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Bahrain Post-Race Notebook

Jake Kilshaw’s post-race notebook after the inaugural FIA GT Nations Cup in Bahrain…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Saturday’s inaugural FIA GT Nations Cup was won by Turkey and its drivers Salih Yoluc and Ayhancan Guven but its Mercedes-AMG GT3 was prepared by a British team in RAM Racing.

***The race had a high rate of attrition with several cars, including Belgium, Australia, Argentina, Belarus, Sweden and Mexico, having problems on the first lap. Ezequiel Perez Companc and Jose Manuel Balbiani spun on the first lap after contact with France in one of a number of incidents for the Argentine team over the weekend.

***The HB Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 lurched forward and hit the Hong Kong car during the driver change in the first qualifying race, with Balbiani later explaining he put the car in the wrong gear when parking in the pit lane, owing to his unfamiliarity with the Lamborghini.

***Garage 59 is set to change manufacturers next year, making the switch from McLaren, according to team manager Tim Mullen who told Sportscar365 the British squad could also look at an Intercontinental GT Challenge program. Sportscar365 understands that Garage 59 could embark on a program with the new-for-2019 Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

***Rinaldi Racing will have a similar program to this year, with a focus on the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, VLN and Nürburgring 24. “I have a really nice project with really nice cars,” team manager Michele Rinaldi told Sportscar365.

***The German team will have three Ferrari 488 GT3s in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, one for the Sprint Cup, and one in the Blancpain GT Series Sports Club. All of its cars will include Pro-Am and Am lineups, with Rinaldi stressing the favorability of the Ferrari for Am drivers.

***Ferrari outfits AF Corse and Kessel Racing are both set for entries in Blancpain GT, ELMS and Michelin Le Mans Cup, while AF Corse will run a car for Paul Dalla Lana at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

***Kessel’s program will include a Pro-Am car in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and a Silver Cup entry in the Sprint Cup. It will also enter a Ferrari 488 GTE at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, having won an entry through its Michelin Le Mans Cup championship.

***The GT4 International Cup won’t be part of the FIA GT Nations Cup weekend next year, having been replaced by a standalone GT4 endurance race that was initially set to take place in July during the Total 24 Hours of Spa weekend.

***Next year’s event will take place in Vallelunga, near Rome, with SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel hoping that a European location will encourage more European teams to commit to the Nations Cup. “We had maybe less Europeans than we expected, but we’re quite good in Asia, that shows the success of Blancpain Asia,” he told Sportscar365 about this year’s grid.

***There are no plans to allow countries to enter more than one car next year, as Ratel wants to allow countries with less of a motorsport heritage to have the same opportunity as those with more. “I want the Thais to have as much chance. If you do more, you will have five French cars, six German cars, seven British cars. It’s not the idea,” he said.

***Ratel admitted he’s disappointed at the 21-car grid for the GT4 event, having expected double the numbers. “I really thought we would have 40 cars. I don’t know what didn’t go well there, because these teams don’t have much opportunity to go somewhere else. The transportation was paid to do it,” he explained.

***Further details about SRO America’s ‘Grand Finale’, which is set to be held in Las Vegas next year, are expected soon. It remains unclear the exact circuit that will be used.

***Ratel says Porsche’s new GT2 car, which was unveiled earlier in the week, “completely fits” his vision for the new category. He expects three manufacturers to build cars for the launch of the new platform at the Total 24 Hours of Spa weekend next year, with up to six committing within two years.

***SRO will organize 53 events across 12 championships next year, while it will be involved with an additional 64 events through its franchise and Balance of Performance agreements with other organizers.

Laurent Mercier contributed to this report.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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