An exciting group of 23 Blancpain GT Sports Club cars are preparing to make the trip to the south of France, with Circuit Paul Ricard welcoming round three of this year’s six-event campaign on June 24-25.
SRO Motorsports Group’s Bronze-only drivers series travels to the French Grand Prix venue for the third time in as many years, the historic track having starred as one of the mainstays for the championship since its inaugural 2015 season.
Four manufacturers – BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Mercedes – are set to grace the Blancpain GT Sports Club with superb machinery on another thrilling Blancpain GT Series weekend, as the famed 5.842km circuit also plays host to the Paul Ricard 1000km.
Currently topping the Overall table with 43 points is AKKA ASP’s Anthony Pons, who heads to his home event with an eye towards increasing the six-point advantage he holds over Autovitesse Garage R.Affolter’s Cédric Leimer.
Having claimed the very first race of the year in Misano, the Frenchman returns to the wheel of his #72 Mercedes-AMG GT3, while his Swiss rival is still chasing a maiden season win aboard the #963 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 despite three podiums in four events so far.
Racing the same model for Shipex by Ombra Racing is last year’s Blancpain GT Sports Club runner-up Nicolas Vandierendonck, who is coming off a strong Silverstone weekend. So is Boutsen Ginion’s Karim Ojjeh. Indeed, the former Le Mans class winner drove his #2 BMW M6 GT3 to a pair of top-three finishes at the British Grand Prix venue last month.
Reigning Blancpain GT Sports Club Overall champion Michael Broniszewski is set to make a return to the series with the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 he drove to four wins en route to the 2016 title.
In the Iron Cup class, the Blancpain GT Sports Club category reserved for drivers aged 60 and over, current points leader Stephen Earle and main rival Klaus Dieter Frers are poised to resume their mano a mano. Both are racing Ferrari machinery: the US charger is competing at the wheel of the #111 Kessel Racing-entered 458 Italia GT3, while the German driver races the #3 Artega Rennsport-run 488 GT3.
Stephen Earle and Klaus Dieter Frers need to keep a close watch on AF Corse’s Louis Philippe Soenen (#50 Ferrari 488 Italia GT3) and HTP Motorsport’s Willem Paulys de Pundert (#39 Mercedes-AMG GT3), who have secured two Iron Cup podium finishes apiece so far this year.
Along with championship leader Anthony Pons, another three Frenchmen will be keen to shine on home soil, including Boutsen Ginion’s Claude-Yves Gosselin and Pierre Feligioni aboard the #4 and #6 Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso R-EXs, as well as Frederic Jean Marie Fangio in an AF Corse-entered Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
Amato Ferrari’s prestigious structure once again boasts the largest line-up at Paul Ricard with Belgian ace Patrick van Glabeke, Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup AM race winner Alex Demirdjian from Lebanon, and Austrian driver Christoph Ulrich making it five entries for AF Corse. The former two are competing at the wheel of the #488 and #961 488 GT3 models respectively, while the latter is driving the #51 458 Italia GT3.
Besides running Stephen Earle and Michael Broniszewski’s Ferrari challengers, front-running squad Kessel Racing is fielding a third 458 Italia GT3 for Alexis de Bernardi (#65) from Luxemburg.
Also part of the impressive Ferrari battalion are BMS Scuderia Italia’s Luigi Lucchini (#7), Rinaldi Racing’s Christian Hook (#33), and Team Malucelli’s Marco Galassi (#60). All three drivers are competing aboard 458 Italia GT3 models.
With six cars gearing up for the Paul Ricard event, Lamborghini has the second biggest contingent among the manufacturers involved, as HP Racing enters a pair of Huracan GT3s for Coach McKansy (#17) and Daniel Vogt (#18).
Mercedes will look to take the fight to its Italian counterparts in bringing four cars to the south of France. Mauro Ricci is set to compete in the second AKKA ASP-entered Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#87), while GDL Racing’s Roberto Rayneri adds further variety to the grid at the wheel of the #66 SLS AMG GT3.
Saturday’s Blancpain GT Sports Club action at Paul Ricard begins with two 30-minute practice sessions followed by a 20-minute qualifying run. The 25-minute Qualifying Race takes place on Sunday before drivers and teams return later that same day for their 40-minute Main Race.
Source. SRO Motorsports Group/Photo. John Patterson