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Strong start for full-season entrants

10 April 2015

It was of course BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil that had the best start of them all, with Maxime Martin and Dirk Muller winning the main race on the Circuit Paul Armagnac. In the Italian temple of speed the Brazilian squad might have a hard time repeating that feat, since the team's regular drivers Cacà Bueno and Sergio Jimenez have never raced in the Blancpain Endurance Series, nor have newcomers Fraga, Brito and Abreu.

At the wheel of the cars of Belgian Audi Club Team WRT there is a bit more long-haul experience, with reigning Blancpain Endurance and GT Series champion Laurens Vanthoor being joined by rookies Robin Frijns and Jean-Karl Vernay. After their miserable start of the season in the South West of France, Vanthoor and Frijns will be eager to score their first points of 2015.

Nogaro runner-up Stephane Ortelli will have the honour to drive the brand new version of the Audi R8 LMS, sharing the car with Frank Stippler and Nico Müller. Ortelli's Sprint Series team-mate, Stephane Richelmi, will make his endurance debut at the wheel of the 2014 version of the R8, together with fellow rookie Kelvin van der Linde and Christopher Mies, who finished third in Nogaro.

Markus Winkelhock will again defend the Phoenix Racing colours, together with 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series champion Christopher Haase and German fellow Christian Mamerow. In Nogaro the German squad saw their chances ruined by a first lap incident in the Qualifying Race, but with the second of the new R8's they should be able to rectify that in Monza.

Another squad hoping to get a better result in France was Bentley Team HTP. Both their cars were involved in the same incident as the Phoenix Audi and even though Vincent Abril and 2013 Endurance champion Maxi Buhk managed to claw their way back to fourth in the main race, they left Nogaro with the firm intention to do better in Monza. On the #84 Bentley Abril will now be joined by Harold Primat and Mike Parisy, while Buhk steps into the #8 Continental of Bentley M-Sport. 

MRS GT Racing's debut with the Nissan GT-R Nismo in Nogaro showed a lot of promise, but they too fell victim to the opening lap mayhem, causing a retirement in the first race. Before that Craig Dolby and Sean Walkinshaw had been able to qualify the car on the third row of the grid, and together with former LMP2 Le Mans-winner Martin Plowman, they should be able to take on the role of outsiders.

The ISR Racing squad had a Silver Cup win to celebrate in Nogaro, but in Monza both red, white and blue Audi's are entered in Pro Cup. Most of the attention will be on the #75 car, on which full Blancpain GT Series-season campaigners will be joined by quick Belgian Frédéric Vervisch.

The #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari, fifth in Nogaro, was originally entered in Pro Cup as well, but with Marco Seefried unable to make it to Monza, the car is now competing in the Pro-Am Cup. Norbert Siedler will again be at the wheel, this time in the company of Rinat Salikhov.

Both GT Russian Team Mercedes SLS will be competing in Pro-Am as well, after taking a class 1-2 in Nogaro. The same drivers will be at the wheel, apart from Christophe Bouchut, who will be replaced by Estonian Marko Asmer.

In Nogaro Attempto Racing had the honour to give the new McLaren 650S GT3 its Blancpain GT Series premiere, and the German squad is again present in Monza. While only Swiss driver Fabien Thuner is confirmed on the #55 car, the #54 Pro-Am entry will be reinforced by Emerson Newton-John. The 40-year-old American not only has plenty of experience in a wide variety of racing series, he is also the nephew of actress/singer Olivia.

It is clear that the Blancpain GT Series regulars have a lot to fight for in Monza, with some wanting to confirm their results in the opening round and others wanting to score important points after a lesser performance in Nogaro.