Image credit: Martijn van Tussenbroek.
A brief look at the entry list of the 2015 Blancpain GT Series leads to a clear conclusion: the best GT series on the motorsports planet just got even better. With an unprecedented number of professional drivers and teams taking part, the twelve events on the 2015 Blancpain GT Series calendar promise to be exciting from start to finish.
129 days. That’s how long it’s been since the final chequered flag of the 2014 Blancpain GT Series was waved, on the streets of Baku. After a well-deserved – but short – recess, the best teams and drivers in GT racing have started preparing for the 2015 season, to be ready for the Official Test Days that will take place over the coming days. Not only have the Blancpain GT Series regulars put a lot of elbow grease into their winter build-up, but a number of new teams have decided to join the biggest GT series as well. All these hard efforts have led to an impressive entry list for 2015.
Blancpain Endurance Series: the most impressive Pro Cup entry list ever
In the Blancpain Endurance Series no fewer than 56 cars are heading for the first race in Monza, on April 12th. Twenty-three of those glorious GT3 machines will start the season in the Pro Cup, the highest ever in the history of the series. Title defenders Belgian Audi Club Team WRT have entered three Audi R8 LMS ultra, and there is no doubt that they will be as competitive as last year.
However, plenty of opponents will want to bring the reign of the Belgian squad to an end. Not only other Audi teams like Phoenix Racing and I.S.R. Racing, who have set their sights on race wins, but with nine prestigious car brands represented in the Pro Cup, competition promises to be fierce. After a successful inaugural season last year, Bentley M-Sport is now aiming for the title. They will no longer be the only Bentley representative, since Team HTP has switched to the Continental GT3 as well.
Two new cars are eagerly awaited by the fans: the Lamborghini Huracan of the GRT Grasser Racing Team and the McLaren 650S GT3 of Von Ryan Racing and Attempto Racing. Other teams have decided to stick with the cars they know inside out, even though some of those crews are new to the Pro Cup of the Blancpain Endurance Series. That goes for BMW Team Brazil (BMW Z4), Nissan GT Academy Team RJN (Nissan GT-R Nismo), Black Falcon and Rowe Racing (Mercedes SLS AMG), Oman Racing Team (Aston Martin Vantage) and Rinaldi Racing (Ferrari 458 Italia). MRS GT Racing, previously in the Blancpain Endurance Series with a McLaren, is now bringing a Nissan GT-R Nismo.
The Pro-Am Cup of the Blancpain Endurance Series can count on a comparable variety of GT3 cars among the twenty two entered for the 2015 season. Scuderia Villorba Corse will do their utmost to defend their title, but they are not the only ones to put their trust in the redoubtable Ferrari 458 Italia. No fewer than nine Prancing Horses will grace the Pro-Am Cup grids this year. After being absent for most of 2014, French squad AKKA-ASP makes a welcome comeback with the 458, AF Corse enters no fewer than three cars in the category, while series regulars Kessel Racing and Insightracing with one each, but also a newcomers like Black Pearl by Rinaldi and Dragonspeed are placing their trust in the Italian horsepower. Just like last year, the fiercest competition is expected to come from the five BMW Z4, with Team Russia by Barwell as the new kid on the BMW-block. Do not think the battle for Pro-Am Cup honours will be limited to a Ferrari-BMW duel however: the Mercedes SLS AMG, Nissan GT-R Nismo, Aston Martin Vantage, Emil Frey Jaguar and the new McLaren 650S – brought by German squad Attempto Racing – are aiming for podium finishes as well. There is a lone Audi on the Pro-Am Cup entry list too, and since it is in the hands of the all-conquering Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, expect it to be at the sharp end of the grid.
The increased popularity of the Pro Cup and Pro-Am Cup does not mean that the third category on the Blancpain Endurance Series entry list is suffering. Far from it. Eleven cars will race in the renamed Am Cup. Title defenders AF Corse enter two Ferrari 458 Italia, and with newcomers and returnees like AKKA-ASP and Glorax Racing preferring the cars from Maranello as well, the Italian brand forms the strongest delegation with six cars. Several other new teams have chosen to compete in the Am Cup. Classic & Modern Racing enter a BMW Z4, Car Collection Motorsport brings two Mercedes SLS AMG and Belgian Delahaye Racing Team will try to shine with a Porsche. One Audi R8 LMS ultra will also compete in the AM Cup, entered by Team Parker Racing, winners of the last round of 2014, and third in last year’s final standings. The British squad is determined to continue that winning streak into 2015.
Blancpain Sprint Series: Variety is the key
In the Blancpain Sprint Series, the reigning champion is more than willing to take on the role of favourite. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has entered no fewer than four cars for the seven rounds of 2015. With two more R8 LMS ultra in the hands of Czech squad I.S.R. Racing and one in the colours of Phoenix Racing, the German brand takes the majority of the grid spots in the Blancpain Sprint Series.
But, just like in the Endurance Series, variety is key on the sprint entry list. Nine manufacturers are represented by one or more cars. MRS GT Racing and Bentley Team HTP premiere the Nissan GT-R Nismo and the Bentley Continental respectively in the Blancpain Sprint Series, earning the status of title contenders in the process.
BMW Team Brasil, Phoenix Racing, Fortec and Reiter Engineering count on their experience from previous seasons to join that elite group, while teams like GT Russian Team, I.S.R. Racing, Fach Auto Tech, Attempto Racing and Rinaldi Racing will want to shine during their first complete season in the Blancpain Sprint Series as well. Their lack of experience in the Series might not always be a handicap, since a couple of tracks – Misano and Moscow – are new to all the teams this year.
With a couple of teams – like Fortec, GT Russian Team and the Porsche of Fach Auto Tech – going for Pro-Am Cup or Silver Cup honours, the season entry list for the Blancpain Sprint Series is 21 cars strong. That number will probably increase at each race, when race-by-race entries join the pack. During the Blancpain Sprint Series finale in Baku, no fewer than 28 cars are expected on the grid.
Blancpain GT Series: Number of contenders tripled
Whereas last year, during the inaugural season of the Blancpain GT Series, only three teams entered both the Endurance and the Sprint Series, that number has tripled for the upcoming season. No fewer than nine racing squads will line up at least one car in all twelve events of the Blancpain GT Series, aiming at the overall title. The introduction of substantial prize money in the Blancpain Endurance Series – 100.000 euro at each of the five rounds – and the fact that only teams entered in the complete Blancpain GT Series will be rewarded full prize money has proved to be a serious incentive for a number of teams. BMW Team Brazil and Phoenix Racing will try to bring their expertise of the sprint races to the endurance events, while several other squads have gone straight for the complete program with twelve stops in their first complete season in the Blancpain GT Series. That goes for MRS GT Racing, I.S.R. Racing, GT Russian Team, Rinaldi Racing and Attempto Racing. Therefore there is every chance that the duel of 2014, between Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and HTP Motorsport, might become a three- or four-way battle this year.
Stephane Ratel (Founder and CEO SRO Motorsports Group): “At SRO we are obviously delighted that an ever increasing number of teams want to join our series. The introduction of prize money for all twelve rounds of the Blancpain GT Series has clearly had its effect on the level of the entries as well. Never before have we had the chance to welcome so many professional drivers as this year. This will only increase the competitiveness of the Series, a fact that we can only applaud. I wish all the new teams in the Blancpain GT Series a very warm welcome and am looking forward to the races. This will be an exciting season, of that I am absolutely convinced.