It is the first time that the Blancpain GT Series visits the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona and the meeting immediately forms the conclusion of an exciting and unpredictable season. For the overall title anything is still possible, while the fight for the Sprint Cup is also wide open.
Barcelona forms the 10th and final round of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series, which combines five Endurance races with five Sprint meetings. After nine rounds the leaders in the drivers’ standings are separated by just five points, so predicting the outcome of the 2016 season is as good as impossible.
Thanks to their fourth place in the Endurance race at the Nürburgring, #84 AMG-Team HTP Motorsport pairing Dominik Baumann and Maxi Buhk have re-taken the lead in the overall drivers’ standings, a lead they first held during the early part of the season but lost after a stroke of bad luck at the Paul Ricard Round. Since the Austrian-German duo only just missed out on the Endurance title at the Nürburgring, they are highly motivated to claim the overall crown in Barcelona.
To do so, they will have to maintain their advantage over McLaren’s Rob Bell. The Briton is on a high travelling to the Spanish circuit after he (and team-mates Van Gisbergen and Ledogar) pocketed the Endurance title at the Nürburgring. A recent dry spell – Bell has only scored two points in the last three rounds – saw him lose what looked like a comfortable lead in the overall drivers’ standings, but with the difference between he and Baumann/Buhk limited to just five points, nothing is decided yet. In Barcelona, Bell again drives with regular Sprint Cup partner Alvaro Parente.
But there is also a proverbial third dog in the fight at Barcelona. Laurens Vanthoor totals 100 points after nine meetings, and – with 34 still up for grabs – the 2014 Blancpain GT Series champion has a chance of erasing a 29-point deficit and claiming his second overall title.
A good result would also help his Belgian Audi Club Team WRT outfit in their quest for a successful defence of their teams’ title. On the eve of the Barcelona meeting, the Belgian squad is 14 points down on HTP Motorsport. For the German team it is the best chance they have ever had of claiming a title that, up until now, has always eluded them. Just like the drivers’ championship, there is a third contender with an outside chance on the teams’ title, but Garage 59 McLaren must make up 30 points on HTP Motorsport.
While the teams’ and drivers’ title fight in the overall Pro-Am category is already decided – Michal Broniszewski and Kessel Racing took the crown – the teams’ title in the Am class is not: AF Corse and Rinaldi Racing are only separated by 10 points. The Am Cup drivers’ title will probably be decided at the moment the entry list is fully confirmed. The two drivers that still have a shot at the title – Claudio Sdanewitsch leads Stéphane Lémeret by 10 points – are again entered in the same car, effectively handing the title to the German driver.
Sprint Cup to also be decided
Barcelona is not only the final round of the overall Blancpain GT Series but also the conclusion of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup. Leading the Sprint Cup standings are Belgian Enzo Ide and German Christopher Mies. Unfortunately Mies cannot make it to Barcelona, due to other commitments. That means that the 25-year old Belgian will have to defend his lead with the help of another team-mate, but in Robin Frijns – the 2015 Blancpain GT Series champion – he gets some first-class help.
In the Sprint Cup standings Ide has a lead of 17 points over Dominik Baumann and Maxi Buhk. Their win at the Hungaroring brought the Mercedes-AMG duo right back into the title fight after some lesser performances in the middle of the season. Their team colleagues Jules Szymkowiak and Bernd Schneider have been scoring points all season, but a lack of a win means they have to close a 20-point gap on Ide.
In fourth are McLaren duo Bell and Parente. They scored a win at the Sprint round at the Nürburgring, but failed to score any points in Budapest, which means they are now trailing the standings leader by 23 points. Belgian Audi duo Vanthoor and Frédéric Vervisch still have a mathematical chance of winning the title, but with a 33-point deficit need a minor miracle to end the season on top.
In the other categories things are also still undecided. In the Pro-Am category Kessel Ferrari drivers and triple race winners Michal Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini enjoy a 26-point advantage over French Mercedes-AMG duo Beaubelique and Moullin-Traffort, while in the Silver Cup (reserved for Silver drivers) Lamborghini pairing Luca Stolz and Michele Beretta have 24 points in hand over British Audi drivers Leonard and Meadows. The Dane Moller-Madsen will need a perfect weekend if he wants to close the 31-point gap on the Silver Cup leaders.
As you can see on the attached entry list there have been some changes in different driver line-ups since the last sprint round at the Hungaroring, but the Barcelona grid will still be 35 cars strong.
The Barcelona meeting is not only the final round of the Blancpain GT Series, but also includes races for the Blancpain GT Sports Club and several demo runs by the impressive machinery of the Blancpain Ultracar Sports Club.
Maxi Buhk (#84 AMG-Team HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG): “Barcelona is where the most important decision of the season will be taken. It was frustrating to miss the Endurance title by just one point, but we should not be too disappointed: thanks to our fourth place at the ‘Ring we still have a good shot at the overall titles, both for the drivers and the team.”
Rob Bell (#58 Garage 59 McLaren): “Barcelona will be like the Nürburgring: a big fight.
But we are ready for it, we are looking forward to it even. We want this championship as well. I think the spectators in Barcelona will see some great racing with a lot of action.”
Enzo Ide (#33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): “I don’t think that the fact that I cannot drive with Christopher is a big disadvantage. Robin Frijns is a factory driver as well, and very quick too. We have done some testing together and we get along really fine. The only thing left to do is to get used to certain procedures, like the driver changes, but there is plenty of time to prepare ourselves.”
Source. SRO Motorsport Group/Photo. John Patterson