Tag Archives: Blancpain Endurance Series

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Best of British

Celebrations for sure as a result of Bentley’s historic win but for the first time in sixty-three years three old established British sports car marques found themselves competing together in an international endurance race – we had at Silverstone Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar all running in the Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone 3 hours on May 25.

Aston Martin was represented by five Vantage GT3s with the V12 6-litre engine, a works car of this type winning this race in 2013. Bentley raced officially for the first time at Silverstone with their two M-Sport Continental GT3s and the private Generation Bentley Racing Continental GT3. The Swiss Emil Frey Racing team brought their G3 Jaguar XKR.

We note that the first ever Bentley saw the light of day at the end of 1919, the first Aston Martin appeared in May 1921 and Jaguar dates back to 1931 when William Lyons (later Sir William) presented his SS car at the Olympia Show.

Here are some of their modern representatives in practice:

2014 JB General

One of the Vantage V12 versions of the Aston Martin.

2014 JB General

One of the M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3s at Luffield

2014 JB General

This Jaguar XKR has been developed privately by the Emil Frey team but did not ,alas, last long in the race.

2014 JB General

A Bentley at Brooklands! What turned out to be the winning car reminds us that the very first race win for a Bentley car took place at the real Brooklands.

2014 JB General

The first of the Continental GT3s to fall into private hands, chassis no. 3, is the Generation Team car.

In the Race:

2014 JB General

The Bentley chases the Art McLaren down the Wellington Straight

2014 JB General

The Bentley leads! History was about to be made!

David Blumlein, July 2014

Time for Blancpain

One of the great successes in recent endurance racing is the Blancpain Endurance Series. Stéphane Ratel has come up with a formula for GT3 cars that has a widespread appeal.  As the jewel in the crown, the Spa 24 Hours, approaches, it seems appropriate to get the thoughts and reflections from our Special Correspondent.


An impressive 57 GT cars started the Blancpain Silverstone race, a week after the British GT series managed a splendid 46 starters for their “500” event. GT racing is certainly popular, but despite these successes, I pose the question: are there now too many GT races? On the very day of the Blancpain race, the British Endurance Series (Britcar) could only muster 8 starters for their Rockingham round and the GT Cup race at Brands Hatch had just 11 runners. These are series that have mustered healthy grids in the past, so is it all being overdone? It would seem to suggest so and this is a shame. Inevitably a consequence is an over-crowded calendar, of course. Much as we like them, fewer races, please, so that enthusiasts can attend more.
An unexpected and most welcome feature of Silverstone’s Blancpain round was the last-minute entry of a works Aston Martin, their V12 Vantage GT3. The car had been brought from the Nϋrburgring 24 Hours, given a quick work-out at Snetterton to adapt to the Pirelli tyres and taken thence to Silverstone.

2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone

That this car dominated the event was especially appropriate in Aston Martin’s Centenary year and it mirrors the appearance 60 years ago almost to the week of a single works Aston Martin winning the sports car race at Charterhall when Reg Parnell gave the DB3S its début (no GTs then!). The addition of the GT3 car to the regular Blancpain entry was very desirable – it makes the race more memorable and it breaks up the “package” concept whereby the same cars are expected at every round, so worryingly reminiscent of the unhealthily rigid situation in Formula One. Motor racing needs plenty of “natural” variety, with cars turning up when they’re ready, not because some selfish rules (motivated by greed) dictate that everyone has to come every time. Well done, Aston Martin, for coming when it suited your needs!

2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
The Audi R8 has gradually been coming good, winning the important 24 Hour races at the Nϋrburgring and Spa in 2012. They provided strong opposition at Silverstone and one was not surprised to find two of the very competitive Belgian WRT Team cars next home after the Aston. This is the Ortelli/Vanthoor/Rast second-placed example.
2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
Also offering strong competition were the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3s. The British team JRM has been developing these cars in conjunction with NISMO in Japan and was rewarded with 4th place. The RJN no. 35 machine even led the winning Aston in the early laps, in the end it won the Pro-Am category, finishing 10th.

