Next weekend, the iconic Nürburgring will host the final round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series. The fight for this year’s titles is still wide open in all three categories, with several drivers and teams hoping for a favourable outcome. The iRacing.com Nürburgring 1000 is a six-hour race, the second longest race of the season after the Total 24 Hours of Spa. The length of the race and the unpredictable Eifel weather conditions should produce an unforgettable season finale, especially since the regular Blancpain Endurance Series participants will be joined by some interesting new drivers and teams.
Pro Cup: Vanthoor against them all
The Pro Cup has the largest number of remaining title candidates. In the Drivers’ standings, no fewer than six driver combinations are still in contention for this year’s title. After his win in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Laurens Vanthoor is leading the standings. The Belgian is the only driver on the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT who still has a shot at the title, due to the team’s line-up changes for Spa. Vanthoor now has a seven point lead over the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi trio of Sandström-Ortelli-Guilvert. In the knowledge that the winner of the iRacing.com Nürburgring 1000 gets 33 points and the drivers of the second placed car 24, it is clear that if either of the two Audi cars wins its class, its driver(s) will also conquer the 2014 Pro Cup title.
But chances are that this will be more than a two-way fight. Andy Meyrick, Guy Smith and Steven Kane – who won the Silverstone and Le Castellet rounds with their #7 M-Sport Bentley – are only 15 points behind Vanthoor. Three further driver pairings have a mathematical chance at the title (Demoustier-Parente on the #98 ART Grand Prix McLaren, Primat-Verdonck on the #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes and Nash-Stippler-Mies on the #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi), but they all need a win on Sunday, with Vanthoor not finishing in the top six.
In the Teams’ classification five teams can conquer the 2014 Pro Cup title. Their perfect score at the Total 24 Hours of Spa gave the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT the lead, with 89 points, but M-Sport Bentley, Sainteloc Racing, ART Grand Prix and HTP Motorsport still nourish some title ambitions. Of these five squads, Sainteloc Racing is the only team with a single entry in the Pro Cup category, all others have two cars at the Nürburgring.There will be fourteen cars entered in the Pro Cup, with the #888 Triple 888 Racing BMW making its second appearance of the season, after having raced in the Pro-Am Cup at Silverstone.
Pro-Am Cup: Italy vs. Britain
In the Pro-Am Cup the Drivers’ title will probably be the subject of a duel between Andrea Rizzoli (#90 Scuderia Villorba Corse Ferrari) and Andrew Smith, Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant (#79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW). Due to his improved driver classification (from Bronze to Silver) Rizzoli will have to look for different team-mates for the Nürburgring though. The Ferrari and BMW drivers are separated by twelve points in the standings and although they clearly have the better title chances, there is still a third driver combination that might leave the Nürburgring as the new champions in the Pro-Am Cup. To do so Richard Abra, Mark Poole, Joe Osborne and their #38 MP Motorsport AMR Aston Martin will have to cross the line in first, and hope that their competitors do not score too many points.
The top two in the Pro-Am Cup Teams’ standings reflect the Drivers’ classification, but together with MP Motorsport AMR (6th in the standings) TDS Racing, AF Corse and Nissan GT Academy Team RJN are still in contention for the title as well. The latter have slightly altered the line-up of their #35 car, with Wolfgang Reip – one of the drivers that took the team to the title last year – making his first appearance on the car this year. Together with TDS Racing, the Nissan squad is also the only teams’ title contender with two entries in the Pro-Am Cup.
Some new teams make the Pro-Am Cup entry list 19 cars strong. The German Audi Race Experience enters an Audi R8 LMS ultra, while the GT Russian Team hopes to shine with their Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. After having raced in the category for the first time at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the #4 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi is again racing in the Pro-Am Cup as well. 24-year-old single-seater talent Stephane Richelmi will make his Series’ debut at the wheel of the Audi.
Gentlemen Trophy: Duel among Ferraristi
Only two teams and two driver pairings are still vying for the 2014 crown in the Gentlemen Trophy. After their class win in the Total 24 Hours of Spa Francisco Guedes and Peter Mann (who will share the #51 AF Corse Ferrari with Filipe Barreiros at the Nürburgring) have a 22-point lead over Alexander Mattschull and Frank Schmickler. The GT Corse by Rinaldi duo (rejoined by Pierre Ehret for the final round) may have scored three wins in a row at the first three rounds of the season, their lack of points at Spa left them with a big mountain to climb at the Nürburgring. The difference in the Teams’ standings is less important (16 points) but with two cars at the start, against the single Ferrari for GT Corse by Rinaldi, AF Corse is the clear favourite in that battle.
One new entry in the Gentlemen Trophy at the Nürburgring, although the names of the team and drivers are very familiar. Karim Ojjeh and Olivier Grotz have left the Pro-Am Cup and swapped their McLaren MP4-12C for a BMW Z4, still driving for the Belgian Boutsen Ginion squad.
As you can see, the final round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series promises to be exciting from start to finish. The on-track action starts on Friday and the start of the iRacing.com Nürburgring 1000 will be given at 11:45 on Sunday morning. Motorsports fans attending the iRacing.com Nürburgring 1000 will also have the opportunity to test iRacing throughout the race weekend at the SimRacingExpo 2014, which will be held in the exposition centre adjacent to the circuit.
Blancpain Endurance Series: Round 5 of 5 – Nürburgring (DEU)September 19th – September 21st, 20144.556 km / 12-turn race circuitRace Duration: 1000kms/6-hours maximum
Points awarded for each class as follows:1st: 33 points; 2nd 24 points; 3rd: 19 points; 4th: 15 points; 5th: 12 points ; 6th: 9 points ; 7th: 6 points; 8th: 4 points; 9th: 2 points; 10th: 1 point
Event Schedule (All times CET):
Friday 19th SeptemberBronze Test Session: 16.55-17.55
Saturday 20th SeptemberFree Practice: 09.10-10.40Pre-Qualifying: 12.55-14.25Qualifying Practice: 17.15-18.15
Sunday, 21st SeptemberMain Race: 11.45-17.45
Live streaming and timing here - http://www.blancpain-gt-series.com/endurance/live