The 2017 Blancpain GT Series continues its progression, with a record starting grid for all ten rounds of the series. The Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup will see an impressive number of drivers fight for the overall title, with the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup confirming its prestige by an ever-increasing number of Pro drivers.
The world’s biggest GT series just got bigger!
No fewer than 11 manufacturers are represented on this year’s starting grids, with almost all of them entering at least one car with a full Pro line-up. The number of top-notch drivers – from Grand Prix and Le Mans-winners to the best GT drivers in the world – has increased even further, which makes it clear that the upcoming season of the Blancpain GT Series will produce a must-see spectacle. Here’s a look at this year’s stellar cast:
Oman Racing Team again puts its trust in the stalwart Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and is determined to be among the frontrunners in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. This year the car is in the hands of the experienced TF Sport staff, and Ahmad Al Harthy, factory driver Jonny Adam and a third, yet to be confirmed, driver will share the driving duties in the striking blue-and-white machine.
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will again bring the largest number of Audi R8 LMS to the grid. With four cars in the overall title fight, plus one in the Sprint Cup, the Belgian squad is among the favourites for the overall teams’ and drivers’ titles, but they will face strong competition, not least from other Audi teams ISR and Saintéloc Racing.
The names of the drivers have a familiar ring to them, including former (and reigning) champions such as Enzo Ide, Christopher Mies and Robin Frijns. Regulars like René Rast, Markus Winkelhock and Frank Stippler return, with former Le Mans-winners Marcel Fässler and Benoit Tréluyer getting their hands on GT3 machinery as well.
Bentley Team M-Sport is likely to be among the frontrunners again. Their line-ups remain largely unchanged, with Guy Smith and Steven Kane being joined by new Bentley Boy Oliver Jarvis, and Vincent Abril sharing the #8 Continental with Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet. Kane-Abril and Soucek-Soulet will be the Sprint Cup pairings.
The Bavarian brand will be represented by two teams this year: ROWE Racing will compete in all ten rounds of the Blancpain GT Series, while newcomer Walkenhorst Motorsport will enter two M6 GT3 cars in the Endurance Cup, one of them in the Am Cup. Their overall line-up sees three talented Silver drivers share the driving duties on the #35 BMW: Nico Menzel, Ricky Collard and Christian Krognes.
Plenty of Prancing Horses in this season of the Blancpain GT Series, with Kessel Racing and Michal Broniszewski defending their Pro-Am titles.
Giancarlo Fisichella, Marco Cioci and James Calado will be defending the Kaspersky Motorsport colours, aiming for overall wins in the Endurance Cup and the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
SMP Racing makes a welcome return in the overall Endurance title fight.
Ferraris from Rinaldi Racing, AF Corse, Spirit of Race and Kessel Racing will be among the favourites in the Pro-Am and Am Cups, with former FIA GT champions Olivier Beretta (#51 AF Corse) and Andrea Bertolini (#53 Spirit of Race) among the drivers.
In the Sprint Cup, Kessel Racing TP12 will enter a car for Thai driver Piti Bhirombhakdi and Carlo Van Dam.
Emil Frey Racing aims to continue its 2016 rise in form during the 2017 season of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. The Swiss team will enter two Emil Frey G3 Jaguar, to compete for overall honours. The driver line-up remains almost unchanged: Jaguar #14 will be driven by Lorenz Frey, Albert Costa and multiple champion Stephane Ortelli. In the sister car, Christian Klien and Jonathan Hirschi will take the wheel together with Emil Frey newcomer Marco Seefried.
The Lamborghini Huracan GT3 proves to be one of the most popular GT3 cars of recent times, with no fewer than five of them competing in the Blancpain GT Series. Grasser Racing Team and Attempto Racing each enter two, with newcomer Orange 1 Team Lazarus entering a fifth car.
Even more Lamborghini Huracan GT3’s will compete in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, where there will be ten cars! The aforementioned teams will be joined by Ombra Racing, newcomers and Am Cup contenders Team HB Racing, Italian squad Raton Racing, and a two-car Pro-Am entry from Barwell Motorsport.
In the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup, Reiter Young Stars gives the opportunity to Marko Helistekangas and Caitlin Wood to further their careers in GT racing.
Newcomers Strakka enters four cars in the Blancpain GT Series with an impressive 14-driver line-up, which blends experience and young talent from the McLaren Academy across its quartet of 650S GT3s in its bid to retain McLaren’s GT crown.
Team founder Nick Leventis will drive with Lewis Williamson in the Sprint Cup and will be joined by Craig Fleming as the sole Strakka Pro-Am entry in the Endurance Cup. Factory driver Jonny Kane shares the second Sprint entry with Loris Hezemans. In the Endurance Cup, Kane’s team-mates are David Fumanelli and GT convert Sam Tordoff.
2016 Pirelli World Challenge Champion Alvaro Parente will partner Ben Barnicoat in the third Sprint Cup entry. As part of his Academy development programme Barnicoat will also undertake a full season in the Endurance Cup, with reigning champions Rob Bell and Côme Ledogar.
Bell will also compete in the Sprint Cup, sharing a car with Andrew Watson, who will in turn be joined by former F2 champion Dean Stoneman and Endurance Cup runner-up Jazeman Jaafar.
Reigning Blancpain GT Series champions HTP Motorsport are aiming to repeat their successful 2016 season with a three-car full-season entry. Their driver line-up is yet to be finalised, but reigning driver champions Maxi Buhk and Dominik Baumann are already certain to be part of it.
AKKA-ASP, one of the stars of 2016 with second in the Total 24 Hours of Spa and victory in the final round in Barcelona, have good reason to start the 2017 season with high ambitions. Four cars are entered for the full season, with young talents such as Daniel Juncadella, Raffaele Marciello and Edoardo Mortara among the drivers.
Black Falcon has entered three cars in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, while legendary Team Zakspeed is back for a full Endurance season in the overall category as well. In the Sprint Cup Kornely Racing enters a single car for Yoshi Mori and Kenneth Heyer.
Motul Team RJN Motorsport warrants some high hopes for the upcoming season. Youngsters Matt Simmons, Matthew Parry and Struan Moore might have to focus on learning the ropes in top-notch GT racing, but 2015 Blancpain Endurance Champions Alex Buncombe, Lucas Ordonez and Katsumasa Chiyo will certainly have higher ambitions at the wheel of the impressive Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3.
The fans will be happy to see three of the ‘Elfer’ back in the Pro-Am category of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. A welcome return to a familiar name in GT Racing, Roock Racing, which will enter two cars, while Team Herberth enters a Porsche for Jurgen Häring and the Renauer twins, Alfred and Robert.
Stephane Ratel (Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group): “Even though last year’s starting grids were already very impressive, we are very happy to see that the 2017 Blancpain GT Series will again be a reference when it comes to GT racing. With plenty of new teams and the best GT drivers in the world on the starting grid we have plenty to look forward to in the upcoming season. I can’t wait to be at the start of the first race. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our loyal partners, especially Blancpain and Pirelli, without whom this would not be possible.”
Source. SRO Motorsports Group