2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
Disappointing were the McLarens – their best result was 7th courtesy of the Hexis team who had much success formerly with their Aston Martins. Like several others they elected to use the Woking cars for 2013 but these new cars seem to be off the pace at the moment. Above is the French ART Team MP4-12C three-wheeling out of Becketts.
2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
One of the particular joys of endurance sports/GT races is the presence of the subsidiary classes, especially when they throw up unexpected winners. Such was the case with the Gentlemens’ Trophy, the GTR category. This Slovakian-entered Porsche 997 GT3 R of the ARC Bratislava team came out top of the thirteen starters:
2013 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone
Of the original 57 starters overall only 9 cars were unclassified, a most satisfactory reliability rate. Alas, one which failed was this Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 which understandably could not recover from an under-bonnet fire.

David Blumlein July 2013

Peninsular Wars

The attention of the motor sport world was firmly fixed last weekend on the Iberian Peninsula, mostly it has to be said in Catalonia, where the F1 heroes were strutting their stuff.

Sound and Fury

 

 

However for some like me the story was unfolding some 300 miles’ drive to the west of Barcelona, in the wine country that surrounds the Circuito de Navarra. A newish circuit for a new formula, the Blancpain Endurance Series.

I Walk The Line

Stéphane Ratel, the charismatic El Jefe of SRO, has gone back to his roots this year with this new set of events. Four 3 Hour races to support the Spa 24 Hours, aimed firmly at a mix of professionals and gentlemen drivers, giving mucho bangs per bucks. Not a sprint event that resembles Banger Racing at Walthamstow, nor travelling halfway round the globe to spend the best part of a week out of the office, this formula works for those who work.

Thundering Herd

Those of with long memories, or in my case, still with some memory, can see a distinct resemblance of the BES to the fabled BPR, oh, we love our acronyms in motor sport. BPR (the initials of Jürgen Barth, Patrick Peter and Stéphane Ratel) was a major part of the revival of endurance sportscar racing in the mid-90s after the destruction of Group C.

Hot Stuff

The BPR Global Endurance Series grew rapidly, helped in part by the format of 4 Hour races and rules that encouraged the inclusion of the talented and the monied in equal measure. It was also boosted by the debut of the legendary McLaren F1 GTR, that took the fight to the Ferrari F40 and others. At the high water mark, Silverstone 1996, the series could boast 54 starters and  11 marques (McLaren, Lotus, Ferrari, Porsche, Marcos, Callaway, Venturi, TVR, Jaguar, Vertigo and Morgan).

Green Light Racing

The Blancpain Endurance Series kicked off at Monza last month with 33 cars taking the start, a respectable number. More importantly the grid of GT3 and GT4 machines were all high quality, no one lap, start-money specials. With the prospect of McLaren returning to the GT arena plus the SLS Mercedes on the horizon, things are looking very promising for the new kids on the block.

Leap of Faith

In fact the GT3 McLaren was scheduled to make its race debut in Spain but though the CRS team were in Navarra testing during the preceeding week (or so I was told) the MP4-12C GT3 (just trips off the tongue) had left the track before I arrived on Saturday. BES will have to wait till Spa before Woking’s finest graces the series. Despite that, and the absence of the Benz, the level of the entry was still good.

Non Starter

30 cars took the start, should have been 31, but the Gentle Swiss Racing Maserati MC Granturismo GT4 had a problem after qualifying and was withdrawn. Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Audi, Ford, BMW, Lotus, Nissan, Ginetta were the brands on display, all very promising for the future.

Numero Uno

Never mind about the future, the present is what we are concerned with now. On Sunday we were treated to a pretty good contest, with the WRT Audi pair scrapping with Monza victors, the AutOrlando Porsche and the #1 Vita4one Ferrari.

Reverse Order

In the end Micheal Bartels took up in the Blancpain Endurance Series where he had left off in the FIA GT1 World Championship, on the top step. Joining the veteran were youngsters Frank Kechele and Nico Verdonck, the team looked sharp as one might expect, they will be hard to beat over a season.

R8 Mate

Second was the Audi R8 of Stéphane Ortelli, Bert Longin and Felipe Albuquerqe with the Italian Porsche, hampered by transmission problems, taking third.

Lotus Position

GT4 honours went again to the Lotus, this time to the Evora GT4 of Lotus Driving Academy with Lorenz Frey, Rolf Maritz and Fredy Barth on driving duties.

