Sebastien Loeb to make International GT debut on home ground.
The much anticipated FIA GT Series entry list is announced today ahead of the first round of the season at Nogaro, France, over the Easter weekend (30/31 March, 1 April).
Featuring a field of quality and diverse entries, the new-look FIA GT Series starts with 26 of the best and most spectacular GT cars in the world.
Up to 40,000 spectators are expected to attend the impressive 2013 curtain-raiser at Nogaro, one of the most popular on the national racing calendar. A new and exciting era of GT competition is set to blaze a new trail next weekend.
Allied to these top-class entrants will be new teams joining some familiar faces on the grid for what will be an epic season of sprint GT racing.
With teams and drivers from many countries and continents, it is fair to say that in 2013, the FIA GT Series may not be going around the World, but the World is indeed coming to the FIA GT Series.
Carrying the #1, #2 and #3 numbers to reflect and honour Mercedes’ title success in last season’s FIA GT World and European Championships, is the newly-named HTP Gravity Charouz team (formerly HEICO), which enters three of the glorious Mercedes SLS AMG GT3s.
The team is familiar to GT racing after taking Maximilian Buhk (DEU) to the FIA GT3 drivers’ crown last season. For this campaign they will enter one Mercedes in each of the Pro Cup, Pro-Am and Gentlemen’s Trophy classes, making a significant commitment to the FIA GT Series in 2013.
Another title-winning team from last season is Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, which has grown in status year by year. Two Pro Cup Audi R8 LMS ultra cars, for Stephane Ortelli (MON)/Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) and Edward Sandstrom (SWE)/Frank Stippler (DEU), are entered for the season.
The team will be hoping to maintain their fantastic recent form at Nogaro, after sealing a double victory at the French venue last season.
A third entry for last year’s 24 Hours of Spa winner Rene Rast (DEU) and Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT) gives great strength and depth for the Belgian team, with this car being entered in the Pro-Am category.
Multiple FIA GT and GT1 World Champions, Vita4one Racing is back with their BMW Z4s this season. Michael Bartels brings one car to Nogaro, for Frank Kechele (DEU) and experienced Belgian driver Greg Franchi.
The German team has been a mainstay in GT racing for many years and has the potential to enter a second car, from Zolder onwards.
Leading Ferrari team and FIA GT Championships’ regular AF Corse will also race a Ferrari 458 Italia this season. Rapid former GP2 driver, Fabio Onidi (ITA) will be joining Filip Salaquarda (CZE), already present with the team last season.
In a major coup for the FIA GT Series, nine-time World Rally champion and motorsport legend, Sebastien Loeb (FRA) brings his own team to the party, fielding two McLaren MP4-12C cars.
Loeb will be returning to where it all began for him in GT racing, as he made his debut at the 2009 Coupes de Paques. Now embarking upon his first full season in circuit racing and one of the most familiar faces in world motorsport, he will pair up with talented McLaren factory driver, Alvaro Parente (PRT).
The French team also fields a second McLaren for the experienced GT duo of local hero Mike Parisy (FRA) from Pau and Andreas Zuber (AUT).
One of many significant improvements for this season has been the confirmation of a momentous TV deal with RTL in Germany and SporTV Globo in Brazil. This unprecedented coverage of the FIA GT Series has enabled the presence of additional German teams with a brace of McLaren MP4-12Cs from the Dörr Motorsport team.
The German team spread their entries between the Pro and Pro-Am class, with Niclas Kentenich (DEU) and 2010 FIA GT3 Champion Daniel Keilwitz (DEU) campaigning in the former.
Another German team that will benefit from the increased TV exposure in its homeland is Phoenix Racing. They will enter an Audi R8 LMS ultra for experienced GT driver Anthony Kumpen (BEL) who is joined by Enzo Ide (BEL) to make an all-Belgian line up. A second car in expected from Zolder onwards.
Doubling the Mercedes ranks will be Seyffarth Motorsport, which has committed to the FIA GT Series with a strong line-up of respected professional racers, including Jan Seyffarth (DEU) and former F1 driver, Karun Chandhok (IND), who moves across from prototypes to the FIA GT Series. Further variety is brought to the series by the inclusion of the Grasser Racing-run Lamborghini LP600.
