Blancpain GT Series Asia’s Teams’ and Drivers’ champions joined title winners from each of SRO Motorsports Group’s other global categories in Paris yesterday for the promoter’s annual Night of the Champions and exclusive ‘25 years of GT racing’ celebrations.
The historic Palais Brongniart – the French capital’s 19th century former stock exchange – played host to a star-studded awards ceremony and black tie evening gala that paid tribute to a quarter-century of GT racing around the world.
It was a chance for Blancpain GT Series Asia’s champions to rub shoulders with their European counterparts, as well as the winners from SRO’s regional GT3 and GT4 categories, Pirelli World Challenge, the Macau FIA GT World Cup and Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Blancpain GT Series Asia’s inaugural GT3 champion Hunter Abbott was in attendance, the GruppeM Racing driver picking up his overall and Pro/Am trophies as well as a personalised Blancpain 8885S timepiece. He was joined on stage by GruppeM Racing owner Kenny Chen who accepted the GT3 Teams’ title following a stellar season for the Mercedes-AMG outfit.
2017’s GT4 champions were also in Paris, with Frenchman Jean-Marc Merlin and Craft-Bamboo Racing co-driver Frank Yu collecting their trophies together after winning five of the season’s 12 races.
The celebrations continued with 2017’s other GT3 class champions being presented with their trophies on stage. Audi Hong Kong duo Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong missed out on the overall crown by just three points but still ended an excellent campaign as Silver Cup champions, while CMRT Eurasia’s Kenneth Lim and James Cai were in town to collect their Am Cup prizes.
Hunter Abbott, GT3 Drivers’ Champion: “If you’d said at the start of the year I’d be here collecting a championship trophy then I’d have called you a madman! Everything went right: GruppeM’s engineers, mechanics, sponsorship and co-drivers, who were probably the best on the grid, combined to create a formidable package. We also had some luck during the season but it feels wonderful to walk away as not only Pro/Am champion but also the Overall. I’m looking forward to wearing my new Blancpain watch!”
Marchy Lee, GT3 Silver Cup Champion: “I’ve always admired Stephane [Ratel] because, as a driver himself, he’s always understood what we need and tried to include those elements within his series. Coming here to Paris to collect our trophies alongside SRO’s other champions is also a special touch. Drivers like myself and Alex Yoong have been the main faces of Asian GT racing for a few years now, while someone like my co-driver Shaun [Thong] represents the next generation. So being here, around SRO’s other champions, helps to put the continent on the map. It’s going to be an increasingly important market in the coming years.”
Blancpain GT Series Asia’s six-event, 12-race 2018 season begins at Sepang in Malaysia on April 14/15.
2017 BLANCPAIN GT SERIES ASIA CHAMPIONS
1st Hunter Abbott, GruppeM Racing
2nd Mitch Gilbert and Aditya Patel, OD Racing
3rd Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong, Audi Hong Kong
1st Hunter Abbott, GruppeM Racing
2nd Alex Au and Alex Yoong, Audi R8 LMS Cup
3rd Jeffrey Lee, J-Fly by Absolute Racing
GT3 Silver Cup
1st Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong, Audi Hong Kong
2nd Mitch Gilbert and Aditya Patel, OD Racing
3rd Tim Sugden and Jules Szymkowiak, GruppeM Racing
GT3 Am Cup
1st James Cai and Kenneth Lim, CMRT Eurasia
2nd Andrew Haryanto, X-One Motorsports
3rd Lin Yue, FFF Racing Team by ACM
1st GruppeM Racing
2nd OD Racing
3rd Audi Hong Kong
1st Jean-Marc Merlin, Craft-Bamboo Racing
2nd Eric Lo and Byron Tong, EKS Motorsports
3rd Keo Chang, Taiwan Top Speed Racing
Glamorous finish to the 2017 SRO Motorsports Group championships
The 2017 season came to a festive close in Paris, when the SRO Motorsports Group celebrated 25 Years of GT Racing. Part of the event at the Palais Brongniart was the traditional Awards ceremony, celebrating the 2017 champions.
