International field features nine McLarens vying for British bragging rightsThe second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series visits Silverstone on June 2-3 with British bragging rights up for grabs on the occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
There will be nine British-bred McLarens doing battle and a total of 33 British drivers among an international field.
To add to the Britishness of the occasion, the Emil Frey Jaguar XK GT3 will makes its debut in the 2012 series. Team manager Fredy Barth will be among the driver line-up for the Swiss outfit.
The 11 brands assembled are Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Dodge, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes, Nissan and Porsche with teams and drivers representing more than 20 nations.
The legendary Scottish outfit Ecurie Ecosse, run by Barwell Motorsport, will also attract strong local support for their BMW Z4. The team makes a full return to top level international competition this season, 60 years after it was first formed.
Ecurie Ecosse arrive fresh from strong performances in the most recent round of the British GT Championship at Nurburgring. Former BMW Scholarship driver Ollie Millroy, who produced a stunning performance on his GT racing debut in Monza, partners fellow Brit Joe Twyman with the third driver due to be announced shortly.
After a promising debut in difficult conditions at Monza, they are targeting a PRO-AM class podium finish at a circuit they know well.
The entry list includes former Formula One drivers Karl Wendlinger (AUT) and Mark Blundell (GBR), Le Mans 24 winner David Brabham (AUS) and endurance specialists like Stephane Ortelli (MON), along with FIA GT1 World Championship co-driver Laurens Vanthoor (BEL).
Ortelli and Vanthoor are on opposite sides of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT garage for the Blancpain. The Monegasque driver, Ortelli, spearheads Belgian Audi Club Team WRT’s defence of their PRO CUP teams’ title in one of two Audi R8 LMS ultras.
He also partners Christopher Haase (DEU) who was among a quartet of drivers who shared victory in the recent Nurburgring 24-Hour Race.
Englishman Duncan Tappy is paired with Gregoire Demoustier (FRA) in the French-run ARTGrand Prix team, debutants in 2012. They were seventh in class in Monza in their McLaren GT MP4-12C and the best of the McLarens overall. The second best McLaren was the Von Ryan Racing entry of fellow-Brits of Julien and Matt Draper and Stephen Jelley.
Brit trio Alex Buncombe, Chris Ward and the latest Academy winner Jann Mardenborough fly the flag for Nissan in the GT Academy RJN Motorsport Team Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in PRO-AM.
Marc VDS Racing will chase a fourth straight Blancpain Endurance Series victory in PRO CUP with Belgian pair Maxime Martin and Bas Leinders and Finland’s Markus Palttala.
Their BMW Z4 secured victory in treacherous conditions in the opening round at Monza in April, thanks to a stunning closing stint by Martin on a rain-sodden Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
Prior to that, wins also came at Magny Cours and at the season-finale at Silverstone in 2011. Pole position at the Total 24 Hours of Spa was also a highlight last season. Two weeks’ ago they were fourth overall at Nurburgring.
The Marc VDS crew will face strong opposition from the Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Italians Stefano Gattuso, Davide Rigon and Daniel Zampieri, the PRO CUP pole-sitters on home soil.
In the Gentlemen Trophy class Kessel Racing’s Paolo Andreasi (VEN), Pablo Paladino (ARG) and Beniamino Caccia (CHE) in the Ferrari 430 Scuderia upstaged the defending teams’ champions Ruffier Racing (Lamborghini LP 520+) at Monza.
Ruffier’s Georges Cabannes (FRA), Fabien Thuner (SWI) and Romain Brandela (FRA) were fourth in Monza just behind the fellow French outfit Sainteloc Racing in the Audi R8 LMS and the GCR Racing Dodge Viper. The battle for class honours will be every bit as intense at Silverstone.
Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group, promoters of the Blancpain Endurance Series, is delighted to be bringing the series to Silverstone for the second consecutive year.
“It is a pleasure to be able to provide the British motorsport public with truly world class sportscar racing featuring a superb field of cars, teams and drivers,” he said.
“Last year, Silverstone played host to a thrilling finale of the series and we can expect more of the same this year with plenty of British interest not the least of which is the appearance of the iconic Jaguar marque – the very essence of Britain - on the grid.
