The Blancpain Endurance Series makes its first visit to the Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France for round three of an enthralling 2012 season.
It extends the strong link between the series promoters SRO Motorsports Group and the Le Castellet circuit which dates back to 1994.
In 2006, the FIA GT Championship became the first international series to hold an event on the re-profiled circuit. The series returned again in 2009 and a year later the venue staged a round of the FIA GT1 World Championship.
Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group is delighted to be bringing the Blancpain Endurance Series to Paul Ricard for the first time.
“Paul Ricard is rich in motor sport history and it is nice to be adding such a famous circuit to the list of venues the Blancpain Endurance Series will visit in 2012,” he said.
“Paul Ricard is a very special place for me and for GT racing as it is the place where we organised the first BPR event in 1994, which marked the start of the GT racing revival.
“With such a strong contingent of French teams and drivers there will be plenty of interest from local spectators who have the chance to see up to 60 of the world’s most desirable GT cars contesting Sunday’s three-hour race.”
On the entry list for round three, France is represented by no fewer than 13 teams and 38 drivers so the battle for national pride will be fierce.
Sainteloc Racing field an all-French trio in one of their Audi R8 LMS ultras where David Hallyday forms a formidable partnership with Jerome Demay and Gregory Guilvert in the PRO-AM class.
Hallyday, who combines race driving with a career as a singer/songwriter, is the son of legendary French singer/actor Johnny Hallyday.
Hallyday Jnr, who competed in the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series in Monza, has made four appearances in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Patrice Goueslard, Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Ludovic Badey in the SOFREV ASP Ferrari 458 Italia, currently lie second in the drivers’ PRO-AM standings on 30 points behind the Vita4One Team Ferrari trio of Eugenio Amos, Alessandro Bonacini and Giacomo Petrobelli on 40 points.
The Italians won in Monza and were second at Silverstone and also hold sway in the teams’ standings over the French outfit.
ART Grand Prix, new to the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2012, has been the highest-placed McLaren in the first two rounds. France’s Gregoire Demoustier and British co-driver Duncan Tappy will look to build on their successes to date and improve the team’s fourth position in the points table.
An impressive drive from Marc A. Hayek, President & CEO of Blancpain, in the Blancpain Reiter Lamborghini LP600+ earned him and co-driver Peter Kox the PRO-AM class victory in treacherous conditions at Silverstone.
With class honours secured, Hayek completed an audacious move late in the race to secure fourth place overall – a feat which received fulsome praise from the experienced Kox.
Looking ahead to the French round, the Dutchman said : “Paul Ricard is the third round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, but really only the second round for us.
“After our fantastic result in Silverstone I look forward to compete with Marc at this track. We should have a competitive car and if we do a good job we should be able to gain again some valuable points for the Championship. It will be hard with so many competitive drivers and teams, but we will try.”
Marc A. Hayek added: “After the Silverstone race, I am really looking forward to the next race to take the wheel. Silverstone was one of the most exciting races of my driving career; the car was handling well despite the weather conditions. I have confidence for the next race weekend, we should be very competitive.”
The French outfit PRO GT by Almeras, who know the circuit well, are expected to be contenders with their two Porsche 997 GT3 Rs. With revisions to the Balance of Performance, they will be hoping for an upturn in fortunes at Paul Ricard.
In the PRO class, Belgians Bas Leinders and Maxime Martin and Finland’s Markus Palttala have swept all before them in the first two rounds. The Marc VDS Racing trio will chase their third consecutive 2012 win at Paul Ricard in their BMW Z4.
The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, second and third last time out, are second in the teams’ standings while the KRK Racing Mercedes SLS AMG squad make it an all-Belgian affair at the top of the standings in third place.
In the Gentlemen Trophy class Kessel Racing’s Paolo Andreasi (VEN), Pablo Paladino (ARG) and Beniamino Caccia (CHE) in the Ferrari 430 Scuderia continue to lead the pack with 40 points from Sainteloc Racing on 33.
A maiden win for the Swedish JB Motorsport Audi R8 LMS of Mikael Bender, Jan Brunstedt and Jocke Mangs at Silverstone lifted the team to third ahead of the GCR Racing/Guy Clairay Dodge Viper.
The defending teams’ champions Ruffier Racing (Lamborghini LP 520+) have yet to open their account in 2012.
After two wet races at Monza and Silverstone, the visit to the south of France should ensure milder conditions with the forecast set fair for the weekend. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 20s for Sunday so we should have our first dry race of the season.
In all, 11 brands assembled – Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Dodge, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes, Nissan and Porsche – with teams and drivers representing more than 20 nations.
The action starts at Paul Ricard on Saturday 30 June with the Bronze Driver Test, Free Practice, Pre-Qualifying and Qualifying. The three-hour Race starts at 14:15 local time on Sunday.
Blancpain is the title sponsor and official timekeeper with commercial and technical support for the series comes in the shape of Michelin as the official tyre supplier and Audi as the official car supplier. Hexis, a long-time supporter of the SRO Motorsports Group, continues as official partner.
The track action at the Blancpain Race Weekend at Paul Ricard will include the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo with two 50-minute races during the weekend.
Also featured on the weekend timetable is the JK Racing Asia Series – the first time the single-seater championship has competed in Europe.
Source: Blancpain Endurance Series