After winning the TM Performance 3 Hours of Monza and the Sprint Cup round at Brands Hatch, Lamborghini squad Grasser Racing Team travels to Silverstone as the leader in the 2017 Blancpain GT Series team standings. Their drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart, victorious in both events, enjoy the same favourable position in the driver standings. Will the second endurance race of the season, on the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, see the next episode in the Lamborghini success story? Or will the competition manage to counter the Racing Bulls?
The Blancpain GT Series teams and drivers always appreciate a visit to Silverstone, the Home of British Motor Racing. The track has been the setting for some of the best races in the history of the series and the British fans – real connoisseurs of sports car racing – always appreciate the presence of some of the best GT teams and drivers in the world.
With 55 teams at the start of the second endurance race of the season, this should also be the case this year. Thanks to their recent performances in Monza and Brands Hatch Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart, sharing the #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini with Andrea Caldarelli, travel to Silverstone with a five-point lead over HTP Motorsport-duo Franck Perera and Maxi Buhk.
However, it is far from certain that those cars will also be fighting for the win in Silverstone as well. Monza showed that the difference between the cars in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup is extremely small. At least a dozen GT3’s could be among the frontrunners, but for some teams, a disappointing start of the season may put some extra pressure in their search for a good result.
Among those are two squads that will certainly be among the British crowd’s favourites: Bentley Team M-Sport and Strakka Racing. The latter, having scored only 19 points for the team standings in the opening three rounds of 2017, would love to repeat the win McLaren scored two years ago. With reigning endurance champions Côme Ledogar and Rob Bell among their ranks, this is certainly a possibility.
Bentley Team M-Sport has a better position in the team standings – third with 33 points – but after a disappointing weekend in Brands Hatch, the Bentley Boys are aiming to finish the second part of the British double-header on a positive note.
Another British brand to receive ever increasing support is Jaguar, even though the Monza round left Emil Frey Jaguar Racing wanting for more. With former F1-driver Christian Klien and former Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup champion Stéphane Ortelli in their ranks, the Swiss squad could be a contender.
Silverstone is not only the home race for the British manufacturers. British drivers and teams competing with non-British machinery are aiming for a splendid performance as well. With Motul Team RJN representing the Nissan colours, and Barwell Motorsport entering two of the competitive Lamborghini Huracan, chances to see a Union Jack flying during the podium ceremonies increase significantly.
In Monza the fight for Pro-Am Cup honours also produced some close racing, resulting in a win for the #97 Oman Racing Team with TF Sport Aston Martin. Since the Aston Martin squad does not compete in the rounds of the Sprint Cup it is only in fourth in the overall team standings, but count on Ahmed Al Harthy and double British GT champion Jonny Adam to try and repeat their Monza performance in front of the brand’s home fans.
They will have strong opposition from the Ferrari teams Rinaldi Racing (leading the team standings after two wins in the Sprint Cup) and Kessel Racing (currently second), but with two Mercedes-AMG competing in the Pro-Am Cup, French squad AKKA-ASP (third) should be among the contenders as well.
Finally, Silverstone also sees six cars competing in the Am Cup. Among these will be the #188 Garage 59 McLaren of Alexander West, former FIA GT-driver and McLaren Automotive Chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin and BBC Top Gear presenter Chris Harris. After making his Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup debut last year at the wheel of a Bentley Continental GT3, 42-year-old Harris will be aiming to repeat his choice performance in last year’s Nürburgring round, when he finished on the Am Cup podium. For the McLaren-trio the Silverstone round will also serve as a preparation for the blue-riband event of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, the iconic Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Silverstone not only hosts the fourth round of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series, but is also the setting for some exciting support races. As in Monza, the young wolves of the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and the drivers of the world’s fastest single-make competition, the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, will join the paddock. Silverstone also sees the second round of the Blancpain GT Sports Club. The series reserved for Gentlemen Drivers generates more and more interest and will certainly be an essential part of the show next weekend.
Track action for the Blancpain GT Series starts on Friday, with the Bronze Test. On Saturday both the Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying sessions are held, with qualifying (9.45 local time) and the three hour race (14.55) on Sunday.
Chris Harris: ”The Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup is fast proving itself to be the most competitive GT series in the world, with ever-increasing grids and the world’s best professional drivers. The calibre of GT3 machinery on the grids is also great, with them all so closely matched in terms of performance – it is a real spectacle for the fans, and really rewarding to be involved with as a driver. The McLaren was the car of the field in 2016, and it is great to join the reigning champions Garage 59 for these two races alongside Chris and Alex. I am particularly excited about returning to Spa – it is a special place for any car fan, and to have the opportunity to race in the 24-hour race again, this time in a McLaren, should be a pretty special experience.”