The world’s best supported and most competitive GT competition, the Blancpain Endurance Series bursts in to life at the mythical Autodromo Nazionale Di Monza this weekend, 13-14 April. Since its inaugural season in 2011, the Blancpain Endurance Series has been a notable success story in motorsport, attracting large, quality and diverse grids.
61 potent GT3 cars, entered by some of the most professional teams and driven by a host of distinguished and highly skilled professional racers are set to entertain and thrill once again at Monza. Action in the PRO Cup, PRO-AM Cup and Gentlemen’s Trophy is guaranteed on the ultra-fast, slipstreaming circuit, just north of Milan.
After a sensational 2012 season, the Blancpain Endurance Series will be bigger and better this season as teams from 13 different countries race in 9 of the most recognised prestige racing brands on the planet. Upwards of 180 drivers will be in action at Monza, with 36 teams competing. Recognised and established big name drivers will be joined this year by a new generation of young and hungry chargers, who will be determined to stamp their mark on the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Five exciting rounds will be held this season, all taking place on world-class racing facilities in Europe. Monza this weekend is followed by Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix, on June 1-2. Paul Ricard follows on June 29-30, before the biggest and most celebrated endurance test takes place at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit from 24-28 July. The fabled Total 24 Hours of Spa will see an even larger grid as one of the summers best racing festivals bursts in to life in the Ardennes forest. The season concludes with a return to the racing calendar of the illustrious Nurburgring 1000kms on September 21-22, where a memorable finale will take place.
PRO CUP – The competition goes up several levels for 2013
The title winners from 2012, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT are back with a three car strong Audi R8 LMS ultra attack. Their on-track rivals from last season - Marc VDS Racing, return with a pair of BMW Z4s, drafting in new works BMW driver, Yelmer Buurman. Bas Leinders will be hoping to re-create the superb victory of 2012 when he, Maxime Martin and Markus Palttala took a memorable win in wet conditions.
Gulf Racing, Hexis Racing and ART Grand Prix head the McLaren attack, as the F1 constructor looks to mount a title challenge after an exhaustive development programme during the winter. Gulf look very strong with a stellar driver line-up of Adam Carroll, Nico Verdock and Rob Bell, while Hexis Racing’s famously slick pit work and trio of Alvaro Parente, Alexander Sims and Stef Dusseldorp, looks very intimidating too.
Nissan commit a renewed programme to the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2013, as JRM team enter a very potent looking PRO Cup class Nissan GT3-R NISMO GT3 for Peter Dumbreck, Steven Kane and Lucas Luhr.
Further PRO Cup challenges from a host of familiar teams will come in the shape of SMG Challenge and Prospeed Competition with their Porsche 997 GT3Rs and Phoenix Racing with a pair of Audi R8 LMS ultras. Included in their ranks is reigning GT1 World Champion, Markus Winkelhock and works Audi driver, Oliver Jarvis.
The Vita4one Racing team also recently announced a planned two-car entry with their familiar BMW Z4s planned for Monza, including a series debut for their new driver and reigning Italian GT champion, Alberto Colombo in the PRO Cup class. A second BMW Z4 is entered for Monza with Argentine driver, Matias Russo being joined by Stefano Cressoni and Czech racer, Martin Matzke.
Variety is the spice of racing life in the Blancpain Endurance Series as the ‘tifosi’ will have the Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia to cheer on at Monza with the very pacey Daniel Zampieiri and Davide Rigon staying with the team for another season. Another Ferrari worth watching will be the Vita4one Italia 458 Italia, which posted a late entry to join the party at their home circuit.
The Russian Ferrari of SMP Racing also looks strong with former World Series by Renault champion, Mikhail Aleshin among its driver strength.
Fortec Motorsport brings two Mercedes SLS AMG GT3s to Monza after making their GT debut at Oulton Park in the British GT Series last weekend. The Richard Dutton led team has branched out in to GT racing this season and plan to race both cars in the PRO Cup class this year.
PRO-AM CUP – ‘Backbone of the series’ is bigger and better for 2013
The thrilling and ultra-competitive PRO-AM Cup also gets bigger and better in 2013 as a host of new and exciting teams and drivers join the loyal and regular entries.
A massive 28 car field in PRO-AM Cup will make-up this intriguing class, where a rich verity of professional and amateur categorised drivers race together, creating some fascinating racing strategies over the 3-hour event.
2012 champions, AF Corse, will be back to defend their crown in 2013 and they will have to fight off some very competitive looking propositions. Reigning champions Louis Machiels and Niek Hommerson are again joined by Andrea Bertolini and will be doing everything possible to defend their crown from the very start.
Blancpain Racing keeps the continuity of Marc A.Hayek and Peter Kox this season. The familiar duo has a new-look and newly developed Lamborghini this season with the Lamboghini Gallardo GT3 FLII. The spectacular and popular machine has looked strong in testing and will once again be in the hunt for strong class performances in 2013.
Boutsen-Ginion laid down an impressive marker at Paul Ricard during the official test days last month. New recruit Frederic Vervisch looks like he might be the find of the season. He shares PRO-AM McLaren with Koen Wauters and David Dermont.
No fewer than 10 Ferrari 458s are entered in the PRO AM Cup class meaning that the ‘Tifosi’ are likely to be in full song as they support their national manufacturer on home ground.
Sure to be challenging for big points, if not the class win at Monza, will be the distinctive Haribo Racing Porsche 997GT3R with Emmanuel Collard, Mike Stursberg and Hans-Guido Riegel sharing the cockpit. More Porches will be out in force with Pro GT by Almeras entering two and Prospeed Competition one respectively.
