Mercedes-Ferrari duel in the GT-Am class
The entry numbers keep growing: at least 27 cars in France
Konrad, Lechner, Antonelli and AB Sport Auto squads join at Le Castellet
Tiago Monteiro makes GT Open debut with BMW Teo Martín Motorsport
Less than two weeks after Spa the International GT Open is back for the third round of a very exciting and reach 2017 season. The series is heading South to Provence and the Circuit Paul Ricard, a track known for its hi-tech premises and the magnificent surroundings made of coast, medieval villages and hilly landscapes.
The Estoril and Spa rounds yielded surprising and historic results, with the new Lexus RC-F GT3 managing to take the wins, evenly distributed among Emil Frey Racing and Farnbacher Racing, the two teams fielding the Japanese car. In France, on a high-speed track, it is likely that the trend will be over-turned, as the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, BMWs and McLarens, already showed, with their pace and podium finishes, that they are ready to fight for top honours.
In the overall standings, nothing is settled. The Farnbacher brothers, Dominik and Mario, have only a 5-point lead over Albert Costa-Philipp Frommenwiler, the other Lexus duo, with the two top Pro-Am pairs, Rob Bell-Shaun Balfe and Alexander West-Côme Ledogar, both with McLaren machinery, and the Lambo of Thomas Biagi-Giovanni Venturini not far at all, and closely followed by the Ferrari duos of Piergiuseppe Perazzini-Marco Cioci and Miguel Ramos-Mikkel Mac, the other 650 of Mike Benham-Duncan Tappy and the BMW of Victor Bouveng-Fran Rueda.
In the GT-Am class, it’s reigning champions Luis Silva-António Coimbra, with a Sports&You Mercedes AMG, leading the standings, although still seeking their first win of the season, with only a 4 points gap on the Kaspersky Ferrari of Alex Moiseev-Davide Rizzo and the MS Mercedes of Austrians Alexander Hrachowina-Martin Konrad.
The Ricard round, as said, brings a fair deal of novelties. Among regular participants, a few driver changes have to be noted. While Tom Onslow-Cole retakes his place along Valentin Pierburg on the SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes, Argentina’s GT and TC2000 specialist José Balbiani is teaming up this time with Marcio Basso in the second Sports&You Mercedes, and Brazil’s Alan Hellmeister, also with quite a complete CV in single-seaters, stock cars and GTs, will be associated with Marcelo Hahn on the Drivex Mercedes.
The biggest ne ws, though, is that this time the stellar name alongside Lourenço Beirão Da Veiga on the Teo Martín BMW M6 #51 will be Tiago Monteiro. After António Da Costa and Nelsinho Piquet, the elected for this round is no less than the most successful Portuguese driver in history. His reputation comes mainly from F.1, Indycar and WTCC, but it has not to be forgotten that the 40-year-old from Porto is also an accomplished GT driver. A charming and popular figure, he will be bringing more than his expertise to Teo Martín’s squad and the series.
A number of new cars will also be on the starting blocks. Italian stalwart squad Antonelli Motorsport will be entering at least one Lamborghini Huracán, with Canada’s GT expert Mikaël Grenier and young Italian Kikko Galbiati already confirmed in the car entered in the Pro category. In Pro-Am, a very French touch will be brought by AB Sport Auto, the squad based not far from the track, already seen in the Winter Tests, which enters its Lambo Huracán for gentleman driver Harry Teneketzian and young (21) gun Joffrey De Narda. This round will also mark the first 2017 appearance of the Lechner Racing Mercedes AMG of Mario Plachutta and Thomas Jäger, the Austro-German charismatic pair that is a regular GT Open visitor. Last but not least, a name with quite some weight in the GT and sportscar scene will also join the party: Konrad Motorsport is entering a Lambo Huracán for Hendrick Still and Paul Scheuschner. No doubt that Franz Konrad and GT Open’s boss Jesús Pareja will find time for remembering the days where they both shone driving Group C cars in the WSC…
GT Open Round 2: Circuit Paul Ricard, France
(All times local, CET)
Friday 9 June 2017
11:00-12:00 Free Practice 1
14:25-15:25 Free Practice 2
17:00-17:50 Free Practice 3 (Bronze drivers only)
Saturday 10 June 2017
11:30-12:00 Qualifying 1 (driver 1)
16:15-17:25 Race 1 (70’ - Rolling Start)
Sunday 11 June 2017
09:45-10:15 Qualifying 2 (driver 2)
14:15-15:15 Race 2 (60’ - Rolling Start)