There will be plenty to play for when the Blancpain GT Sports Club touches down in Belgium next weekend (29/30 July) for not only its penultimate round of the season but also as an official support act to the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
SRO’s series reserved for fully-amateur drivers is also the only international championship to balance GTE, GT3 and one-make machinery in the same class. And that level of variety will again be on show in the Ardennes where 23 cars comprising seven manufacturers – including one debutant – and 9 different models will line up for both races.
Ferrari is once again the best represented brand with no less than 12 entries split between GTE and GT3, two of which are the new-for-2016 488 model. Nine are shared between Kessel Racing and AF Corse, whose drivers currently occupy first and second respectively in the Overall standings.
Five Audis and two Mercedes offer the biggest numerical threat, while single entries from BMW, Lamborghini and Corvette add further variety.
But it is likely to be the Renault RS01’s series debut that raises most eyebrows. Originally designed for its own single-make championship, the car has since raced against GT3 machinery in other multi-class categories. Spa, however, represents the first time in SRO history that the RS01 will be eligible for outright honours thanks to Blancpain GT Sports Club’s GT3, GTE and single-make performance balancing.
Davide Roda, who will drive Oregon Team’s Renault at Spa, believes the car should compare favourably against its pure GT rivals.
“I have been racing in the Renault Sport Trophy this season and think the RS01 in its GT3 configuration could be a very good car for Spa,” he said. “Its mechanical qualities will become apparent through the circuit’s more technical sections where the driver makes time. However, I will likely lose some of that in the speed traps.
“Hopefully I will be able to learn the track fairly quickly because it will only be my second appearance at Spa in six years. I will work to improve my performance session by session. I am aiming for top-10 finishes in both races.”
Elsewhere, the championship’s maiden visit to one of the world’s most revered circuits comes after as many different drivers won the opening three Main Races at Misano, Brands Hatch and Paul Ricard.
Kessel Racing ace Michal Broniszewski’s double victory in Britain and subsequent podium in southern France have helped him establish a 10-point lead at the top of the standings over Mario Cordoni, whose title hopes were rocked by a double DNF at Paul Ricard last time out. But with his Polish rival’s Total 24 Hours of Spa commitments potentially impacting on his Blancpain GT Sports Club programme, the Italian AF Corse driver has an ideal opportunity to overturn the deficit next weekend.
With double Paul Ricard race winner Daniele Perfetti skipping Spa, Cordoni and Broniszewski’s main opposition is likely to come from Iron Cup leader and defending champion Martin Lanting, whose AF Corse Ferrari 458 GTE moved back to the top of the standings after recording Qualifying and Main Race class victories last time out in France.
However, the Monegasque remains just two points clear of fellow Ferrari driver Stephen Earle whose consistency aboard the Kessel Racing-run 458 GT3 has helped him remain in title contention despite winning only once this season. Nevertheless, much like Broniszewski, the American’s attention could be elsewhere as a result of entering the Blancpain GT Series’ blue riband event over the same weekend.
Both Qualifying and Main Races will be shown live on the Blancpain GT Sports Club website next Friday and Saturday.
Blancpain GT Sports Club Schedule: Spa
Friday 29 July
09:00 – 09:30: Free Practice 1
10:35 – 11:05: Free Practice 2
14:05 – 14:25: Qualifying
17:20 – 17:45: Qualifying Race
Saturday 30 July
10:40 – 11:20: Main Race