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Misano Weekend Notebook

Sportscar365’s weekend notebook from the Blancpain GT round at Misano…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

***All four of last weekend’s overall Nürburgring 24 winners are competing at Misano this weekend in Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos. Frank Stippler and Fred Vervisch are in different Phoenix Racing cars while Dries Vanthoor and Pierre Kaffer are with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and Audi Sport Italia, respectively.

***AKKA ASP’s No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 is sporting a new livery. The Raffaele Marciello and Vincent Abril-driven car is now colored red with white stripes, replacing its familiar blue and white color scheme. The car had a mid-season switch last year after picking up sponsorship from Mercedes-AMG’s motorsports networking app Race Scout.

***The 28-car grid means the series is running at capacity this weekend. The full-season limit is 26, while up to two additional cars are permitted on a race-by-race basis. New entries from Audi Sport Italia, GetSpeed Performance and Boutsen Ginion account for the increase.

***It’s the biggest Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe grid since the 2017 season finale at the Nürburgring, then the Sprint Cup. Last year’s Misano races had 22 cars.

***WRT has reshuffled its lineup with two of its drivers out of action. Christopher Mies is competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen while Ezequiel Perez Companc is still recovering from his crash in the Paul Ricard 1000km.

***Mies’ co-driver Charles Weerts and Companc’s co-driver Vanthoor are therefore sharing the No. 2 Audi in Misano, with WRT down to three cars from four.

***While next month’s Total 24 Hours of Spa is expected to host a record field of more than 70 cars, only around 60 are set to take part in next week’s test, with some multi-car teams electing not to bring all of their cars.

***The expanded two-day test will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the race’s entry list revealed during the test.

***Another Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe round is scheduled between the test and 24H Spa itself, with the series’ return to Zandvoort on July 12-14, two weeks before the Belgian enduro.

***ROWE Racing will return to the Nürburgring Nordschleife for VLN 5, but has hinted that the Aug. 3 race could be its last VLN appearance this year. Team principal Hans-Peter Naundorf expressed to Sportscar365 his disappointment at the “political” Balance of Performance and speed differences between classes following an early retirement in the N24.

“Whatever happens, ROWE Racing will remain loyal to the Nordschleife, that much is certain,” Naundorf confirmed in a statement released by the team on Wednesday. “Our fans can look forward to 3rd August, when we will obviously be back in action in the ROWE 6h ADAC Ruhr-Pokal Race, our home event in the VLN. And we will be back for our tenth shot at victory in next year’s ADAC 24h race. We support the Nordschleife.”

***3Y Technology is set for an expanded presence in endurance races later this year, and is likely to run its BMW M6 GT3 in November’s Kyalami 9 Hours, the final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli. The French outfit is also planning entries in the Hankook 24 Hours of Barcelona and Gulf 12 Hours.

***Mercedes-AMG ‘secretly’ tested several parts of its GT3 Evo in public events earlier this year, head of customer racing Stefan Wendl revealed to Sportscar365. It ran versions of the existing car with new components in not only VLN 2 as an SP-X entry, but also in the Blancpain GT pre-season test at Circuit Paul Ricard.

***The new car, which was revealed at the Nürburgring last week, will make its race debut next weekend in the Hankook 24 Hours of Portimao.

***Mercedes-AMG held a healthy lead over Ferrari in the global GT World Challenge standings before yesterday’s race. With results from nominated cars in the European, American and Asian series combined, Mercedes-AMG led Ferrari 6109-4184.

***Race 2 at Misano will begin at 2 p.m. local time (8 a.m. EDT) with live streaming on the GT World YouTube channel. Raffaele Marciello starts from pole for AKKA ASP.

Teams Confirm 24H Spa Lineups

***Oman Racing with TF Sport has signed Nicki Thiim for Spa, with the team running in the Pro-Am Cup after competing as a Silver entry last year. The Aston Martin works driver will share the Vantage GT3 with Charlie Eastwood, Salih Yoluc and Ahmad Al Harthy. He made two Endurance Cup starts earlier this season by filling in for Alex Lynn at R-Motorsport.

***Timothe Buret joins Tech 1 Racing, meanwhile, serving as the Am Cup team’s one permitted Silver driver. He will share the Lexus RC F GT3 with Fabien Barthez, Bernard Delhez and Eric Cayrolle. Buret drives for Tech 1’s European Le Mans Series effort, which runs as Panis Barthez Competition.  

***Christian Frankenhout has been added to Ram Racing’s Mercedes lineup, joining Tom Onslow-Cole, Remon Vos and Darren Burke in the Pro-Am class.

***Ricardo Sanchez will join Jenson Team Rocket RJN, sharing the team’s Honda NSX GT3 Evo with full-season drivers Philipp Frommenwiler and Matt McMurry, while Struan Moore returns after missing the Paul Ricard 1000km.

***ROWE Racing has confirmed plans to run a third Porsche 911 GT3 R, while GPX Racing is set to field an all-factory lineup in place of its usual Silver Cup drivers. ROWE will only bring two Porsches to the test days, however.

***2018 Spa winner Walkenhorst Motorsport is set to again run a second car in the Am Cup for team owner Henry Walkenhorst, Anders Buchardt, Don Yount and David Pittard. Its other car will be shared by full-season IGTC trio Nicky Catsburg, Mikkel Jensen and Christian Krognes.

***3Y Technology, the French BMW team which entered the Sprint Cup last year, will return at Spa with an M6 GT3. Philippe Bourgeois and Philippe Haezebrouck are the first confirmed drivers, while several others will be evaluated during the test days.

***Another M6 GT3 will be entered by Boutsen Ginion, the only full-season BMW team in the Endurance Cup. Erik Maris, Karim Ojjeh, Marc Rostan and Gennaro Bonafede will share driving duties.

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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