New teams that have been attracted to the spirit and ambience of the Blancpain Endurance Series this season include former Touring Car legend, Roberto Ravaglia’s ROAL Motorsport team and French outfit, TDS Racing, who enter a BMW Z4 each. MRS (Molitor Racing Systems) is another fresh face to the series, with a McLaren MP4-12C confirmed for the 2013 season, with American driver Rodin Younessi joined by Phillip Eng and Carlo Kray.
The fascinating ‘gamers to racers’ story of the GT Academy initiative comes to the Blancpain Endurance Series this season with two Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s race in the PRO-AM class, as they continue to test their most recent recruits on the International scene.
Keeping the truly International flavour in the Blancpain Endurance Series, all-Russian and all-Argentine driver trios will be seen this season. From Russia come the SMP Ferrari team with a full squad of promising Russian drivers, including well known International pedigree drivers, Sergey Zlobin and Dani Move. From Argentina come Diego Menedez, Fabian Taroborelli and Jorge Ginaz who are entered by M-Tech Racing. A second M-Tech Ferrari will be run for Welsh youngster, Jake Rattenbury, Canadian – Andrew Danyliw and ex Von Ryan driver, Stephen Jelley.
GENTLEMEN’S TROPHY – Enhanced competition for 2013
Keeping in line with the theme of continuous improvement in the Blancpain Endurance Series, the Gentlemen Trophy is set to enter its most competitive season in 2013.
An 11 car field is entered at Monza with some of the series best teams ready to lock horns. SOFREV ASP brings two Ferrari 458 Italia’s to the class with very strong driver line-ups. Gabriel Balthazard/Maurice Ricci and team owner, Jerome Policand race the #10 Ferrari, while in the sister car, Jean-Luc Beaubelique is joined by Patrice Goueslard and Jean-Luc Blanchemain.
2012 title winners Sainteloc Racing enter an Audi R8 LMS ultra, while Boutsen-Ginion field a McLaren MP4-12C for experienced Saudi Arabian driver, Karim Oijeh and one of the two female racers in this year’s series Marlene Broggi.
The only Mercedes in the Gentlemens Trophy class is entered by Black Falcon with 2012 champion Robert Hissom returning to defend his title with British driver Oliver Morley and newcomer Andre Lebed.
The German team have fought back from a testing accident at Paul Ricard last month and look to be one of the pre-season favourites to challenge for the title in 2013.
Sport Garage bring two Ferrari 458 Italia’s, the French team showing a strong statement of intent to chase class wins with drivers Georges Cabanne and Lionel Comole among the nominated drivers.
Vita4one Italia are back with the popular duo of Giacomo Petrobelli and Eugenio Amos who came so close to last year's title after a strong season.
Porsche are well represented in the Gentlemen Trophy class with PRO GT by Almeras and Delahaye Racing bringing 997 GT3Rs to Monza. The ARC Bratislava team returns to the Blancpain Endurance Series with Oman’s premier racing driver, Ahmad Al Harty making his series debut in the Slovakian based team's Porsche. Many of the Gentlemen Trophy entered drivers will get an hour of running on Saturday morning with the Bronze test session starting at 9am cet.
The Monza weekend is always a popular and busy weekend and this year sees a feast of action as the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo will also provide guaranteed action at their home track with two races on Sunday.
Free Practice for the Blancpain Endurance Series takes place at 11.20cet on Saturday followed by Pre-Qualifying at 15.00am. Qualifying for the Blancpain Endurance Series cars takes place at 10.35am on Sunday morning followed by big race at 14.15cet.
Marc A. Hayek, #24 Blancpain Racing Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL II
"With over 60 entries at Monza it is going to be a thrilling race for sure. I cannot wait to find myself back behind the wheel and confront the other drivers. The level of the championship is getting better year after year, and this new season will certainly lead to a lot of developments and surprises.
“For its third year, the Blancpain Endurance Series has become the reference in the GT world, and Blancpain is proud of being at the origin of this success."
Andy Soucek, #11 ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C
“Things are coming together nicely for us at ART Grand Prix. We had a useful test at Magny Cours last week and although the weather was not too good we did some useful work and it was productive. Between us all we can achieve some great things this season.”
Bas Leinders, #3 Marc VDS Racing Team BMW Z4
“The Paul Ricard test was positive for us last month and we were just off our qualifying time from 2012. We haven’t had a major upgrade like some of our competitors have but we are in good shape and looking forward to the season. We have one new driver with Yelmer (Buurman) but we have also improved our engineering staff, so it is going to be interesting to see where we are at Monza.”
Lucas Luhr, #23 JRM Nissan GT3-R NISMO
“We had a good shakedown test in Snetterton last week. It was my first time driving the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 so it was good to get some laps before we go to Monza. Working with all the JRM boys again is great as it brings back many memories of 2011 when we won the FIA GT1 World Championship together. I have not been to Monza since I think 2004 so I am looking forward to going back to Italy to race. It will also be my first Blancpain event and it is a very impressive grid, with lots of good drivers and teams so I think the racing will be very competitive.”
Marlene Broggi, #15 Boutsen-Ginion McLaren MP4-12C
“I am so happy to be in the Blancpain Endurance Series and also in the Boutsen-Ginion team. The level of competitiveness in the Series is really high but the test we had at Paul Ricard was very good for me, especially getting some very useful advice from Karim (Oijeh) who has lots of experience.”
Steve Doherty, #32 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT3-R NISMO
“I am really looking forward to the Blancpain Series! It is some of the best GT racing in the world, I'm very proud and excited to be a part of it.
“As it is one of the highest levels of GT racing, in no way does it look easy! It will be a big challenge for sure. Trial by fire for me and Peter.
“I am also super excited for Monza, There was a game at an arcade that I used to play all the time growing up. I pretty much exclusively used the Monza circuit in this game, so it will be a huge dream come true for me to actually get to race there! It’s a fantastic circuit.”
Blancpain Endurance Series