremsen, and Williams could join the party too.

My prediction is for Magotteaux to take the crown but only very narrowly. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!