One of the surprise additions to the Blancpain Sprint Series paddock last weekend at Portimao was Always Evolving Motorsport, which made its series debut in name, but plans a ramped up effort, in cooperation with JRM, for the remainder of the 2015 Blancpain GT Series season.
The American-backed effort, led by AIM Autosport team principal Ian Willis, has taken over operations of the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 that was previously fielded by MRS GT Racing, which has shifted its focus to ADAC GT Masters.
“JRM approached us just prior to Sonoma [PWC round] with this idea,” Willis told Sportscar365. “We put the details together at Sonoma but there wasn’t enough time to get everything in place for Portimao, other than me going over to get the lay of the land and figure out how they run the series.”
While JRM ran the Craig Dolby and Sean Walkinshaw-driven entry in Portugal due to short notice, the effort will see a combination of AIM Autosport and JRM personnel for the final three rounds of the season, beginning with next weekend’s Endurance Series season finale at the Nürburgring.
For the Pirelli World Challenge squad, which has claimed victories this season with both James Davison and Bryan Heitkotter in 2014-spec Nissan GT-Rs, the end-of-year Blancpain GT run is being used as preparation for a planned expanded North American program in 2016.
“This is a great opportunity for us to get experience of the 2015 car in preparation for next year,” Willis said. “There’s nothing more in the plans for Europe [next year].
“It’s just an opportunity for us to finish off the season with this program and get experience with the car prior to bringing that car over for next year.”
Willis, who made the trip to Portimao last weekend, was impressed with the level of professionalism in the Blancpain GT Series paddock, having also met with SRO Motorsports Group CEO Stephane Ratel.
“The level of competition is extremely high,” he said. “In the Sprint Series, it’s basically all pro teams with pro drivers.
“I think the challenge Stephane [Ratel] is having is with the Sprint numbers… You’ve got good participation in the Endurance Series but they struggle to get participation in the Sprint Series.
“He held a couple of meetings with the teams to address ideas for next year and getting feedback. He seems to have a very good rapport with the teams and a very good line of communication.”
The team’s end-of-year program in the Sprint Series could also prepare them for what lies ahead in PWC, which has proposed plans to launch a GT3 series that mirrors the regulations of the SRO-run championship.
“If PWC does the Sprint-X concept next year, which is similar to what they do in the Sprint Series, I think it’s good,” Willis said. “I think the challenge will be making it a Pro-Am driver package and deciding how they monitor the pit stops.
“Because in a one-hour sprint race, the pit stop becomes such a big piece of it. I can see a lot of teams that have spent a lot of time working on their equipment for pit stops, training their crew guys.
“I can see some teams have the drill down to a fine art and are amazingly fast.”
As for next year, Willis confirmed the AE/AIM combo will return to PWC full-time, with up to three 2016-spec GT-Rs, including one GT Academy entry.
“Nissan USA’s main focus for the GT-R is in Pirelli World Challenge, so we’ll have a two-car program in that, and possibly a third,” he said.
“We’d like to sell the 2014 cars we have to interested parties and provide support to those teams or drivers that would want to run those cars. We’d also upgrade them if they want to be at 2015 models.
“Nissan is keen to get more cars running in North America so that’s another focus as well.”