Photo: Paren Raval.
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In another packed edition we have news from the Blancpain GT World Challenge America, the British GT Championship and Pirelli World Challenge America.
Blancpain GT World Challenge America.
The SRO Motorsports Group-organised Blancpain GT World Challenge America opened over the weekend of March 1 – 3 at Circuit of The Americas. The event saw the running of the first two 90-minute rounds for the 2019 championship in chilly but dry conditions.
Victory in Race 1 went to the #3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 driven by Maxime Soulet and Rodrigo Baptista, the first race win for the new-generation GT3 offering from the Crewe, UK-based manufacturer. The sister #9 entry, piloted by Andy Soucek and Alvaro Parente, finished second, completing a dominant display for K-PAX Racing in the opening round.
The final podium position as taken by the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with the driving duo of Scott Hargrove and Patrick Long.
Soucek and Baptista, in the #9 and #3 entries respectively, led away from the line but a frightening incident at the Esses saw the #63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, with David Askew at the wheel, involved in heavy contact with the barriers. Askew was thankfully unhurt but the race was neutralised and then red-flagged for nearly 30 minutes while the stricken Mercedes-AMG was recovered and damage to the barriers was repaired.
Courtesy of a quick in-lap by Baptista and a conservative out-lap by Parente, now at the wheel of the #9 car, meant that the #3 car had the lead after the driver changes and team orders saw the positions remain the same to the chequered flag.
Maxime Soulet, driver of the #3 Bentley, was delighted at the win.
“I knew it was going to be like that because he (Parente) went out one lap earlier so his tyres were already hot,” said Soulet. “I didn’t know I was in front but then I saw the big Bentley lights and then I had to keep him behind me and manage the pace at the end. But we had team orders so it was OK.”
You can read the race report here.
Race Two saw a victory for the 2018 champions Miguel Molina and Toni Vilander, piloting the #61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari F488 GT3, Molina crossing the line 1.249 seconds ahead of Maxime Soucek in the #9 K-PAX Bentley.
Completing the overall podium positions was the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Patrick Long in the car he shared with Scott Hargrove.
After the driver changes it looked as if the race would result in a straightforward win for the #61 R. Ferri entry but incidents the #38 K2R Motorsports Porsche driven by Kevan Millstein and the #19 One11 Competition Ferrari with Brian Kaminskey at the wheel resulted in a Full Course Yellow followed by a Safety Car with 19 minutes remaining.
At the re-start with nine minutes remaining, Soucek in the #9 Bentley attacked Molina and briefly passed the #61 car but Molina was expecting the move and promptly took the lead back. Soucek kept pushing the #61 car hard but had to settle for second place.
A full race report can be found here.
British GT Championship.
The 2019 British GT Championship was launched with the pre-season test and Media Day at Donington Park on Match 5. The full entry was revealed and the series organisers were very to announce that a record 38-car grid will compete across the GT3 and GT4.
In the GT3 class 15 cars will line up at Oulton Park for the first round with four new-generation Aston Martin Vantage GT3s competing alongside two examples each of the BMW M6 GT3, Bentley Continental GT3, Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo and Mercedes-AMG GT3. A single McLaren 720S GT3 has been entered by Balfe Motorsport and Porsche returns to the senior class with two 911s 0 a GT3 R entered by G-Cat Racing and GT3 Cup entry from WPI Motorsport.
The GT4 grid features 23 cars representing eight manufacturers with the #89 Stellar Performance not having declared their car yet.
Speaking at the launch press conference, British GT Championship General Manager Benjamin Franassovici expressed satisfaction at the record entry.
“It’s beyond our expectation – we didn’t expect to have so many cars with the quality and the variety,” said Franassovici. “After the last round at Donington last year we had entries already. People realise that it’s limited in numbers and the platform is very popular. We were hoping for 16 cars – we reserved 16 places in GT3. Quite frankly I expected 10 cars – 11 cars and by January we were having extra cars coming in so 90% of our grid was completed by December, which is very nice to do.”
You can read a full report of Benjamin Franassovici’s comments here.
