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MULTIPLE ENTRIES STRENGTHEN BLANCPAIN GT SERIES GRID AHEAD OF 2018 SEASON

The entry list for the 2018 Blancpain GT Series continues to grow, with a number of new additions to the grid being officially confirmed ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Emil Frey Racing will partner with Lexus to contest the full Blancpain GT Series in 2018, embarking on a challenge for top honours in both the Endurance and Sprint Cups with their Lexus RC F GT3. This will represent the Japanese luxury vehicle manufacturer’s first assault on the Blancpain GT Series and will see the Swiss team compete as Emil Frey Lexus Racing throughout 2018. With both Sprint and Endurance campaigns confirmed they will fight for the overall title and have announced an impressive six-man driver line-up to support this effort.

Emil Frey Racing regulars Stéphane Ortelli and Albert Costa, who handled driving duties when the Lexus RC F GT3 made a one-off Blancpain GT Series appearance at the Nürburgring last season, will both return for the team’s full-scale 2018 campaign. Ortelli is a Blancpain GT Series veteran with a list of achievements that includes the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series title and the FIA GT Series crown in 2013. Costa meanwhile is a rising star of the sport who has competed for Emil Frey Racing since 2016, following an impressive junior career that included winning the Eurocup Formula Renault title in 2009.

Austrian ace Christian Klien is also a familiar to the team. Klien made his name in Formula 1, debuting for Jaguar Racing in 2004 and then competing for Red Bull during the team’s inaugural two seasons. He made his Blancpain GT Series debut for Emil Frey Racing in 2016 and last year contested the full Endurance Cup campaign. Klien’s 2017 teammate Marco Seefried also returns to the line-up. The German has a wealth of experience in sportscar racing and is a proven winner in the Blancpain GT Series.

The same can be said of Norbert Siedler, who joins Emil Frey Lexus Racing full-time this season following a handful of previous outings for the Swiss squad. Like Seefried, the Austrian comes with race-winning pedigree and a varied history in GT racing. The line-up is completed by Markus Palttala. The Finn is a racing stalwart who has competed during every Blancpain season since the championship was launched in 2011. He has secured multiple wins, most notably taking outright victory at the Total 24 Hours of Spa in 2015.

In addition to the Lexus programme, Emil Frey Racing will continue their affiliation with Jaguar in 2018 by running the iconic British marque’s GT3 machine at selected races. The team, which will compete as Emil Frey Jaguar Racing, will contest the Endurance Cup rounds at Monza, Silverstone and Paul Ricard, as well the Sprint Cup event at Misano.

Their driver line-up is led by the returning Alex Fontana, who made his debut for the team in last year’s season-closing race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The Swiss ace is joined by two new additions: Adrian Zaugg and Mikaël Grenier. While both will be making their debut for the squad at Monza they have prior experience in the Blancpain GT Series. Canadian racer Grenier contested last year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa while the South African-born Zaugg, who competes with a Swiss licence, has made numerous outings in recent years.

With vast experience in their ranks, Emil Frey Racing is well placed to compete on all fronts in 2018.

Among their opposition for the overall title will be Saintéloc Racing, who have also revealed ambitious plans to contest the full Blancpain GT Series in 2018. The French squad, who clinched outright victory in thrilling fashion at last year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, will field two Audi R8 LMS machines in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. One car will contest the Pro category and another will compete in Pro-Am. They will also make a strong push for the Sprint Cup title, with two of their Audi R8 LMS set to compete for Pro class honours.

Two of the drivers who secured their memorable victory at Spa will return in 2018, with both Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock confirmed as part of the team’s plans. Further drivers are set to be announced by the Saint-Étienne outfit in due course.

R-Motorsport have signalled their intent for 2018 by assembling a roster of highly accomplished drivers. The team has joined forces with Arden Motorsport and Jota Sport to field a pair of Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3s at all five Endurance Cup rounds, returning the storied British marque to the Pro class.

Aston Martin works drivers Maxime Martin and Nicki Thiim will spearhead their assault. Martin clinched victory at the Total 24 Hours of Spa for BMW in 2016, while Thiim has multiple titles and race wins to his name and can also count a Spa podium finish among his achievements.

Added to this experience the team has also invested in youth. Frenchman Matthieu Vaxiviere joins R-Motorsport following an impressive junior single-seater career, which included a runner-up finish in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Alex Brundle will make his Blancpain GT Series debut with the team. 22-year-old Dennis is the team’s youngest recruit and will embark on his second season of GT racing in 2018. A final driver is set to be announced shortly.

Reigning Pro-Am champions Rinaldi Racing will return in 2018 and have made the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup their main objective this year. The Mendig-based team will field a pair of Ferrari 488 GT3s, one in the Pro-Am Cup and another in the Am class. The German squad topped the overall Pro-Am standings as well as the Sprint Cup classification in 2017 and will now switch their attention to the Endurance Cup.

Alexander Mattschull and Rinat Salikhov return to drive their #333 Ferrari, with Dominik Schwager completing their three-man crew. In addition to this the team will contest the Am Cup with regular driver Pierre Ehret, whose crew-mates will be announced shortly.

Kessel Racing finished 2017 as Pro-Am runners-up in the Sprint Cup. This year they will look to go one better, with the returning line-up of Carlo Van Dam and Piti Bhirombhakdi once again representing the Swiss squad. The team will field the familiar Ferrari 488 GT3 that carried them to class podium finishes at every round of the 2017 Sprint Cup campaign, including a qualifying race victory at Zolder.

There is also growing interest in the Silver Cup for 2018. This features cars with all-Silver driver line-ups and will be extended to the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. As such, an overall title will also be awarded.

British outfit Barwell Motorsport have confirmed that they will field a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 in the Silver Cup, with three promising young drivers set to pilot the Italian machine at all five Endurance Cup events. Martin Kodric returns to the team after claiming three Pro-Am Cup victories with Barwell in 2017. The Croatian racer will be joined by his fellow Lamborghini junior driver Michele Beretta, who clinched Silver honours in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup in 2016. Their three-man crew is completed by Sandy Mitchell. The 17-year-old Scottish racer graduates to the Blancpain GT Series after promising campaigns in British GT and junior single-seaters and will now look to test himself on the international stage.

Lamborghini is also the car of choice for Italian squad Ombra Racing. The team will return to the Endurance Cup and will take on Barwell Motorsports for Silver class honours this term. 2018 will represent a third successive year of Blancpain GT Series competition for the Lombardy outfit, who initially made their name as a single-seater team. The full driver line-up for their Huracan GT3 is set to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

The Oman Racing squad will also make a bid for the Endurance Cup in the Silver category. The team, who compete in conjunction with TF Sport, claimed the Pro-Am class title in 2017 and will once again field their Aston Martin V12 GT3 this year. Ahmad Al Harthy remains on board and will be joined by a pair of exciting young talents in Charlie Eastwood and Euan McKay. Both drivers are known to the team and will join Al Harthy in forming a formidable Silver Cup trio aboard the Aston.

These additions to the gird will be added to in the coming weeks as teams and drivers finalise their 2018 programmes. With the competition for Endurance, Sprint and overall honours already looking fierce, a highly competitive season is in store for the Blancpain GT Series.

Source. SRO Motorsports Group/Photo. John Patterson

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