Home races. Every driver finds them special. Depending on their nationalities, some drivers even have two. Or three. But rare is the driver who can step over his front porch and literally walk into the paddock of his home circuit only moments later. Laurens Vanthoor is one of those rare specimens. The reigning Blancpain GT Champion, and current leader in the driver standings, lives only a stone’s throw away from Circuit Zolder. It is impossible to underestimate the importance this race has for Vanthoor.
And yet, the 24-year-old Belgian has never won a GT event on his home track. The last two years – in the FIA GT Series and the Blancpain Sprint Series respectively – Vanthoor finished on the podium in the main race, but never on the top step. And it might be difficult this year as well.
Because even though Vanthoor and team-mate Robin Frijns won the most recent Blancpain Sprint Series round in Brands Hatch, the competition was never far away. Keep an eye out for the Reiter Lamborghini in Zolder. The Gallardo was always among the frontrunners on the former Grand Prix track and now that Peter Kox is at the wheel (Nick Catsburg is absent due to other commitments), it should be able to give the competition a run for its money. Remember that Kox won in 2013 (sharing the car with Stefan Rosina) and was leading the main race last year, until a problem with the jack at the pitstop forced him to retire.
But there could be other teams and drivers at the sharp end of the grid as well. BMW Sports Trophy Team Brazil have finished on the podium at both the 2015 Sprint events – winning in Nogaro – and are only six points behind leader Belgian Audi Club Team WRT in the Blancpain Sprint Series team standings. The BMW Z4 GT3 should be a force to reckon with here as well.
Attempto Racing had a difficult start to the season, but the podium finish in Brands Hatch did them a lot of good. Drivers Rob Bell and Kevin Estre are on a roll as well, because only last week they took the Von Ryan Racing McLaren to an emphatic Blancpain Endurance Series win in Silverstone, sharing the car with Shane Van Gisbergen.
For the MRS GT Racing drivers, the Zolder race might be a bit special, since both Sean Walkinshaw and Craig Dolby have a not-so-ordinary link with Belgium: Walkinshaw has a Belgian mother and Craig Dolby is a former Belgian champion, by claiming the Formula Renault 1.6 title in 2006. Reasons enough to try and claim a good result.
Bentley Team HTP and the Ferrari-team of Rinaldi Racing had a strong start to the season, the latter performing well in the opening rounds of both the Sprint and the Endurance Series. The British round proved to be more difficult for both teams however. Just like their Rinaldi-colleagues Seefried and Siedler, Bentley-drivers Buhk and Abril need a good result to remain in the running for the title.
The same goes for Audi-teams ISR Racing and Phoenix Racing. Their drivers have regularly scored points, but without a strong performance and a possible podium finish, it will be difficult to get into the top-3 of the overall standings.
ISR Racing is performing well in the Silver Cup however. The Fjordbach twins won the opening round in Nogaro and now lead those standings, albeit with only a four-point advantage over Bentley Team HTP-drivers Lombard and Szymkowiak. The latter (one of two Dutch drivers present) will want to shine in front of the numerous Dutch fans who will be present in Zolder.
The GT Russian Team will bring both its Mercedes SLS to Zolder, not only to decide which car will win the Pro-Am Cup, but also to prepare for the next round of the Blancpain Sprint Series, the Moscow round on July 5th-7th. A good overall result – last year’s main race was won by an SLS GT3 – will surely provide an extra boost.
And last but not least, do not think that Laurens Vanthoor is the only Belgian Audi Club Team WRT-driver who can do well in Zolder. Frank Stippler and Stéphane Ortelli have both finished on the podium here, and Enzo Ide has even won the Zolder 24 hours once. Ide might live a bit further away from the track than Vanthoor, but he will have plenty of local support as well.
Track action starts on Friday June 5th, with both free practice sessions in the afternoon. On Saturday the qualifying session and the qualifying race take place, with a warm-up and the main race on Sunday June 7th.
Friday 5 June
14:15 – 15:35 Free Practice 1
16:35 – 17:55 Free Practice 2
Saturday 6 June
09:15 - 10:10 Qualifying Practice
14:45 – 15:45 Qualifying Race
Sunday 7 June
10:50 - 11:10 Warm Up
15:15 - 16:15 Main Race
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Blancpain - Innovation is our Tradition
Founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, the watch brand bearing his name is the oldest in the world. Blancpain is currently engaged to the renewal of mechanical watchmaking and to passing on exceptional expertise from one generation to the next through constant investment in human resources, production facilities and research. This approach is its strength and the expression of our long-term vision, even though it goes against the tide of a certain tendency to seek immediate profit. From the creation of components through to watch design, Blancpain is distinguished by its ability to develop exceptional movements. Over the past ten years, the Manufacture has indeed developed no less than 35 new calibres.
Through its various models, Blancpain preserves its heritage of precision and elegance, while also displaying an innovative and occasionally provocative spirit. Its range encompasses the sportive L-evolution line, the legendary Fifty Fathoms diver’s watch, as well as the classic Villeret collection, the high complication from Le Brassus collection and the Women models.
Pirelli – Official Tyre Supplier
Pirelli is a tyre manufacturer and world leader in the automotive industry. It has an exclusive relationship with over 50 racing series worldwide, including Formula One.
Pirelli has a long and illustrious history in endurance racing, and has also claimed a huge variety of class wins in GT racing all over the world. The design of the new Pirelli GT tyres meets the needs of GT racing while maintaining the performance characteristics that endurance drivers have appreciated in the past.The slick tyres used for GT racing are branded Zero: just like the slicks that have become a central feature of Formula One. The name P Zero is used in the highest categories of motorsport such as GT racing.
SRO Motorsports Group - The architect of modern GT Racing
SRO Motorsports Group was founded by Stephane Ratel and has specialised in the promotion, support and organisation of many national and international motorsport series since 1995.
In 2015, SRO promotes several championships and series, such as the Blancpain GT Series (with the Blancpain Sprint Series and the Blancpain Endurance Series, including the iconic Total 24 hours of Spa), the Avon Tyres British GT Championship and the newly-created GT Sports Club and Ultracar Sports Club. SRO Motorsports Group has various franchise agreements, including the GT4 European Series.
SRO Motorsports Group runs also the SRO Race Centre by MMC, a high-level technical centre at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France.
SRO has offices in London, Paris and Liège.