***Last week saw the official pre-season test for the Blancpain GT Series with two days of running at Circuit Paul Ricard. In addition to the full-season entry lists being released, several teams have revealed details of their entries for the upcoming season.
***Oman Racing with TF Sport will return to the Endurance Cup’s Pro-Am class with a new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for Ahmad Al Harthy, Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood.
***Team Parker Racing will also field a Pro-Am entry for the Endurance races, with a Bentley Continental GT3 for Seb Morris, Derek Pierce and a third unconfirmed driver. Rob Smith and Andy Meyrick tested for the team last week. Morris, meanwhile, will move to one of the additional factory M-Sport entries for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
***GPX Racing has confirmed a lineup of Stuart Hall, Jordan Grogor and Benjamin Goethe for its Porsche 911 GT3 R. The Dubai-based squad will compete in the Silver Cup for the Endurance races.
***Boutsen Ginion Racing will return to the series with two different brands. Reigning Blancpain GT Sports Club champion Karim Ojjeh will join Philippe Steveny and Marc Rostan in a BMW M6 GT3, while Claude-Yves Gosselin, Pierre Feligioni and Renaud Kuppens will drive a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo. Both are expected to run in the Endurance Cup, while the Lamborghini could make some Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe appearances.
***AKKA ASP has entered a third Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the Endurance Cup with a new lineup of Timur Boguslavskiy, Felipe Fraga and Nico Bastian. Bastian will join GT3 debutant Thomas Neubauer in a GT World Challenge Europe entry.
***Ivan Pareras has been added to Phoenix Racing’s Blancpain GT program despite initially being placed in one of the team’s GT4 European Series entries. He joins Finlay Hutchinson and Kim-Luis Schramm. Jean-Karl Vernay and Frederic Vervisch are also expected to join for the Endurance Cup.
***Audi works drivers Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock will again be part of Sainteloc Racing’s Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe lineup. They will be joined by Simon Gachet and Steven Palette, respectively. The French team is working on adding a third car which could be driven by Stephane Ortelli.
***Sainteloc is yet to finalize its Endurance Cup crews. Pierre-Yves Paque and Christian Kelders are expected in one car, while Fabien Michal and David Abramczyk tested at Paul Ricard. It’s believed the team is targeting one Pro and one Am car for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
***Spirit of Race has entered a Ferrari 488 GT3 for Louis Machiels, Niek Hommerson and Andrea Bertolini, running in the Pro-Am Cup. The trio have already won two Pro-Am titles together.
***SMP Racing will support one of Rinaldi Racing’s Ferraris, with Denis Bulatov switching to the Ferrari team from AKKA ASP. He will share the car with fellow Russian Rinat Salikhov and South African David Perel. They will run in the Silver Cup in the Endurance Cup.
***While there is no McLaren 720S GT3 entered in the Blancpain GT Series, one car did take part in the test. Rob Bell, Joe Osborne and Fran Rueda shared the cockpit. The British manufacturer has sold 12 cars so far, and the new model took its first win in the Australian GT Championship last weekend.
***3Y Technology could still enter a BMW M6 GT3 in the Silver or Pro-Am class for the Endurance Cup. It is also targeting as many as three BMW M4 GT4s in the French GT4 Cup, along with possible GT4 European Series entries.
***LMP3 standout Kay van Berlo turned laps in Jenson Team Rocket RJN’s Honda NSX GT3 at Paul Ricard. The team, which is a joint operation between RJN Motorsport and Jenson Button, is yet to announce any drivers.
***With the global rollout of its P Zero DHD2 compound this season following its Blancpain GT debut last year, Pirelli has had a “quieter winter season than in the past,” according to Circuit Technical Manager Matteo Braga.
***The Italian tire manufacturer hasn’t completed ruled out options outside of SRO competition, including the FIA World Endurance Championship. “The Hypercar category looks good, especially now that manufacturers can use a road car,” Braga said. “However, we must always put in the balance the investment and return that we can have. Going to WEC is quite complicated because you have to find the right moment.”
***As reported by Sportscar365 in December, the SRO has been looking to strengthen its technical department, still led by Claude Surmont. Jacques Berger has joined from the FIA as global coordinator of administration, while Scott Raymond comes from IMSA to work on Balance of Performance in TC America.
***”Given the number of championships organized, a detailed technical follow-up is required,” SRO Founder and CEO Stephane Ratel told Endurance-Info. “We are all humans and we can make mistakes. The problem faced by Black Falcon in Barcelona is an example. Our communication after WRT’s adhesive concern at Spa may not have been optimal. Claude already has enough work and there was no question of giving him more.”
***Ratel says one of his goals is to have Blancpain GT World Challenge America and Asia match the European series’ 24-car grid.
***He admitted that the graduation of several Blancpain GT Asia teams has posed a challenge for the series’ grid numbers. FFF Racing Team has moved to European Blancpain GT competition, while KCMG, GruppeM and HubAuto are all fielding Intercontinental GT Challenge entries.
***Ratel defended the World Challenge concept, despite only Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG signing up for the inaugural season. Only manufacturers with entries in all three continental sprint series, and that have formally entered the championship, will score points. “The easiest [solution] was to say that everyone scores points and we distribute a title. We took a more difficult route that will take a little longer.”
***Three manufacturers are expected to be present for the inaugural multi-brand GT2 race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in September. Porsche is the only brand to have publicly committed to the new class so far, and will feature in a single-make race at the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July.
***The Blancpain GT Series kicks off with a three-hour Endurance Cup race at Monza on April 12-14. The opening Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe round will take place at Brands Hatch on May 4-5.
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report.