Live TV coverage in Brazil will make the FIA GT the most Brazilian Championship outside of Brazil, and Portuguese one of the most widely spoken language in the paddock.
BMW Team Brazil enters two BMW Z4s. The Antonio Hermann led outfit will have Brazilian stock-car legend, Caca Bueno (BRA) in its driving strength.
Joining Bueno in the team will be 1998 FIA GT1 champion, Ricardo Zonta (BRA). Allam Khodair (BRA) and Sergio Jimenez BRA) complete the all-South American squad.
Four more Brazilian drivers will be filling the ranks of Rodrive, which will race a pair of Ford GTs, one in Pro-Am for two former Brazilian GT Champions and one in the Gentlemen’s Trophy class while fellow Portuguese squad Novadriver are confirmed with one Audi R8 LMS ultra for team boss Cesar Campanico and Portuguese GT Champion Carlos Viera.
A second car is entered for another pair of Brazilian drivers yet to be named.
Representing the Asian continent will be BMW Sports Trophy Team India, previously run as Sunred. Armaan Ebrahim (IND) leads the team, who will enter a BMW Z4 in the Pro-Am cup class. Armaan made his GT debut in the Sunred Ford GT in Moscow last year.
Absent from the FIA GT grids last season, Nissan is making a brilliant return by bringing two cars with the unique and inspiring GT Academy initiative, where ‘gamers to racers’ compete on the international stage with the fearsome Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 cars entered by RJN Motorsport.
Alex Buncombe (GBR) is paired with the original graduate of the GT Academy scheme, Lucas Ordonez (ESP) while a second Nissan is entered for 2012 Russian Winner Mark Shulzhitskiy (RUS) and 2012 European winner Wolfgang Reip (BEL).
Further French interest at Nogaro will come from the SOFREV Auto Sport Promotion (Ferrari) and Sainteloc Racing (Audi) teams. Grabbing the attention of the public will be SOFREV’s Fabien Barthez.
The 1998 World Cup winner and national hero is a popular addition to the paddock and a huge enthusiast for the FIA GT Series with vast experience at Nogaro.
Additional entries are expected to join from the second round onwards at Zolder on 20/21 April. Among those in a pool of exciting possible additions are Prospeed, Reiter Engineering and AMR Young Driver who could join an already large, healthy and diverse grid of GT3 cars that are all set for an action packed start to a bright new era of FIA GT Series competition. QUOTES
Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, Stephane Ratel: “SRO is pleased to have fulfilled its commitment to preserve a strong international sprint series for GT cars, and to offer teams and drivers in Europe and elsewhere a second platform, perfectly integrated with the ultra-successful Blancpain Endurance Series.
"The presence of so many drivers from Brazil, India and Russia is a welcome reward from our long-term investment in promoting GT racing globally.
"The FIA GT Series is focussed on events which have been selected on their ability to deliver large and visible crowds, and on an expanded TV coverage with live and highlights packages via RTL, Bloomberg, SporTV, RTBF, Sport + and many more.
"We now have an excellent foundation on which to build a stable GT series that can prosper for many years to come.”
Sebastien Loeb, Driver and Team Owner of Sebastien Loeb Racing – McLaren MP4-12C: “I chose to race in the FIA GT Series because it's a professional championship, you don't need to have one pro and one amateur in the car, so for me it was important to have a professional driver with me in the car, in order to be able to compare some things. Moreover, this is an interesting championship, and there will be some very good fights.”
Stephane Ortelli, Driver with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT: “I am very much looking forward to Nogaro and returning to the track where we won twice in two days last year. It is always nice to get back in to a racing environment and build towards a goal for the season ahead.”
Anthony Kumpen, Driver with Phoneix Racing: “I think the first race will be the most determining race because the team is new in FIA GT, I am also new in the new-look FIA GT Series, so if we aim for a podium in the first race it will be very good. Yet, it is going to be tough.”
Alex Buncombe, Nissan GT Academy Team RJN: “I'm so pleased to be driving the new Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 for Nissan GT Academy Team. Our new graduates are very impressive and I am sure it is going to be an epic season ahead of us all.”
FIA GT SERIES