Photo: Blancpain GT Series
After a gripping Round Two of the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Silverstone earlier in May, the grid visits Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet for the Paul Ricard 1000kms, the traditional pre-cursor to the TOTAL 24 Hours of Spa, giving the teams the chance to push the endurance envelope before the season’s blue-riband event.
49 cars will take to the grid in the South of France, one more than the entry list for Silverstone. 18 entries will contest the Pro category. There are three changes in Pro class. David Fumanelli replaces Jack Hawksworth in the #43 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 he will share with Lewis Williamson and Dev Gore. In the #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 Alex Lynn, returning from FIA Formula E duties, will replace Nicki Thiim. In the #108 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 Callum MacLeod will replace Alex Buncombe as part of the team’s rotation policy. Bentley Team M-Sport has previously announced a four-car entry in the TOTAL 24 Hours of Spa.
Paul Ricard will see a further entry in the Silver Cup class, bringing the total to 15 with the addition of the #133 Scuderia Villorba Corsa Mercedes-AMG GT3 to be driven by Roberto Pampanani, Mauro Calamia and Stefano Monaco. There are two further changes with the third driver in the #10 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 to partner Charles Weerts and Rik Breukers yet to be announced. Ryan Ratcliffe steps in for Struan Moore in the #22 Jenson Team Rocket RJN Honda Acura NSX GT3.
In the Pro-Am Cup class Philippe Steveny has not been declared to drive alongside teammates Marc Rostan and Karim Ojjeh in the #9 Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 GT3, the Belgian driver having withdrawn prior to the Silverstone race, to be replaced by Philipp Eng. The third driver in the #9 entry, which was entered as an Am class entry but amended with the arrival of Eng, has yet to be declared.
The Am Cup class sees Wolfgang Triller replaces Andrzej Lewanowski in the #444 HB Racing Ferrari F488 GT3.
After the opening two rounds of the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup saw a debut win by the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R piloted by Andrea Rizzoli, Zaid Ashkanani and Klaus Bachler and a strong drive by the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Miguel Molina, Mikhail Aleshin and Davide Rigon to take the overall victory at a warm, dry Silverstone, the lead in the overall drivers standings is held by #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO crew of Marco Mapelli, Dennis Lind and Andrea Calderelli.
Mapelli, Lind and Calderelli lead the drivers standings by one point ahead of the #72 SMP Racing crew courtesy of a second place at the opening round in Monza and a sixth place at Silverstone. With the Lamborghinis showing strongly throughout Europe in the early part of the season, expect another strong showing from the Mr Fu Songyang / Andrea Calderelli-led team.
The 2018 running of the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms saw an emotional win for the #14 Emil Frey Lexus Racing Lexus RC F GT3 piloted by Marco Seefried, Christian Klien and Albert Costa, the #14 entry taking the chequered flag just 2.315 seconds ahead of the Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Jordan Pepper, Jules Gounon and Steven Kane. With temperatures expected to reach 25° C on Saturday and zero chance of rain, expect nothing less than highly competitive racing and a close finish at the 2019 of this now classic race.
Track action for the 1000kms at Circuit Paul Ricard begins at 09:00 local time on Friday May 31 with the 60-minute Bronze Test followed by practice at 13:10. The 90-minute Pre-Qualifying session gets underway at 17:00 later in the afternoon. Live timing can be found at www.blancpain-gt-series.com and live streaming can be found via the SRO Motorsports YouTube channel – GT World.
The lights go out for the Paul Ricard 1000kms at 18:00 local time on Saturday June 1.