26 entries have been confirmed for the opening round of the 2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Italy on April 1-2.
Following two successful seasons, SRO Motorsports Group’s Bronze-only drivers series returns for its third campaign with an expanded calendar, great variety of modern GT machinery and single-make or ‘trophy’ cars.
With this year’s Misano opener once again serving as curtain raiser to the high-profile Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup, 26 drivers are ready to do battle at the 4.226km venue with an exciting fleet of cars supplied by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, and BMW.
Established in 2015, the championship gives amateur drivers the opportunity to race their peers for overall wins, while also enjoying an exclusive and friendly paddock atmosphere.
The three-class structure is set to continue in 2017, with most entries eligible for Overall honours, drivers aged 60 and over catered for thanks to the Iron Cup classification, and racers piloting ‘trophy’ cars vying for the Xtra Cup Class.
Each of the six race weekends will give drivers maximum track time with practice and qualifying sessions followed by non-pitstop 25-minute Qualifying and 40-minute Main Races.
Reigning Overall champion Michal Broniszewski will not return to defend his 2016 title, so his succession to the GTSC throne is shaping up to be a thrilling race amongst an exciting group of challengers. The list will surely include last year’s runner-up Nicolas Vandierendonck and his Shipex by Ombra Racing-entered Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Driving the same model for Autovitesse Garage R.Affolter is Cédric Leimer, who is bound to emerge as a genuine contender as well. The Swiss ace only took part in one round last year but that was enough to make a lasting impression, as he swept the Barcelona season finale with two wins in as many races.
This year’s Iron Cup also promises to be fascinating to watch as two-time champion Martin Lanting seeks to make it an unprecedented hat trick. Once again racing for AF Corse, the Monegasque is making the switch to the Ferrari 488 GT3 after sealing last year’s crown aboard the 458 GTE model.
Having missed out on the 2016 Iron Cup by a single point, runner-up Stephen Earle enters his 26th year of racing as a man on a mission and will still be competing at the wheel of his Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
Lanting and Earle will need to keep a close watch on Louis Philippe Soenen, as the Belgian switches to Ferrari machinery with an eye towards mounting a genuine Iron Cup title challenge.
AF Corse and Kessel Racing are tied for the largest line-ups at Misano with no less than four Ferraris apiece.
The Italian team will field a trio of 488 GT3s for Lanting, Soenen, and Patrick Van Glabeke as well as entrusting one 458 Italia GT3 to the hands of Christoph Ulrich. The Swiss squad will have a quartet of 458 Italia GT3s for Earle, Claudio Schiavoni, Alexis de Bernardi, and female racer Deborah Mayer.
Ferrari is also represented by Artega Rennsport, which comes back with a 488 GT3 for Iron Cup hopeful Klaus Dieter Frers, Yoshiki Ohmura’s Stile F Squadra Corse-entered 458 GTE, and Marco Galassi’s Team Malucelli-run 458 Italia GT3.
Lamborghini will boast a healthy contingent on home soil as well, with HP Racing set to run a pair of Huracan GT3s with Coach McKansy and Daniel Vogt back at the wheel. Elsewhere, Boutsen Ginion is fielding two Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso R-EXs for Frenchmen Claude-Yves Gosselin and Pierre Feligioni.
Meanwhile, GDL Racing and Antonelli Motorsport are eyeing the Xtra Cup with their Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeos, respectively driven by Mario Cordoni, who boasts an impressive track record at Misano, and Mauro Casadei.
German manufacturers will look to provide a strong opposition to their Italian counterparts, with reigning Overall Blancpain GT Series champions HTP Motorsport once again entering a Mercedes AMG-GT3 for Dutch racer Willem Paulys de Pundert.
Besides its impressive Blancpain GT Series line-up, AKKA ASP also has two Mercedes AMG-GT3s competing in SRO’s amateur-only series. Anthony Pons extends his spell at the French front-running outfit, while former British GT champion Daniele Perfetti returns to the team after enjoying a perfect weekend with them at Paul Ricard last year.
GDL Racing and DB-Motorsport will make it five Mercedes in the field at Misano, with each team entering a SLS AMG GT3, respectively for Roberto Raymeri and Oliver Baumann.
Former Le Mans 24 Hours winner Karim Ojjeh’s Boutsen Ginion-entered BMW M6 GT3 and Pierre Hirschi’s CMR-run Z4 GT3 are sure to add even more glamour to the series as it makes the trip to Italy’s Adriatic Coast for the 2017 kick-off.
Saturday’s action at Misano begins with two 30-minute practice sessions followed by a 20-minute qualifying run. The 25-minute Qualifying Race takes place that same evening before drivers and teams return mid-morning on Sunday for their 40-minute Main Race.
Both races will be streamed live on our website www.blancpainsportsclub.com/gt/live.
Blancpain GT Sports Club Schedule: Misano*
Saturday 1 April
10:30 – 11:00: Free Practice 1
12:00 – 12:30: Free Practice 2
15:20 – 15:40: Qualifying
18:35 – 19:00: Qualifying Race
Sunday 2 April
11:00 – 11:40: Main Race
*All times are local