Attended by representatives from all series and championships organised by the SRO Motorsports Group, the annual Award Ceremony was the perfect occasion to put this year’s excellent performances in the spotlight.
The champions of the Blancpain GT Series were of course present to collect their well-earned trophies. With an exciting finish at the final round in Barcelona, Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart took the most coveted trophy as new Blancpain GT Series driver champions, sharing the endurance drivers’ title with their team-mate Andrea Caldarelli. The 2017 Sprint Cup proved to be an even closer battle, with Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonard grabbing top spot only a couple of laps before the finish of the final race at the Nürburgring. The teams’ titles were split up between Grasser Racing Team (overall), Bentley Team M-Sport (endurance) and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT (sprint). For both the Lamborghini and Bentley squads it was their first teams’ title in the Blancpain GT Series.
In the Pro-Am Cup, Alexander Mattschull and his Rinaldi Racing squad took the overall honours, with Daniel Keilwitz joining them on the top step for the Pro-Am in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup. The Pro-Am division in the Endurance Cup had already been decided after the Total 24 Hours of Spa, with Aston Martin squad Oman Racing Team with TF Sport and its drivers Ahmad Al-Harthy and Jonny Adam taking a much-deserved title.
The Am Cup was dominated by Kessel Racing, the Swiss team taking both the overall and endurance teams’ titles. David Perel took the Am Cup overall drivers’ title, and shared the Am Cup endurance title with his team-mates Marco Zanuttini and Jacques Duyver, after taking the class win in the Total 24 Hours of Spa as well.
Not only representatives of Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Ferrari took to the top step to collect their championship trophies, Mercedes-AMG drivers joined the party as well, with Jules Szymkowiak and Fabian Schiller taking the 2017 Silver Cup.
The Sean Edwards Trophy, given in memory of the first FIA GT3 European Champion, and which is awarded anually to a driver aged under 21 competing in the Blancpain GT Series, was awarded to Ben Barnicoat.
The best pitstop crew was also put in the spotlight, with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT crew members Pierre Emmanuel Carry and Cédric Darimont winning the TM Performance Pitstop Challenge.
The car that managed to complete the highest number of laps in the 2017 Blancpain GT Series, the #90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG, was awarded the 2017 Best Car Performance Award by Pirelli. Jérôme Policand took to the stage to receive the trophy for the French squad.
Now that the 2017 season is over, the SRO Motorsports Group turns its attention to next year, with exciting innovations for the Blancpain GT Series, providing the most entertaining of GT competition on the motorsports planet. We wish everybody a well-deserved and happy winter break and see you all in 2018!
Gottfried Grasser (Team Principal GRT – Grasser Racing Team): “It still has not sunk in yet that we are the overall Blancpain GT Series teams’ champions and took the drivers’ title as well. Obviously we wanted to win, otherwise we could as well have stayed at home, but it was not a fixed goal at the start of the season. We did not really believe we could do it. It was only after Silverstone that we realised we had a shot at this. And when we took the title in Barcelona… I mean, this has always been my personal goal, ever since I started in GT racing. We’ve accomplished a dream. And when we took the title, everybody in the team needed two, three weeks to fully realize what we had done. But the next thing is: what do we work for in the future? The only thing is to try to keep the title next year.”
Brian Gush (Bentley Director of Motorsport): “After four years of hard work it’s great to get the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup teams’ title. It’s the result of a great team effort and really good to get this one in the bag. Now we have plenty to look forward to for next year, with the introduction of the new car. There is still a lot of hard work to do, and we have to prepare for the Bathurst 12 Hour as well, as the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.”
