With an influx of new GT3 machinery, as well as renewed interest from teams and drivers, the 2016 Blancpain GT Series is shaping up to be one of the biggest years yet for the SRO Motorsports Group-organized championship.
Sportscar365 explores the confirmed, likely and possible entrants for Blancpain GT, as well as the Sprint and Endurance Cups.
AF Corse (Ferrari) – After fielding no less than five Ferraris in 2015, AF Corse will return with at least three to four cars in 2016. The reigning Pro-Am Cup teams’ champion will stay clear of the Pro Cup and focus on the amateur classes instead. It’s not clear yet whether all entries will use the new 488. An expansion into Blancpain Sprint is being considered. (3-4 cars – Endurance)
AH Competições (Lamborghini) – Previously known as BMW Team Brasil, AH Competições will switch from the BMW Z4 GT3 to the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 next year. At Zandvoort, team principal Antonio Hermann confirmed his crew will return to Europe for a fourth season in 2016, once again with a Brazilian lineup, although it has been very quiet ever since. (2 cars – BGT)
ARC Bratislava (Lamborghini) – The Slovak team, currently running an Audi R8 LMS ultra in the Asian Le Mans Series, has recently acquired a Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Team boss Miro Konopka confirmed the plan is to campaign the V10-powered sports car in the Blancpain Endurance Series next year. (1 car – Endurance)
Attempto Racing (Lamborghini) – After a short stint with the McLaren 650S GT3, Attempto Racing will switch to the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 for 2016. The team announced it will field two cars in all ten rounds of the Blancpain GT Series, receiving some works support from Squadra Corse. (2 cars – BGT)
Barwell Motorsport (Lamborghini) – Switching from BMW to Lamborghini, Barwell Motorsport already announced a two-car program in British GT and is looking to confirm a return to BES. (1 car? – Endurance)
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT (Audi) – The most successful team in Blancpain GT history is expected to return with several new Audi R8 LMS, together with a couple of new drivers, possibly with Laurens Vanthoors brother Dries. Stephane Ortelli is not likely to continue, after his Audi contract was not renewed. (2-3 cars – BGT)
Bentley M-Sport (Bentley) – Bentley will continue its factory program in the Blancpain Endurance Series. The M-Sport squad is looking to do better than second in the Pro Cup teams’ standings, where it ended up in its two previous campaigns. Vincent Abril is the only new addition to the lineup, replacing Andy Meyrick alongside Guy Smith and Steven Kane. Maxime Soulet, Andy Soucek and Maxi Buhk will share a Continental GT3 for a second season. (2 cars – Endurance)
Black Falcon (Mercedes) – Black Falcon is expected to continue its engagement in the Endurance Series, where it usually competes in the Pro Am Cup, with an occasional outing in the top class. The Nürburgring-based squad will upgrade its fleet of SLS’ to the new AMG GT3. (2 cars – Endurance)
Boutsen Ginion Racing (BMW) – Following a switch from McLaren to BMW in 2015 and the recent purchase of the new Renault RS01, Boutsen Ginion is considering an upgrade to the new M6 GT3 next season. (1 car? – Endurance)
Emil Frey Racing (Jaguar) – Emil Frey has used to Blancpain Endurance Series to develop its GT3 interpretation of the Jaguar XKR. In its fourth season the blue car reached its stride finishing on the Pro Am podium at Silverstone, completing the 24 Hours of Spa and scoring a first Pro Am win at the Nürburgring. The Swiss team is expected to further fine tune the car and collect more silverware in 2016. (1 car – Endurance)
Grasser Racing Team (Lamborghini) – Following a season in the spotlight fielding two factory Lamborghini Huracán GT3s, GRT will continue with its own program in 2016. Besides the endurance races, a return to the Sprint Series, where the team managed to make a name for itself, is on the cards. (2 cars – BGT)
GT Russian Team (Mercedes) – After its first full season in the Blancpain GT Series, GT Russian Team seemed satisfied with the progress made and is looking to build on the experience gained. Though nothing is has been confirmed so far, the Czech based team will likely upgrade from the Mercedes SLS to the new AMG GT3. (1-2 cars – BGT?)
HTP Motorsport (TBA) – Despite clinching the Blancpain Sprint Series Drivers’ title, HTP ended its contract with Bentley after only a single season. The German squad will continue to be a force to reckoned with in GT racing, with a likely return to Mercedes. Programs in the Blancpain GT Series, ADAC GT Masters and select outings at the Nürburgring Nordschleife are all under consideration. (2 cars – BGT?)
ISR (Audi) – Igor Salaquarda Racing confirmed it has already purchased one new Audi R8 LMS, which it is planning to field in the series. The team might still also run the older ultra version of the car. (1-2 cars – BGT?)