Ahead of the Media Day, Daventry-based JRM Racing had announced that 2017 GT3 Drivers Champions Rick Parfitt Jnr. and Seb Morris would be returning the the Championship in 2019, driving the team’s new-generation #31 Bentley Continental GT3. Rick Parfitt Jnr had previously announced that, due to business commitments and to look after his health, he would be retiring at the end of the 2017. However, he had never ruled out a come-back.
Speaking with EnduranceandGT Editor Andy Lloyd at Donington Park, Parfitt explained that JRM Racing had made an exceptional effort to lure the Nottingham-based driver out of retirement.
“Genuinely I was retired until very recently,” said Parfitt. “I think we only put ink to paper two or three weeks ago. JRM worked incredibly hard to make the deal happen and they moved heaven and earth to make sure that Seb and I were together. Their vision for the future is phenomenal. The personnel they have involved, the actual group themselves with the manufacturing prowess and their history as a race team is very impressive.”
You can read the full interview with Rick Parfitt Jnr. here.
On March 4 HHC Motorsport confirmed that Luke Williams and Tom Jackson will drive the team’s second McLaren 570S GT4 for the season.
HHC Motorsport confirmed its status as a McLaren Customer Racing team in January, which allows Williams and Jackson the opportunity to compete for a place at the end-of-season shoot-out for a place on the McLaren Driver Development Programme in 2020.
Tom Jackson is certainly looking for a place on the McLaren Driver Development Programme.
“I know HHC well having raced for them and against them over the years,” said Tom Jackson. “HHC is a great team and its dedication and ability is second to none on the British GT grid so I am looking forward to a great season. My aim is to get on McLaren’s radar and show what I can do.”
Luke Williams is firmly focused on the Championship for 2019.
“I’m after a championship win’” said Williams. “I know we have to get on top of the car but McLaren is such a professional brand that I am sure we will do that quickly, especially with HHC and McLaren behind Ton and I and with some test days booked pre-season. I’ve never driven for HHC before, although the team is based just down the road from me, but I have a really good feeling for this year.”
Pirelli GT4 America
The 2019 Pirelli GT4 America Sprint series opens on the weekend on March 8 – 10 at the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
20 entries will contest the two 50-minute races with a grid of 20 cars. Porsche, McLaren and Ford are each represented by four entries Audi, Panoz and Chevrolet have two entries apiece. 2019 will see a single KTM X-BOW GT4 on the Pirelli GT4 America grid, courtesy of the #71 Marco Polo Motorsports entry, piloted by Nicoli Elghananayan.
Track action for the Pirelli GT4 America grid at St. Petersburg begins at 09:05 local time (14:05 UK time) on Friday March 8 with the first practice session. Qualifying gets underway at 09:15 local time (14:15 UK time) on Saturday March with the lights going out for Race One at 16:10 local time (21:10 UK time) later in the afternoon.
Blancpain GT Series
Grasser Racing Team has confirmed a full-season assault on the 2019 Blancpain GT Series with the Austrian team entering two new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evos in the Endurance and a one-car entry into the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, formally know as the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup.
Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart have been confirmed as piloting one of the Endurance Cup entries as well as the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe entry.
Rolf Ineichen will form part of the driver line-up for the second Endurance Cup entry, with further drivers to be announced in due course.
Blancpain GT Series Asia
The new McLaren 720S Gt3 will make its debut in the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Asia, courtesy of Japanese squad ABSSA Motorsport.
Established by Keita Sawa, who forms part of the Pro-Am driver line-up with teammate Tadao Uemtasu, early in 2019, the team’s all-Japanese crew has plenty of experience with both drivers having driven in the domestic Super GT300 series.
Keita Sawa is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“Not many Japanese teams compete outside of their native championships so to see so many racing in Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia over the last two years made it a prime contender for ABSSA Motorsport’s first full-season GT programme,” said Keita Sawa. “The opportunity to race against Asia’s best teams and drivers was also a key factor in our decision. I’ve always loved the challenge of taking on the best our continent has to offer and this championship gives me the chance to do that.”
Wherever you are and whatever your plans are, the EnduranceandGT team wish you a great weekend!