Italian Hustle

Navarra is an impressive track, surrounded by vineyards and bodegas, nestling under the shadow of the Pyrenees. The circuit facilities are modern and the place has a brisk efficiency about it. Perhaps the only drawback is the location, it is by European standards the middle of nowhere, a five hour slog from Barcelona. Still as Lawrence might have said,

“Aqaba is over there. It’s just a matter of going.”

Class of ’98

One familiar face at Navarra was the Circuit Director, Michel Ligonnet. Michel was pretty handy racer in his time, winning the GT class at the inaugural Petit Le Mans back in 1998. It was good to catch up with him once again.

Rhino Charge

It is clear that Stéphane Ratel is on to a winner with the Blancpain Endurance Series but the benefits will be enjoyed by all those who like GT Racing, if you get to the Spa 24 Hours or the remaining rounds at Magny Cours and Silverstone you should.

John Brooks, May 2011

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monza Miscellany

GT cars at Monza.

It is not generally known that the first race for cars that we now call GT cars took place at Monza: the Coppa Inter Europa in 1949. In this race three of the first five “street” Ferraris to be made (Tipo 166 Inter) were entered and they filled easily the first three places, Count Bruno Stersi winning in his Touring-bodied car and establishing already Ferrari superiority in the category. While GT cars remained front-engined Ferrari continued its domination, but then gradually Porsche, above all, came on the scene and since the demise of Group C the GT revival has witnessed real rivalry between Zϋffenhausen and Maranello. The ageless Porsche 911 is still a potent force – it won at Monza despite the presence of seven of the new Ferrari 458 Italias.

changing, yet changeless as canal water

 

The Monza circuit is set in a Royal Park. A stroll around the old banked section of the track – lined with beautiful woodlands full of bird song – is very rewarding.

Bank of Italy

One can still pick out traces of the chicanes which were installed at the entrance to the bankings for the 1000 kilometre sports car races from 1966 until the banking was used for the last time in 1969.

Chicanery

As a very fast circuit Monza has been no stranger to chicanes and by the mid-Thirties temporary devices were inserted on the faster stretches – those thundering Grand Prix  Auto Unions and Mercedes needed slowing down! By 1972 permanent chicanes, since modified, were installed before the Curva Grande and at the Ascari Curve with a third one, the Variante dell Roggia, preceding the fast Lesmo Curves four years later. Many other changes have occurred over the years not least the creation of the famous Parabolica to replace the Curva de Vedano which itself eventually eliminated the original South Banking, a raised curve rather than a fully banked corner.

Parabolica

We have seen how, since the Thirties, the sports-racing car has gradually pushed aside the series production sports car in the major endurance events. This trend was encouraged particularly in the Mille Miglia and was taken up after the War by the Le Mans organisers with their Prototype class (originally intended to be temporary in the aftermath of the conflict) but the public loved the big fast racers and they seem here to stay. So it is refreshing to see at Monza the GT3/GT4 cars, especially the latter category whose cars are much more akin to those original participants in the Coppa Inter Europa races. The GT4 class had seven runners, made up of five different marques including a Maserati MC GranTurismo GT4.

Trident Tested

 

 

The attractive Lotus Evoras took the first two places in the GT4 class despite suffering punctures.

Lotus Flowered

 

 

The 3-Hour race was happily free of any major incident and there was no use of the Safety Car. Of the thirty-two starters just seven were unclassified. Here we can see the no. 42 Ferrari abandoned as the French-entered Ferrari 458 Italia enters the Variante Ascari.

Ferrari Park

 

 

One of the joys of visiting Monza is the sense of history all around. The Sala Tazio Nuvolari, named in honour of Italy’s (the world’s ?) greatest driver, contains an example of a Lancia V4 motor as fitted to the Lambda, one of Italy’s most innovative cars.

Pedigree

 

 

TAILPIECE

Artisan

The little Piaggio Ape P3, one of Monza’s workhorses

 

©2011 Words and Images by David Blumlein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Future is Orange

A week ago the world, well a very small part of it including me, witnessed the next step in the expansion of McLaren Automotive. The venue was the Stowe Circuit at Silverstone, the small step/giant leap was the first public showing of the McLaren MP4-12C GT3.

