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Paul Ricard Weekend Notebook

Jake Kilshaw’s weekend notebook for the Blancpain GT Series’ Paul Ricard 1000km…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Unlike in previous years, this weekend’s Paul Ricard 1000km hasn’t served as much of an opportunity for factory teams to test their Total 24 Hours of Spa lineups, with the round acting as less of a practice for the Belgian endurance classic than usual.

***Two Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe rounds will take place between now and Spa, with rounds at Misano and Zandvoort, while the expanded two-day Spa test is set for July 2-3.

***The entry list for the 24H Spa will include more than 70 cars, according to the SRO. Paddock rumors suggest the GT3-only grid could be as large as 75 cars, marking a significant increase over previous years which have seen between 60-65 cars.

***Orange 1 FFF Racing Team is “already” formulating its plans for next year, which are likely to include the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli. “We are very interested in the Intercontinental championship, it’s a natural progression for us,” team owner/driver Andrea Caldarelli told Sportscar365.

“We haven’t taken any decisions yet, of course. At the moment, the programs we are looking at are [IGTC] and some other races organized by SRO, such as the FIA GT Nations Cup, for example.”

***Lamborghini is expected to join the SRO’s globe-trotting championship next year, with Squadra Corse boss Giorgio Sanna telling Sportscar365 in April that the Italian manufacturer is “committed to build up a program there”.

***AKKA ASP’s lead No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 will start this evening’s race from pit lane as the result of a penalty for an engine change on Friday. The car, driven by Raffaele Marciello, Vincent Abril and Michael Meadows, qualified 13th.

***Strakka Racing has also changed the engine on its Mercedes, and so will also start from the pit lane.

***Another front-running car to be hit with a penalty is the No. 63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, which was given a three-place grid drop following qualifying. The stewards found that Rolf Ineichen had “impeded” the Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 during Qualifying 1.

***Several teams, including Barwell Motorsport, Boutsen Ginion, SMP Racing, Spirit of Race and Dinamic Motorsport, have been fined €100 for failing to hand over the SD card from the camera recording their pit boxes during qualifying.

***Dinamic picked up a five-place grid penalty for Andrea Rizzoli accumulating his third behavior warning point on Friday. Rizzoli, Klaus Bachler and Zaid Ashkanani qualified 7th but will therefore start 12th.

***The minimum pit stop time has been set at 81 seconds, although the usual one-second tolerance can be used twice during the race, which will see five scheduled stops per car. The ‘joker’ pit stop, which allows teams to carry out a full service with no time restrictions, can be used once per car, and is unique to the Paul Ricard race and Total 24 Hours of Spa.

***Alex Lynn makes his race debut onboard R-Motorsport’s No. 76 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 alongside Marvin Kirchhoefer and Jake Dennis. Lynn was replaced by Nicki Thiim at Monza and Silverstone, due to the Brit’s clashing ABB FIA Formula E Championship commitments with Panasonic Jaguar Racing.

***Sainteloc Racing has a new lineup in its Pro-Am entry. Markus Winkelhock remains the Pro driver in the No. 26 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, but is now joined by Pierre-Yves Paque and Philippe Chatelet. Paque has already raced for the French team while Chatelet will make his debut appearance after testing 3Y Technology’s BMW M6 GT3 last year.

***Angelique Detavernier is in Boutsen Ginion’s BMW this weekend alongside Karim Ojjeh and Marc Rostan. The Belgian is Ojjeh and Rostan’s third different co-driver of the year so far after Philippe Steveny at Monza and BMW factory ace Philipp Eng at Silverstone.

“I am very delighted to work with Boutsen Ginion, as we know each other since 2013 and we always had a good understanding,” she said. “I raced against Karim Ojjeh last year in Blancpain GT Sports Club. Only the car will be new for me, and I haven’t been racing for a while but I know the track, so let’s hope I can do reasonable job.”

***Norman Nato has replaced Ricardo Sanchez in Belgian Audi Club Team WRT’s No. 10 Audi, meanwhile. He joins Rik Breukers and Charles Weerts. Nato currently leads the European Le Mans Series standings after winning at Monza last month with G-Drive Racing.

***Attempto Racing lodged an unsuccessful protest against Grasser Racing Team following last month’s three-hour race at Silverstone. The German team finished second in the Silver Cup to Grasser’s No. 19 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

***Attempto claimed that the Lamborghini did not contain the mandatory 2 kg of fuel after the race but the technical delegate found that it did. The protest failed, and Attempto lost its €500 protest fee.

***The green flag for the Paul Ricard 1000km will fly at 6 p.m. local time (12 p.m. EDT), with the race running to a six-hour time limit. The official start grid, following penalties, can be viewed here.

Laurent Mercier contributed to this report.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist who is Sportscar365's European Editor and also Managing Editor for e-racing365. He is a student of Politics and International Relations. Contact Jake

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