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Spa 24 Test Day Notebook

Vincent Wouter’s notebook from the Spa 24 Test Day…

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

***The Czech team ISR will make its GT debut at the 24 Hours of Spa with an Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3. Known for its involvement in the Formula Renault 3.5 World Series, ISR now wants to expand into GT racing and enter the stage in a big event like the Spa 24. The team will use the rest of the year to prepare itself for a first full season with a GT3, which will be in either Blancpain Endurance or Sprint. Filipe Salaquarda and Fabian Hamprecht are the two drivers confirmed for now.

***As expected, HTP Motorsport ran a third Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 at Spa today, but with only Maxi Buhk confirmed thus far, two drivers were invited by Mercedes AMG to test the car. Both World Series by Renault driver Jazeman Jaafar and 2012 ADAC GT Masters champion Sebastian Asch drove the car. Despite 2013 Spa 24 winner Maxi Götz not being present at Spa today, it’s still believed he will once again team up with Buhk to defend his title. There are also some question marks about the third car within the team itself, as it might distract from the two full season entries.

***Von Ryan Racing confirmed it will enter a McLaren MP4-12C GT3 in the Pro Cup for a yet to be finalized lineup. “We like to think we have a very good entry and in general a good package. The drivers will complement each other,” team owner Dave Ryan confirmed to Sportscar365. “ART Grand Prix is the benchmark; We’ll try to be up there with them. We have a 100 percent finishing record at Spa and we want to keep it that way.” Gregoire Demoustier was the only driver to test the car, with his team ART GP not present at Spa.

***Bentley factory driver Guy Smith had his first taste of Spa in little over five years at the test day. He last raced at Spa in the 2009 European Le Mans Series with the Team LNT Ginetta Zytek LMP1. It was also Bentley’s first appearance at Spa Francorchamps, with M-Sport remaining low key after scoring its second BES win at Paul Ricard last weekend. The team opted to run trough a general program, without chasing a top time.

***While Brussels Racing AMR has disappeared of the entry list for now, the team is still working on fielding a car in the Pro Cup. The goal is to have an all-Belgian lineup with Betrand Baguette, Maxime Soulet and a thrid driver. A decision should be made in the next couple of days.

***Despite AMR announcing its ambition to enter one or two factory cars in the race, none of those have materialized. AMR factory drivers Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke and Pedro Lamy have now joined MP Motorsport, Beechdean Motosport and Leonard, respectively. Team Principal John Gaw said Aston Martin doesn’t want to compete against its two costumer teams in the Pro Cup.

***The lineup of both Nissan GT Academy Team RJN cars is now complete. Bob Neville confirmed that local hero and Nissan ZEOD RC driver Wolfgang Reip will join Alex Buncombe, Nick McMillen and Florian Strauss in the No. 80 Nissan, the Belgian finished third in the Pro-Am Cup last year. Super GT500 driver Masataka Yanagida is the fourth and final name on the No. 35 GT-R Nismo GT3, where he’ll team up with Mark Shulzhitskiy, Miguel Faisca and Katsumasa Chiyo, who drove an impressive opening stint at last weekend’s BES Paul Ricard race.

***Barwell Motorsport ran two BMW Z4 GT3 cars at the test, though only one will race in the Spa 24. Jonny Cocker was driving the Team Russia liveried ELMS car, while also coaching his teammate Timur Sardarov for the British GT round next week at Spa. “We were struggling a bit in the first to ELMS rounds, but we’re hoping for a turnaround with the ACO changing the BoP of the Ferraris, which should give us a fighting chance at the Red Bull Ring,” Cocker said about his ELMS campaign.

***The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT ran two brand new Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 today, carrying the numbers 1 and 2 and the colors in which Phoenix Racing won the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring two weeks ago. The original black liveried No. 1 was also present in the pitbox, but didn’t run. The car was consistently 6 to 10 kph slower than its sister car No. 3 at Paul Ricard last weekend, a faulty sensor on the air intake was at the cause of it.

***The 24 Hours of Spa celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. For this occasion, a special trophy will be awarded to the winner of the race. More details will be announced at the drivers briefing on Wednesday.

***With 60 confirmed entries on the latest entry list, SRO’s Stephane Ratel is hoping that number will grow by a couple of cars, as some teams are still laying the final touches to their project. All entries on the list have already paid their entry fee.

***One notable absentee in this year’s race is the local Porsche squad ProSpeed Competition. The Belgian team didn’t enter the Blancpain Endurance Series this season and prefers to focus on its programs in the ELMS (GTC) and FIA WEC (GTE-Am), and supervising the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Benelux.

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

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