“The battle between the McLarens will also be keenly fought. The two-day format, sought after by the teams and drivers, will ensure a lively weekend.”
The action starts at Silverstone on Saturday 2nd June with Free Practice, Pre-Qualifying and Qualifying. The three-hour Race starts at 12:45 local time on Sunday.
Blancpain is the title sponsor and official timekeeper with commercial and technical support for the series comes in the shape of Michelin as the official tyre supplier and Audi as the official car supplier. Hexis, a long-time supporter of the SRO Motorsports Group, continues as official partner.
Marc A. Hayek, President & CEO of Blancpain, said: “With 57 cars entered for the first race in Monza, the Blancpain Endurance Series confirms its success. This second season will be exciting. As a driver, I am really looking forward to being back on the mythical racetrack of Silverstone. I like this fast track and Peter (Kox) is very strong there. We hope that the British weather will be mild."
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAY …
Bas Leinders (BEL), Marc VDS BMW Z4 No.3
“We won last year at Silverstone but we recognize that the opposition has become tougher so victory again will be tough. We are missing a little bit of straight-line speed this year but as we know the car should be strong at Silverstone so we are definitely aiming for a good result.
“We recorded an unexpected fourth place finish at the Nurburging 24 Hour Race so we are in confident mood. I really like Silverstone – particularly the high-speed sections of Becketts and Copse and flying into Stowe. With the new GT3 cars there is enough down force to give you the confidence to be a bit brave in the fast corners.”
Mike Parisy (FRA), Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 No.18
"I am very happy to come back to Silverstone with Mercedes. Last year I finished third in GT3 in an SLS so I have a good feeling about the track. It is pleasure for me to return to this track with this car. I really enjoy the track layout, it is very fast and very challenging for a driver.
"Black Falcon has a very good team spirit and a great potential. We have some work to do but I think we can work together towards achieving a podium position. I am feeling confident. I am in a really good race rhythm at the moment, this all be my seventh race meeting in a row.
"It's nice to be part of the Blancpain Endurance Series. It is a very good championship. There are a lot of competitors, it is a good format and there is strong competition."
Christopher Haase (DEU), Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra No.1
“Silverstone is a challenging circuit. I like the first corner and turn 7. Because both these corners are very quick, and if you have a car which has good aero balance it makes fun to drive through it.
“As we saw in Monza, the competition is very tough, a lot cars fighting for victory. I can´t say who will be our strongest challengers, but with the Audi R8 LMS ultra we have a perfect car as we saw at the 24h race in Nurburgring where we won the race with Audi and Phoenix Racing.
“For me it is great to be part of the Blancpain Endurance Series. It is a great racing series. We have pit stops, we have to refuel the car, do driver changes, 57cars competing, so what more can you ask for? After three hours you fight until the chequered flag for your position. It´s just amazing.”
Alvaro Parente (PRT), United Autosports McLaren MP4-12C No.22
“Monza was a very difficult race, particularly at the start with the weather. We had a problem in the second stint with an electronic failure. Every time we race, we make it more reliable so we should be OK for Silverstone.
“We have a really good line-up and we are aiming to be right up there on the pace, where we should be. We are working hard with the McLaren engineers on the upgrades for the car and solving the small issues we had so we should be spot on. You never know though – this is racing.
“I love Silverstone. I have raced there many times. This will be my second time on the new track layout. The high-speed flowing corners are really good for the McLaren when we have the set-up right.
“It is a home race for the car and the team so we really want to do well and give the home fans something to cheer about.”
LAMBORGHINI BLANCPAIN SUPER TROFEO
The track action at the Blancpain Race Weekend at Silverstone will include the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo with two 50-minute races during the weekend.
The star attraction in Super Trofeo at Silverstone is none other than Adrian Newey, the Formula One technical guru.
The 53-year-old Englishman has overseen drivers’ and teams’ world championships for Red Bull Racing in the past two seasons.
He will share the No.1 Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo 570hp V10 race car with Alberto Sabbatini, Editor in Chief of Italian magazine Autosprint.
Swiss newcomer Stefano Comini dominated the opening round of the 2012 season in Monza on April 14-15 with victory in both races.
The number of cars on the grid for Silverstone is likely to be 18 – including a UK entry.