Vincent Vosse (Team Principal Belgian Audi Club Team WRT): “SRO has again put the bar a bit higher this year. We had a difficult start to the year, and the Total 24 Hours of Spa – the most important race of the year for us – was not easy for us. But we recovered well, took the Sprint drivers’ title and even claimed a one-two in the Sprint teams’ championship. And we finished on the teams’ podium overall as well. All in all, I think the team did a great job this year. They never gave up and kept on working hard. And I have to congratulate SRO, on organising a championship of this high level.”
Ben Barnicoat (Winner Sean Edwards Trophy): “When I heard that I was one of the nominees for the Sean Edwards Trophy, I was convinced that Dries Vanthoor would win it, since he has had a great season. It has been tough for us this year, but we carried on working hard, and I am extremely grateful to win this award. I hope this helps me to secure my place on the grid next year.”
Audi and Markus Winkelhock honoured as the 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge champions
The 2017 season came to a glamorous end in Paris yesterday, when the SRO Motorsports Group celebrated 25 Years of GT Racing. Part of the event at the Palais Brongniart was the traditional SRO Awards ceremony, celebrating the 2017 champions.
Attended by representatives from all series and championships organised by the SRO Motorsports Group, the annual Award Ceremony was the perfect occasion to put this year’s excellent performances in the spotlight. The champions of the Intercontinental GT Challenge were of course present to collect their well-earned trophies.
The second edition of the premium global GT3 series on the motorsports planet went over three races, the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the Total 24 Hours of Spa and the inaugural Mazda Raceway California 8 Hours. By winning two of three rounds Markus Winkelhock claimed the drivers’ title, although he only held a six-point advantage over Christopher Haase in the end
Audi dominated the manufacturers’ rankings, finishing 39 points of the runner-up, thus extending the title conquered during the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge season in 2016. Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke was happy to collect the champions’ trophy.
Markus Winkelhock (2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge drivers’ champion): “It’s nice to win the Intercontinental GT Challenge title, especially after coming really close to the crown in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup earlier this year. The Intercontinental GT Challenge is a growing championship, getting more and more interest from the manufacturers each year. I hope I can defend my title next season, that would be great.”
GT4 European Series Northern Cup winners celebrated at SRO Awards
The 2017 GT4 European Series champions were celebrated at the annual SRO Motorsports Group Awards in Paris on Friday. Drivers and team representatives came to the Palais Brongniart, the French capital’s former stock exchange, for a day full of festivities.
Ekris Motorsport and its drivers Ricardo van der Ende and Max Koebolt claimed their trophies for winning the GT4 European Series Northern Cup Silver Cup and the overall GT4 European Series title, with Koebolt also claiming the Pirell Junior Cup in the GT4 European Series Northern Cup. Matt Nicoll-Jones and Lennart Marioneck collected their trophies for finishing second and third in the Silver Cup.
Stian Boers and Dick van Ekris were on hand to receive the trophy for their team’s title, as was Alexandre Rossier to accept the third place award on behalf of RYS Team KISKA.
Luc Braams and Duncan Huisman collected their trophies for winning the Pro-Am Cup and were also awarded a Certina watch. The two Dutch drivers were joined by Frans Verschuur, representing Las Moras Racing Team. RN Vision STS driver Razvan Umbrarescu and team principal Veit-Valentin Vincentz collected their trophies for second place, while third placed Allied Racing was represented by team boss and driver Jan Kasperlik and mechanics Florian Pesch and Alexander Vogler.
Most of the Am Cup awards went to Italy. Giuseppe Ghezzi accepted his trophy for winning the class, while fellow Italians Manuele Mengozzi and Manuela Gostner also received their trophies.
Orlando and Rosella Redolfi went on stage to accept the team’s titles, with Francesco Gromeneda accepting the trophy on behalf of Scuderia Villorba Corse. Rosen Daskalov was the only non-Italian on the stage, the Bulgarian picking up the trophy for finishing third with Sofia Car Motorsport.
With the 2017 season concluded, teams will now shift their focus to next year. All teams in attendance in Paris have expressed their interest to continue to race in GT4 next season.
Source. SRO Motorsport Group