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Paul Ricard Pre-Race Notebook

Vincent Wouter’s pre-race notebook from Paul Ricard…

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

***Two teams decided to change their engine after qualifying this morning. The No. 99 ART Grand Prix McLaren that caused a red flag during Q3, and the No. 79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 will start from the back of the grid. The No. 49 AF Corse Ferrari (Gentlemen Trophy) didn’t pass scrutineering and was also demoted to the back.

***Three cars saw their Q3 times deleted for improving under the red flag that was caused by Kevin Estre’s McLaren. The No. 80 RJN Nissan of Alex Buncombe that clocked the third quickest time will drop out of the top 30, while the No. 8 M-Sport Bentley will move from P7 to P14.

***HTP Motorsport is considering the possibility of entering a third car for the 24 Hours of Spa. As previously announced, Bernd Schneider will join the No. 84 HTP Mercedes of Nico Verdonck and Harold Primat, leaving 2013 winners Maxi Buhk and Maxi Götz without a drive for now.

***Series organizer Stéphane Ratel declared at Paul Ricard that he is aiming to convince more teams to do both the Blancpain Sprint and Endurance Series. One of the possibilities being considered to achieve this goal is by expanding the prize funds and awarding them to the overall GT Series winners.

***The Emil Frey Jaguar, which competes with a national G3 homologation, faced a difficult start of the weekend on Friday, as it only managed to run during one of the three practice sessions. While originally experiencing fuel pick-up problems, the team was still looking to determine to cause of the problems it faced in the afternoon session.

***The project started at the end of 2012 and has the approval of Jaguar. It’s run by a core group of nine people with the long term goal of getting a full FIA GT3 homologation, possibly at the beginning of 2015. The team is gearing up for a tough challenge at the 24 Hours of Spa next month, but despite the reliability issues it faced at the race weekends so far, Lorenz Frey declared the Jaguar showed good pace and durability during the private tests.

***Fresh from claiming his first (Pro-Am class) victory at Silverstone, Nick McMillen is ready to repeat the same performance at the French track. With both the RJN-run Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3s showing good pace in the practice sessions on Friday and Qualifying today and a high top speed, the possibility for a good result in the biggest class of the field is certainly there.“We already tested here at the beginning of the year,” said McMillen. “The track suits the car. I feel confident behind the wheel, so we should be able to push for a good result.”

***As the on track action comes to an end later today, most teams will head to Spa-Francorchamps where the traditional test day for the 24 Hours. More than 40 cars are expected to show up, with an official entry list due to be released tomorrow. Teams such as Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and HTP Motorsport will then have only one day to get to Zandvoort before the first practice session starts on Friday morning.

***This weekend’s third round is the first three hour race to be held in the evening. The race starts at 7.15 p.m. to finish three hours later at 10.15 p.m., the final 30 minutes will be run after sunset.

***After scoring its first breakthrough win with the Continental GT3 at Silverstone, Bentley is aiming to confirm the result at Paul Ricard, despite the different characteristics of the French track. “It will definitely be harder for us here than at Silverstone,” Guy Smith told Sportscar365. “Our car is one of the slower cars on the straight, but it is easy on its tires and we’re able to keep up a good rhythm.”

***With the announcement that Bentley is targeting to enter the Nürburgring 24 in 2015, expect to see the Continental GT3 already making a couple of guest appearances in the VLN series later this year.

*** CBS Sports Network will televise coverage of the Blancpain Endurance Series evening race from Paul Ricard on Sunday at 7 p.m. and again 9 p.m. ET. International viewers can get access to all the action via the following link:

Laurent Mercier contributed to this notebook

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.

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