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Catching Up With….Trevor Foster
On Fortec’s Move Into GT Racing

The news last December that Fortec Motorsports was planning to field a brace of Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 in the 2013 British GT Championship and Blancpain Endurance Series was, to say the least, unexpected; but, with a history of success in various single-seater formulae, it was unlikely to be anything other than a very serious programme. DSC went along to the team’s Daventry workshops to talk to Team Manager and Chief Engineer Trevor Foster and find out more about this new venture.

“Richard [Dutton, Fortec Team Principal and owner] phoned me in early December to ask me if I would like to be involved,” began Foster, who previously worked for the team in its early days. “I’ve known him for about 30 years and we’ve kept in touch during that time. We talked and the decision was made in Mid-December to go ahead.

Trevor Foster, with just a few of Fortec's many trophies

“The decision to go with the SLS was an obvious one, given the strong links Fortec had built up with Mercedes during six years of using their engines in Formula 3.”

Although the majority of Trevor Foster’s lengthy career in motorsport has been related to single-seaters – including Team Manager (and later Managing Director) of Jordan Grand Prix – recent years have seen him working in sportscars; first as MD of Zytek Engineering, and for the past two seasons working freelance in an advisory capacity for teams such as United Autosports and Optimum Motorsports.

“Richard and I believe that the Balance of Performance measures in GT3 racing are an effective levelling tool, allowing the best teams and drivers to show through.”

It’s easy to put out a press release and make a few headlines, but it soon becomes apparent that Fortec is not going into this project lightly. “I started on January 4th and my first task was to start assembling the team,” continued Foster. “We now have all the staff in place – some are internal appointments from the F3 team; we’ve taken on some guys from GT1; and we have others from other branches of motorsport. In addition, we will be able to pull from a ‘pool’ of Fortec employees for race weekends when there are no clashes.”

Even without the GT programme, Fortec is facing another busy year with some 17 cars being run in Formula Renault 3.5 (the team took the 2012 title with Robin Frijns), FIA European Formula 3 and Formula Renault 2.0. Fortec has some 52 fulltime employees and several freelance engineers who work part-time with the team.

The F3 workshop

The FR3.5 workshop. These are two older cars used for testing. The 2013 cars are currently testing in Spain.

“We currently have two workshops, but Richard has just bought a third to house the GT and Fortec Classic cars [Fortec Classic being Richard Dutton's and engine builder Neil Brown's private collection of historic racing cars]. That building is being fitted out now. It will have a mezzanine floor and ten bays and should be complete in four to five months. In the meantime, there’s enough space in the existing workshops to accommodate the GT team. We’ve also just purchased a transporter to go with the team’s existing nine!”

Not much to look at now, but soon this will be the home of Fortec's GT3 team

It’s clear, then, that Fortec is making a substantial investment in its new project, so do longer-term plans exist?  “They do,” said Trevor. “Going forward, we’ll be looking at the possibility of a DTM programme. Obviously, Formula 1 is the ultimate goal for any aspiring driver, but clearly the number of seats is very limited. What we’d like to do is provide another option for drivers wishing to become full professionals and, at the moment, the DTM is the best manufacturer-supported series outside of F1.

“A good example is Jamie Green. I assisted him for four or five years earlier in his career – he went from runner-up in Formula Renault with Fortec, to British F3 with Carlin and then won the F3 Euroseries with ASM before entering the DTM in 2005; he’s been there ever since.” The implication being that Fortec has the ability and capacity to provide such a path fully in-house.

What about ELMS/WEC? Do they figure in the plans?

“Not at the moment. They’re in a transition period and there’s too much uncertainty at present; and I know from my Zytek days that the budgets involved are very high and getting higher.”

So back to the task in hand: clearly there’s not much time until the start of the season, so what’s the plan?

“We’re assured by HWA [who build the SLS GT3s] that the cars will be completed by March 8th and we’ll have a truck ready to collect them on that date. The cars will be ready to race and fully liveried-up, so all we’ll have to do is driver-fits and install radios etc. We’ll then go testing at Oulton Park on the 12th and Rockingham on the 15th; that’s probably all we’ll have time for before Easter.”

No drivers have yet been announced, so will we see one or two cars in British GT and Blancpain this year?

“We’ll have two full-season entries in both series. We’re still in discussions with drivers at the moment but will be making our announcement in the next few days.

“Because the decision [to go GT racing] was made only recently, we probably missed out on the existing ‘Gentleman’ racers who brought a Pro along with them. This means that we are having to make sure our driver pairings are going to work – i.e. that the two racers will be able to work together. The situation in British GT with driver gradings hasn’t made it any easier – basically any amateur driver under 30 years of age will be graded a Silver – but we fully support their decision.

“We have five semi-exclusive test days already planned for both series, and will look at other opportunities as they arise through the year. We’ll also have support from HWA personnel in the early tests and races.”   

Given the earlier stated aims of providing a career path for racers, does this mean that the BES entries are likely to be in the Pro category? “Yes, although the final decision hasn’t been taken – we’ll either have two in Pro or one each in Pro and Pro-Am.”

Some of the Fortec Classic cars that will be moving to the new workshops alongside the GT3s 

Trevor Foster and his team will clearly have to hit the ground running and won’t have much time to sit back and relax in 2013. What then are the expectations for the year?

“As I said, Richard is making a significant investment in this programme and it is important that it is successful. Fortec is new in GT and we know that we have to prove ourselves; but even though it’s a different branch of motorsport, the core disciplines are the same – you have to be professionally organised and run. Fortec has many years of working successfully under those conditions and we’re confident that we can replicate that success in GT racing.”

With the entries in both the BGT and BES looking to be at an all-time high in terms of numbers and quality, it is going to be difficult enough for any team to stand out from the crowd, let alone one in its earliest stages of development. Despite this, Fortec looks to be starting with very solid foundations and will undoubtedly be making its presence felt sooner rather than later.