Stripes & Sun at Paul Ricard!
So, time for the third round of the Blancpain Endurance GT and we’re at the stunning Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France.
The French round hosts the fastest and most visually striking stop on the calendar. With its distinctive blue and red stripes, it certainly stands out from the rest. The super long straight, with optional chicanes, see cars topping out at max speed. The famous Mistral straight (named after the wind blowing up from the Med) stretches to 1.8km allowing the GT cars to reach speeds in excess of 290kph.
Beginning as a three hour event back in 2012, it extended to its current format in 2015. During that time, six different manufacturers have taken top honours, Bentley being the only brand to win twice. Other winners have been Audi, BMW, Nissan, McLaren and Lexus.
The forth and following round of the endurance cup is the 24hrs of Spa (25th-28th July), hence the Paul Ricard event acting like a warm up.
From the two opening rounds at Monza and Silverstone, six different crews have been on the overall podium, meaning things are tight, with no one running away at the front.
Orange FFF with their distinctive Lamborghini Huracans lead the team championship with their No563 crew of Andrea Caldarelli, Marco Mapelli and Dennis Lind topping the drivers’ standings.
There’s a few driver changes for the Paul Ricard race, including the Bentleys planned rotation of drivers ahead of its expanded four car assault at the Spa 24hrs, so this weekend Callum MacLeod will be stepping into the No108 Bentley in place of Alex Buncombe. Over at R-Motorsport, the temporary Nicki Thiim will be making way for Alex Lynn. The No43 Mercedes of Strakka Racing will have David Fumanelli behind the wheel, instead of Jack Hawksworth.
With wins at the two opening rounds, both Dynamic Motorsport and SMP will be hoping to add to the trophy cabinet this weekend.
Silver Cup, ProAm, Am Cup –
It’s not all about the Pro field, there’s lots of action going on further down the field as well.
The Silver Cup is boosted to a 15 car line up thanks to the addition of the No133 Mercedes from Scuderia Villorba, in preparation for the upcoming Spa 24hrs.
Two teams to watch out for, both taking wins in the opening rounds, are AKKA ASP and Grasser Racing, but with such a competitive field the podium could be topped by many potential winners. One notable driver change in the No22 Honda at Jenson Team Rocket sees Struan Moore makeing room for Welshman Ryan Ratcliffe.
Ferrari have had a clean sweep of wins so far at Monza and Silverstone, with Tempesta Racing and AF Corse taking the respective wins.
In the Am Cup, the team of Adrian Amstutz, Leo Machitski and Miguel Ramos in the No77 Barwell Lamborghini have an impressive lead after a brace of wins so far.
Off-track entertainment is largely in the format of the now traditional rooftop party. Starting at 18:00 on Saturday with the drop of the green flag for the main race, the party continues on past the end of the race until the early hours of Sunday. Headline entertainment for the evening is Nicolas Susini, along with a number of other top DJs.
Back to the track and as well as the main race, starting at 18:00 on Saturday, we are due to be spoilt by a host of other races including European GT4, GT Sports Club and Formula Renault Euro Cup.