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GT World Challenge Europe

Brands Hatch Weekend Notebook

Jake Kilshaw’s weekend notebook from the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe opener…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, Grasser Racing Team and Orange 1 FFF Racing Team have all repaired their cars which crashed in three separate incidents in qualifying. Only the No. 24 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo of Stephane Oretlli and Nyls Stievenart has been withdrawn following Ortelli’s crash with Christopher Mies.

***Race 2 sees somewhat of a mixed grid owing to the combination of rain and red flags during Qualifying 2. Fabien Schiller starts from pole in one of AKKA ASP’s Silver Cup Mercedes alongside Attempto Racing’s Nick Foster.

***Series frontrunners starting within the top ten include Maro Engel in third and Raffaele Marciello in sixth. Christian Engelhart will start from the back of the field in Grasser’s sole Lamborghini, although his co-driver Mirko Bortolotti will line up second in Race 1.

***This weekend marks the first round of Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, the third and final regional GT World Challenge series to get underway. The debut of Blancpain GT Asia has already taken place at Sepang, while two rounds of Blancpain GT America have been completed at Circuit of The Americas and Virginia International Raceway.

***The unique points system for the Blancpain GT World Challenge awards the standard 25 points for a win multiplied by the number of cars in a class. If a Pro-Am car wins in a three-car field, for example, it is awarded 75 points. Mercedes-AMG and Ferrari will score points towards the title, taking into account their results in the European, American and Asian Blancpain GT World Challenge series.

“It’s more difficult to score points if you are in a class with [fewer] cars. That’s why you multiply [by the number of cars],” SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel explained to Sportscar365.

***The initial plan was for manufacturers to nominate one driver from each of the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze rating groups for each continent, but the SRO has allowed for “a minimum of one Bronze … and a maximum of one Platinum” this year to give manufacturers more flexibility.

***Ratel says he’s happy with the debut of the GT World Challenge initiative despite only having two manufacturers. “It’s good to start with two. I hope it will be a bit like the Intercontinental [GT World Challenge], in having more next year and more the year after,” he said.

“It was a surprise in the end that we only have two manufacturers with cars in all three series. We have 12 manufacturers in GT3, but only two are present everywhere. We hope [the World Challenge] will motivate them to be everywhere.”

***The 90-minute race format which has been introduced into Blancpain GT World Challenge America was suggested to European and Asian teams, but both series’ competitors rejected it. One reason for this was that Blancpain GT Asia teams didn’t want to introduce a refuelling element into their races.

***WRT, R-Motorsport and Phoenix Racing are all splitting their resources between Brands Hatch and the DTM opener at Hockenheim this weekend. WRT and R-Motorsport make their DTM debuts with Audi and Aston Martin, respectively, while long-time entrant Phoenix is running two Audi RS5 Turbo DTMs.

***The majority of WRT and R-Motorsport’s senior staff are at Hockenheim, with Pierre Dieudonne in charge of WRT’s four-car effort at Brands Hatch.

***AKKA ASP is using a new chassis on its No. 87 entry after a heavy crash which took the car out of contention at Monza last month. Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Jim Pla are driving the car this weekend although Beaubelique is set to swap the Bronze seat with Mauro Ricci throughout the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season.

***Grasser Racing Team was denied a possible race win in the ADAC GT Masters opener at Oschersleben last weekend when it was mistakenly given a drive-through penalty. A timing glitch led the stewards to mistakenly believe Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart’s pit stop was too short. 

***Team principal Gottfried Grasser explained to Sportscar365 that the team simply had to accept the penalty for its car, which started from pole, as it had already served the drive-through and lost the lead by the time the stewards realized the penalty was a mistake. 

***The Austrian outfit has just one Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo present this weekend, again for Bortolotti and Engelhart, while the field’s remaining three Lamborghinis are all entered by Orange 1 FFF Racing Team. Grasser is instead running three cars for the full ADAC GT Masters season.

***Thirty-four cars are entered in the GT4 European Series this weekend, marking a decrease since last year’s race, which had 46 entries. The decrease is hoped to avoid a repeat of the major incidents which plagued the event last year, owing to the overcrowded circuit.

***A new Pit Stop Challenge has been introduced to the GT4 European Series this weekend, supported by TM Performance. The times of each team’s two pit stops will be added together and the three teams closest to the minimum time will be rewarded, with €1500 for the winner, €1000 for second-fastest and €500 for the third-fastest team. Prize money will be doubled for teams using TM Performance brake pads.

***Equipe Verschuur’s Daniel McKay and Benjamin Lessennes lead the overall GT4 Silver Cup standings after winning both races at the opener at Monza three weeks ago. They have a maximum of 50 points, while second-placed Cedric Freiburghaus and Nicolaj Moller-Madsen are 23 points behind on 27.

***Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli are best-placed to take the lead in the overall Blancpain GT Series standings, coming to Brands Hatch with 18 points after finishing runner-up in the Endurance Cup round at Monza. Maro Engel and Luca Stolz, on 15 points, are also racing this weekend.

***Next weekend’s Endurance Cup round at Silverstone is expected to include a similar grid to Monza. The only change is set to be the absence of Antonelli Motorsport’s Mercedes-AMG GT3, reducing the field to 48 cars. The entry list is set to be released in the next couple of days.

***2016 Blancpain Endurance Series Pro-Am champion Alessandro Bonacini passed away recently in a helicopter crash, at the age of 38. He was the only person onboard the helicopter at the time.

***Race 1 will get underway at 12:10 p.m. local time (7:10 a.m. EDT), with Race 2 at 4:35 p.m. (11:35 a.m. EDT). Both will be streamed live on the series’ website and GT World YouTube channel.

John Dagys and 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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