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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Spa Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook from the first full day of on-track action for 24H Spa…

Photo: Kevin Pecks/SRO

***Belgium recorded a new historical record high temperature on Thursday of 41.5ºC (106.7ºF) on Thursday, with 41-degree temperatures officially recorded at the circuit. The heat wave is expected to continue tomorrow, with cooler weather for the weekend and the likelihood of rain.

***Free Practice 1 and Pre-Qualifying were held today ahead of qualifying, which set grid positions 21 and back, and decided the 20 cars that will battle for pole in Friday’s Super Pole session. Night practice is scheduled for later this evening, beginning at 10:20 p.m. (4:20 p.m. EDT).

***Laurens Vanthoor revealed on Twitter that he had a slow puncture on his first qualifying lap, resulting in his rear right tire registering just 1.2 bar going through Blanchimont. His KÜS Team75 Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3 R made it through to Super Pole, nevertheless.

***Tomorrow’s annual SRO Motorsports Group press conference, hosted by founder and CEO Stephane Ratel, is expected to include the usual info on the company’s future plans in Europe, North America, Asia and globally, including 2020 schedules and regulation updates.

***In addition to the chassis changes for Oman Racing with TF Sport and Strakka Racing, AKKA ASP has changed the engine on its No. 90 Mercedes, driving by Nico Bastian, Felipe Fraga and Timur Boguslavskiy. The car will have to start the race from the pit lane.

***Audi Sport Team Sainteloc changed the wiring loom on its engine, meanwhile, after intermittent electrical issues during Pre-Qualifying for the Marcus Winkelhock, Christopher Haase and Fred Vervisch-driven car.

***Herberth Motorsport has been hit with a €2000 fine and drive-through penalty for the race after failing to attend Wednesday evening’s parade to Spa town center. The German team instead completed pit stop practice during that time.

***A number of changes have been made to the entry list in recent days. Michael Blanchemain has been added to Sainteloc Racing’s Pro-Am car; Alberto Di Folco has joined Raton Racing by Target; Milan Dontje has been added to the No. 66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo; and Sun Jingzu has replaced Bhurit Bhirombhakdi at the Absolute Racing-run Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup team.

***3Y Technology has signed Jean Paul Buffin and Gilles Vannelet to complete its BMW M6 GT3 entry after testing a number of drivers to partner Philippe Bourgeios and Philippe Haezebrouck.

***Antares Au has been classified as Bronze, moving the No. 21 OpenRoad Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R to the Am Cup from a provisional Pro-Am classification. He joins Bronze-rated Francis Tija and Michael Soeryadjaya and Silver-rated Remo Ruscitti in the Modena Motorsports-run car.

***AF Corse’s one-off entry for Ferrari factory drivers James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Sam Bird has switched from carrying No. 50 to No. 51, allowing the special Juliet car to run No. 50.

***Thomas Neubauer has been added to HB Racing’s Am Cup Ferrari 488 GT3 alongside Florian Scholze, Philipp Wlazik and Jens Liebhauser. Neubauer took a surprise overall win in his first GT3 race earlier this year, the opening Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe round at Brands Hatch, driving a Silver Cup-entered AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Nico Bastian. 

***A large contingent of SRO Motorsports America staff are on-site this weekend, including President and CEO Greg Gill, VP of competition and operations Marcus Haselgrove, Blancpain GT World Challenge America series manager Staci Langham, Pirelli GT4 America series manager Jack Baldwin, TC America series manager Jim Jordan and director of marketing, communications and business development Robbie Montinola.

***Peter Cunningham, who has remained a minority shareholder of the U.S.-based series, is also here, amid SRO America’s increase in staff compared to this event last year.

***Longtime Radio Show Limited analyst Paul Truswell is working with Barwell Motorsport this weekend on strategy support. Truswell previously worked with the British Lamborghini team in the Paul Ricard 1000 km and and three-hour British GT Championship event at Silverstone earlier this year.

***The minimum pit stop time has been set at 115 seconds. This applies to all cars for any stop involving refueling, although each car is permitted one untimed joker stop in each six-hour period of the race.

***The Audi R8 LMS GT2 car will complete formation laps in the build up to Saturday afternoon’s race start. It’s understood the recently launched car will carry flashing lights on its roof. 

***A North American launch event for Audi’s GT2 contender is planned during the Monterey Car Week and Concours next month in Pebble Beach. 

***Further to unveiling details about this year’s FIA Motorsport Games, SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel offered an idea of how the event might expand in 2020.

***Ratel confirmed that the four-day nation-based competition is set to be increased to 7-10 days, with multiple new categories added. Rally, drag racing, hill climb, autocross and historics could all join the current bill featuring GTs, F4, TCR, drifting and karting.

***Furthermore, next year’s event could move to a new venue in France, in keeping with the aim of selecting a new ‘host city’ each year.

***Sainteloc Racing is planning to compete in the Creventic 24H Series races at COTA and Dubai in November and January, respectively, with an Am class entry.

***The French team, which recently scored its first Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe win at Zandvoort, had planned an entry in November’s inaugural Kyalami 9 Hours but its customers elected for the Creventic races instead.

“It’s a problem of budget,” team manager Frederic Thalamy told Sportscar365. “We are not a factory, we are a small team. We would like to go to Kyalami, it’s clear, it was the project. But when you give the costs to the customers, they say they prefer to go to COTA or Dubai for the same costs and it’s a 24-hour race.”

***GPX Racing, meanwhile, is still pursuing a Kyalami 9H entry, according to team principal Pierre-Brice Mena. The Dubai-based operation is running a factory lineup this weekend but will return to its Silver Cup trio for the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Whether its potential Kyalami entry includes works Porsche drivers is still undecided.

***The first entry list for December’s Gulf 12 Hours is expected to be released within the next week. A new entry application process was communicated following last year’s event, although the first provisional list was supposed to be released in March or April. The initial plan was to publish a final 28-car entry list in June, although no word has been made since December.

***Klaus Bachler will celebrate his 28th birthday on Saturday. He’s part of the lineup that took Dinamic Motorsport to outright victory in its first GT3 race at Monza in April.

***Five pairs of brothers are competing in the race this year: Renauer (Alfred and Robert), Dontje (Milan and Indy), Buncombe (Chris and Alex), Vanthoor (Laurens and Dries) and Schothorst (Pieter and Steijn).

John Dagys, Daniel Lloyd, Ryan Myrehn & 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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