JRM Racing (Nissan) – JRM is looking to support a customer team that will follow in the footsteps of Always Evolving and MRS. Besides a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 that should be able to fight for wins overall, JRM is also planning to launch a Young Driver Academy in the Blancpain GT Series. (1-2 cars? – BGT)
Kessel Racing (Ferrari) – Kessel Racing will return to Blancpain GT next year with at least two new Ferrari 488 GT3s, alongside a possible entry into the Sprint Series. The Swiss squad plans to enter a pair of the new turbocharged Prancing Horses in the Pro-Am Cup, alongside a parallel effort in the Am Cup with the old 458. (3-4 cars – Endurance)
Konrad Motorsport (Lamborghini) – Franz Konrad has set his sights on a big international GT3 program, including an entry in the Blancpain Endurance Series. The team will field at least one Lamborghini Huracán GT3 and is working on a second, while not ruling out the Sprint Series also. (1-2 cars – Endurance)
MRS GT Racing (McLaren) – The German team will return to running McLarens in the Blancpain GT Series next year, having confirmed a two-car McLaren 650S GT3 effort in the Blancpain Endurance Series. A Sprint Series effort is also under consideration. The Karsten Molitor-led team withdrew its Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 from mid-season. (2 cars – BGT)
Motorbase/Oman Racing Team (Aston Martin) – Team Principal David Bartrum indicated that the team is aiming to be back on the grid in 2016 with Aston Martin. (1 car?)
Nissan GT Academy Team RJN (Nissan) – In the team’s first foray in the Pro Cup, Alex Buncombe, Katsumasa Chiyo and Wolfgang Reip immediately claimed the drivers’ title following a thrilling Nürburgring finale. The scale of RJNs program and whether or not it will defend its title is unclear yet, as Nissan is in the midst of a re-evaluation of their racing activities. (1-2 cars? – Endurance)
Phoenix Racing (Audi) – The Nürburgring-based squad will be looking to continue its customer racing program in the series, with Niki Mayr-Melnhof likely to be one of the drivers again. (1-2 cars? – BGT)
Reiter Engineering (Lamborghini) – A repeat of Hans Reiters’ Blancpain Sprint effort with his Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX is looking unlikely, and will depend on customer interest for the German-built car.
Rinaldi Racing (Ferrari) – The green Ferrari of the German team was certainly one of the surprise acts in 2015. The Michele Rinaldi-led squad wants to build on its momentum and take another step forward next season. The plan is to upgrade to the new Ferrari 488 and even add a second full-time car in the Blancpain GT Series. (2 cars – BGT)
ROAL Motorsport (BMW) – Having fielded a BMW Z4 GT3 in the Blancpain Sprint Series for Alex Zanardi in 2014, and most recently, this year’s 24 Hours of Spa, ROAL Motorsport will compete with the M6 GT3 in 2016. The extent of its Blancpain program is not clear yet and will depend on driver interest. (1-2 cars?)
ROWE Racing (BMW) – In its first full-season in the Blancpain Endurance Series, ROWE Racing was in the hunt for the Pro Cup drivers’ title right until the end. The team switched from Mercedes to BMW during the off-season, and will add the Sprint Series to its 2016 schedule in an effort to compete for the overall Blancpain GT honors. The two ROWE branded BMW M6 GT3s will receive factory support in the Total 24 Hours of Spa. (2 cars – BGT)
Saintéloc Racing (Audi) – Look for French Blancpain stalwart Saintéloc Racing to return next season, again with Audi. The scale of its program is unclear yet. (1 car?)
Schubert Motorsport (BMW) – The German team, which has close ties with BMW Motorsport, is working on a return to the Blancpain Series in 2016 with the new M6 GT3. Schubert made only one appearance in 2015, racing at Silverstone. A possible issue might be the clash between the BSS and ADAC GT Masters season finales on the first weekend of October. (1 car? – BSS)
Sport Garage (Ferrari) – Am regulars Sport Garage are planning to return with two Ferrari 458, possibly expanding into the Sprint Series. (2 cars – BGT?)
Team AKKA-ASP (Mercedes) – The French squad, led by Jerome Policand, has purchased three of AMG’s latest GT3 contender, following a ten-plus year run with Ferrari machinery. Their main focus will be both the Blancpain Sprint and Endurance series. Driver lineups have yet to be finalized but Policand is targeting a Pro Cup entry for the Blancpain Sprint Series and 24 Hours of Spa. (1-2 cars – BGT)
Team Parker Racing (Bentley) – After claiming the 2015 BES Am Cup drivers’ title with Audi, Team Parker Racing will switch to Bentley and will move up to the Pro-Am Cup. The British team will run two cars in the category. (2 cars – Endurance)
TF Sport (Aston Martin) – Following an end-of-season tour with guest appearances in Blancpain Endurance, ELMS and GT Open, TF Sport is considering its options for 2016, which could result in a two-car program with the Aston Martin V12 Vantage in BES. (1-2 cars? – Endurance)
VonRyan Racing (McLaren) – The team has ceased operation for 2016 due to team owner Dave Ryan’s return to Formula One with Manor.
Porsche – No teams have confirmed any plans to run the new Porsche 911 GT3 R in the series yet.
Estimated Blancpain GT Car Count: 18-31 cars (full-season)
Estimated Blancpain Endurance Cup Car Count: 41-60 cars
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report