A truly memorable championship battle should always keep people guessing. In this respect, the 2018 Blancpain GT Series campaign was one to savour. With the final championship standings confirmed, we took the opportunity to speak with this season’s title-winning team managers..
From start to finish, nothing about the past season was predictable. In some cases the destination of the championship trophy remained uncertain until the very last lap, with a single pass enough to change everything. The tension was written across the faces of team members in the garages as a year of work came down to the final few kilometres.
Among fans, the battle to be crowned drivers’ champion often attracts the greatest attention. This is understandable – after all, the drivers are the stars of the show – but those who run the cars are just as interested in taking home the teams’ award.
Be it overall, Pro-Am or Am Cup, a teams’ championship is the ultimate prize for a year of hard work by a dedicated and passionate group. Ending the season on top requires plenty of tough days and a few very long nights – particularly at the Total 24 Hours of Spa – making a title triumph especially sweet.
The 2018 campaign saw six different teams earn silverware across the classes. Some secured their first major honours in international GT racing, while others added to an already extensive collection.
But each of these teams is united by a common approach: they are already planning for yet more success in 2019 and beyond.
AKKA ASP Team, Mercedes-AMG GT3: Overall
AKKA ASP was the standout team of 2018, with Jerome Policand’s squad securing an impressive haul of silverware that included the overall teams’ title. With Raffaele Marciello capturing the overall drivers’ championship and also combining with Michael Meadows to take Sprint Cup honours, it was a landmark year for the French outfit.
“To be honest, I never expected this!” said Policand. “My goal was to be on the overall podium, because I thought we were not yet completely ready.
“To win a championship, you need to have a different perspective,” he continued. “Sometimes you need to sacrifice a place and make sure you take the points. It’s very difficult because we are all fighters. The drivers are all quick and they want to win, but there are so many cars on the track and it is easy to get a penalty. You have to always concentrate, keep calm and do your job. I am proud that we did that.”
Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon, Mercedes-AMG GT3: Endurance Cup
German squad Black Falcon clinched the teams’ and drivers’ titles in the Endurance Cup thanks to victory in the season-ending race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The trio of Yelmer Buurman, Maro Engel and Luca Stolz were consistently quick throughout 2018 and the #4 Mercedes-AMG crew sealed top honours in perfect fashion.
“This is the best group we have ever put together so it was great to be able to win the championship,” said team principal Sean Paul Breslin.
“Our success is down to years of preparation and always improving the structure of our team. In particular, our technical director Marvin Wagner puts his blood and sweat into everything he does. Our engineer, Renaud Dufour, also helped us to make a big step and worked extremely well with his chief mechanic.
“Maro, Yelmer and Luca have been with us for some years now, so it was great to win this title with them. The team will be back next season to defend it.”
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, Audi R8 LMS: Sprint Cup
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT ensured that AKKA ASP did not capture all of the titles this year. The Audi squad kept up its phenomenal run of success in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup by capturing a sixth successive crown, while also contending for overall and Endurance Cup honours.
“We know this championship very well and have always tried to improve,” commented team principal Vincent Vosse. “I have a lot of passion for the Sprint Cup and I have a great team around me, especially the pit stop guys. They never stop getting better at what they do.
“Unfortunately we weren’t able to win the drivers’ title, which we had also achieved for the past few years, so we have to improve again for 2019. We will be back next year fighting and again trying to be competitive in every championship.”
Sainteloc Racing, Audi R8 LMS: Pro-Am Overall & Sprint Cup
Having conquered the Total 24 Hours of Spa in 2017, Sainteloc Racing added more silverware this year by clinching the overall and Sprint Cup titles in the Pro-Am class. The duo of Markus Winkelhock and Nyls Stievenart captured five Sprint Cup victories to secure a double triumph in the drivers’ and teams’ standings.
“This is a fantastic success for us,” said Sainteloc sporting director Fred Thalamy. “I think that it was a good bet to work together with Audi.
“Markus is a fantastic guy. He’s like a father for all the drivers in our team: for Nyls, for Simon Gachet, even for Christopher Haase!
“This was Nyls’ first season in GT3 and his first full season in any category. I don’t think that he can imagine today the opportunity that he had in running with Markus.
“We can still improve in all areas. The early plan for 2019 is to try and run in three categories: Pro, Silver Cup and Pro-Am. This will be for the Sprint Cup; in Endurance Cup we will stay at two cars.”
AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GT3: Pro-Am Endurance Cup
AF Corse added another piece of Blancpain GT Series silverware to its collection by capturing the Endurance Cup teams’ title in the Pro-Am class. This was the Italian squad’s third Pro-Am title and came despite the #51 crew narrowly missing out on the drivers’ crown.
Barwell Motorsport, Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Am Cup Overall & Endurance Cup
Barwell Motorsports captured a clutch of Am Cup silverware in 2018. The British team took class honours in style at the Total 24 Hours of Spa and secured the title with another race win in Barcelona.
“It was a fantastic year,” commented Barwell commercial director Chris Needell. “Having done Pro-Am a lot, we’ve seen that Adrian [Amstutz] and Leo [Machitski] have enjoyed it so much more this year. I don’t think it’s less competitive than any other class.
“Winning at Spa was pretty special. We had a faultless run with the car and the drivers didn’t put a foot wrong. It was our first class win at the 24 Hours, so we were very happy with that.
“Leo and Adrian are pretty much committed to come back and defend their Am Cup title next year, so that’s looking good.”
Source. SRO Motorsports GRoup