Somehow the embargo that McLaren requested was kept and this morning they sent out their release. This is what it said.

The first McLaren MP4-12C GT3 to be built by McLaren GT – a new company that brings together the expertise of the McLaren Group and CRS Racing – has successfully undertaken its debut tests at the MIRA proving ground facility and Silverstone Circuit in England.  McLaren GT has also appointed a new test driver to its team, 26-year-old Portuguese racing driver Álvaro Parente.

The initial shakedown tests undertaken with the 12C GT3, whereby new components are calibrated and bespoke aerodynamic body structures are appraised for the first time, will be followed by comprehensive tests scheduled throughout March and April at a number of FIA* certified circuits across Europe. News on the development programme, full driver line-up and planned competition for the 12C GT3 will be confirmed after these tests are completed.

MP4-12C GT3 development to focus on quality and performance

McLaren GT Project Manager Andrew Kirkaldy and McLaren Automotive Chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin piloted the new 12C GT3 on its first outings. These real-world tests follow months of virtual testing in the McLaren Simulator at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, which is also used to develop the 12C production car and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Formula 1 cars.

Andrew Kirkaldy said: “We have an extensive list of subjective and objective development targets set for the MP4-12C GT3.  In the first tests, the car is achieving excellent results in many areas including handling, powertrain and other aspects of dynamic performance.

“The 12C’s carbon chassis and aerodynamic efficiency mean we started with a lightweight, dynamically-optimised sports car. Those characteristics are fundamental to any race car.The car is around 100mm wider than the standard production car and features a new suspension system which we have tested in the McLaren Simulator. Having now experienced this new set-up in the 12C GT3 car, I’m delighted with the progress we are making.

“The McLaren GT team is working with Formula 1 technology suppliers, and several of the senior technical personnel involved in this project have vast experience in Formula 1. This is a unique advantage in developing a GT specification car.”

From 2012, McLaren Automotive and CRS Racing will supply and support a limited number of FIA GT3-compliant racing cars based on the McLaren 12C high-performance sports car for privateers.**

MP4-12C GT3: Technical specification outline

The 12C GT3 race car is based on a standard 12C. Developing the race car has required a team of engineers, technicians and test drivers from McLaren Group and CRS Racing to focus on several fundamental components.

The 12C GT3 is based on the McLaren carbon MonoCell chassis, which weighs just 75kg and is produced in a revolutionary one-piece mould. Race specification composite body panels and a fixed rear wing have been added to the GT3 car.

The same 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 as in the production car on which it is based will be used in the 12C GT3, tuned to race specification. A bespoke paddle-shift system operating an all-new Ricardo-designed gearbox developed specifically for racing will be fitted. This system eschews the 7-speed SSG dual-clutch Graziano transmission supplied in the standard 12C.

New electrical architecture is being supplied by McLaren Electronic Systems Limited, including electronic dash and data technologies. Bosch Motorsport will supply a new ABS system for the 12C GT3.  A new aerodynamics package has been developed by McLaren Racing in compliance with GT3 regulations, incorporating a new front splitter, door blade, rear wing, diffuser and louvres in the front fenders.

The new GT3 car will feature motorsport-specific braking and suspension components. These include bespoke callipers by Akebono, Official Supplier to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.  Due to regulations imposed by racing authorities, the 12C GT3 will not feature the road-going 12C’s ProActive Chassis Control System; negating the requirement for an anti-roll bar. Instead, the 12C GT3 will use a configuration comprising race-specific roll bars and dampers.

McLaren Automotive Chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin said: “Those who have seen the new MP4-12C production car won’t be surprised to learn that immense attention to detail has been applied in developing the GT3 version. Quality is a watchword. We know that our potential customers will expect McLaren GT to deliver a competitive car right out of the box and, starting now with a programme covering aerodynamics development and durability testing, we are determined to do just that.

“The McLaren GT team is committed to achieving unprecedented levels of performance, also guaranteeing the levels of quality, reliability and durability with which we expect to delight future race teams entering competitions with the 12C GT3.”

 

As the car rolled out of the transporter I felt I was being teleported back to Jerez 1995 when the F1 GTR first raced in the BPR Series.

The Blancpain Endurance Series just shifted up another gear.

John Brooks, March 2011