The 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season gets underway on the Brands Hatch GP circuit on May 4 – 5 and a 26-car grid will be competing for overall and class honours at the iconic 2.433 mile / 3.916 kms Fawkham circuit.
The bumper grid, some 10 entries more than the equivalent race in 2018, will see five different manufacturers represented across the four categories.
Audi is the most popular marque with 12 examples of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo competing in opening round. 2018 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup champions Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has four entries – two each in the Pro and Silver categories. Ezequiel Perez Companc and Dries Vanthoor will pilot the #1 Pro entry while Christopher Mies and newcomer Charles Weerts will drive the #2 entry. Rik Breukers and Oscar Tunjo form a Silver driving partnership in the #10 entry while Shae Davis and Tom Gamble will pilot the sister #17 Silver entry.
Phoenix Racing has entered two Audi R8 LMS GT3 entries in the Pro category with Kim-Luis Schramm and Frank Stippler joining forces in the #5 entry while young British driver Finlay Hutchison will partner Frederic Vervisch in the #11 car. 2019 will see the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe debut for 19-year-old Hutchison, who finished eighth in the 2018 British GT Championship GT4 drivers standings, driving alongside Daniel McKay in the Equipe Verschuur McLaren 570S GT4
Sainteloc Racing has three Audi entries – two in the Pro category and one in the Pro-Am class. Nyls Stievanart joins Stéphane Ortelli in the #24 Pro-Am entry which should be one to watch. Simon Gachet and Christopher Haase join forces in the team’s #25 Pro entry alongside Markus Winkelhock and Steven Palette in sister #26 entry.
Attempto Racing is bringing a trio of Audis with two entries in the Pro category and one in the Silver class. Steijn Schothorst joins Nick Foster in the #55 Pro entry while Kelvin van der Linde and Clemens Schmid pilot the sister #66 car. The team’s Silver entry will see Milan Dontje driving alongside Mattia Drudi.
Five Mercedes-AMG GT3s will be on the grid at Brands Hatch. Akka ASP Team returns with four entries – two in the Silver and one each in the Pro and Pro-Am classes. In the Pro entry, 2018 overall drivers champion Raffaele Marciello will be joined by previous Bentley driver Vincent Abril in the #88 entry while Nico Bastian and Thomas Neubauer form the #89 Silver entry partnership alongside Timor Bogulavskiy and Fabian Schiller in the sister #90 entry.
Akka ASP team owner Jérôme Policand is confident that the new #89 driving partnership will be highly competitive.
“The new line-up is very interesting,” said Policand. “I know that Nico will be and excellent team-mate for Thomas. Nearly 20 years old, Thomas is showing real promise. After thorough tests in Barcelona, we decided to run him with an experienced driver and Nico was the ideal candidate. Nico is a solid driver who has a lot of experience with the Mercedes-AMG GT3. Whether in sprint races or in endurance such as the 24 Hours of Spa or the Nürburgring, he is a master of his subject. This duo could create a real surprise.”
Akka ASP team’s second Pro-Am entry will consist of Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Jim Pla in the #87 car.
Ferrari will be represented by a trio of entries. AF Corse and Rinaldi Racing both have entries in the Pro-Am class with Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini sharing the driving duties in the #52 AF Corse entry while Rinat Salikhov and David Perel pilot the #333 Rinaldi Racing entry. HB Racing has entered the #444 Ferrari F488 GT3 in the Am category, the car to be driven by Jens Liebhaser and Florian Scholze.
R-Motorsport, which enjoyed a highly competitive season in 2018 in the Endurance Cup, has entered a pair of new-generation Aston Martin Vantage GT3s in World Challenge Europe. The Silver #62 entry will be driven by Aaro Vaino and Hugo de Sadeleer. Ricky Collard and Marvin Kirkhöfer will pilot the #76 Pro class entry.
Finnish driver Vaini began his GT career in 2017, winning the Italian GT Championship at his first attempt. Competing in ADAC GT Masters in 2018, Vaino has his sights firmly set on success in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe championship.
“My goal is to be in the lead in the sprint race and to have a chance to win the title by the end of the season,” said Vaino. “Just as I got to know the team, there is the necessary ambition and know-how to start the season with a good chance of success.”
Finally, Lamborghini will have four examples of the new-for-2019 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 on the grid. Orange 1 Racing Team has entered a trio, with an entry each in the Pro, Pro-Am and Silver classes. The Pro entry sees team owner Andrea Calderelli partner with Marco Mapelli in the #563 car, Lamborghini factory driver Phil Keen joins Hiroshi Hamaguchi in the #519 Silver Cup car while Taylor Proto and Diego Menchaca share the driving duties in the #555 Silver entry.
Track action for the opening round of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe begins with practice at 09:30 local time on Saturday May 4 with the qualifying sessions getting underway at 15:55 later that afternoon.
The lights go for Race One on Sunday May 5 at 12:10.