British GT champion Flick Haigh will not defend her title next year and will instead return to racing in Europe.
After switching from the European Le Mans Series-supporting Michelin Le Mans Cup, the 34-year-old became the British GT’s first outright female champion alongside team-mate Jonny Adam, after two wins with Optimum Motorsport at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch.
Haigh had previously competed in single-make Caterham racing and the Ginetta GT4 Supercup before stepping up to GT3 with Optimum, driving an Audi R8 LMS GT3 in the Creventic 24H Series in 2016.
Haigh held a convincing margin of 27.5 points ahead of British GT’s Donington Park finale in which she won the title, admitting she would likely return if the championship was not secured.
But as British GT champion, Haigh will now focus her attention on climbing the ladder towards Le Mans, with the SRO-run Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and ELMS being considered.
Haigh confirmed that she plans to stay with Aston Martin machinery next year, with the option to convert the marque’s new Vantage GT3 into GTE spec an attractive selling point.
“I’ve ticked a really big box in my racing career, I don’t think that I could top this year with that car and the people I had around me,” Haigh told Autosport.
“I’d like to keep that in a little box and just remember it.
“For anybody that has won that championship and come back, there is a lot of pressure and sometimes it is harder to perform from the beginning of the year with that on your shoulders.
“My aim is Le Mans eventually, so I feel I just need to keep moving and maybe get back into some of the European circuits.
“Blancpain is a consideration, ELMS is a consideration, at the moment I’m trying to find a backer to support me next year.”
Haigh’s decision to depart the championship follows the news that 2016 champion Derek Johnston and his title successor Rick Parfitt Jr have called time on their British GT careers, Johnston following the sale of his business and Parfitt to focus on his band.
However, Mark Farmer has become the first driver to be announced for 2019 in a new Vantage GT3, entered by TF Sport.
His co-driver has yet to be confirmed although it is expected that it will again be an Aston Martin factory driver, having won twice this year with 2016 World Endurance GT Drivers’ champion Nicki Thiim.
Aston Martin placed five factory drivers in British GT this year, with the World Endurance Championship’s super season proving conducive to a dual campaign.
An Aston-affiliated entry into the DTM next year with R-Motorsport may be another potential avenue for factory drivers next year, but there are four calendar clashes between the German touring car series and British GT.