THE JURY IS OUT WHETHER SPEED OR ENDURANCE IS THE LITMUS TEST OF A MOTORSPORT RACER. Watchmaking legend Blancpain and Stéphane Ratel Organisation (SRO) Motorsports Group propose that it is indeed both. Hosting the annual Blancpain GT Series, a competition held in several European cities, they gained renown for their Sprint and Endurance Cups for GT3 cars.
This year, racers and enthusiasts in Asia will finally experience their very own Blancpain GT Series, starting with Malaysia’s Sepang circuit, and culminating in China’s recently constructed 3.2-km Zhejiang circuit. While the European series typically comprises five rounds of competition for each cup, the inaugural 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia will feature six rounds of 12 races. The Asian edition will accommodate both GT3 and GT4 teams, giving the latter opportunities to prepare for graduation to the next level.
GT3 classes typically pair professional drivers with amateurs, but the Blancpain GT Series Asia will add a separate GT3 category for amateur pairs, in addition to GT4 amateur pairings. Confirmed participants include GruppeM Racing from Hong Kong, Taiwanese squad HubAuto, Malaysian company EKS Motorsports, and CMRTeam by Eurasia.
Two 60-minute races will be held for each of the competition’s six rounds, which are spread out from April to October. After the initial race in Sepang, the series will continue in Thailand and Japan, then move on to Shanghai, and end in Zhejiang on 21st and 22nd October. All 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia races are scheduled to not clash with the European edition and the Intercontinental GT Challenge, as well as other relevant competitions.
The 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia edition is the brainchild of Stéphane Ratel of SRO Motorsports Group and Paul Yao, founder of the Supercar Club Hong Kong. “Next year will see the introduction of the GT4 European Series Southern Cup in Europe. We will expand the Blancpain GT Sports Club and the Intercontinental GT Challenge will get a round in the United States,” says Ratel, who is keen to segregate GT3 and GT4 into separate races in 2018
The Blancpain GT Series in Europe typically begins with a test drive in France in March and a race in Misano, Italy, in April. The 2016 edition concluded in Barcelona in October. After five gruelling rounds each of Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup races, drivers Maxi Buhk and Dominik Baumann of team AMG HTP Motorsport pulled away with the overall Blancpain GT Series drivers’ title. Audi Club Team WRT’s Enzo Ide, a 25-year-old businessman and not a professional racing driver, won the Sprint Cup, while the Endurance Cup went to Garage 59 McLaren trio Rob Bell, Côme Ledogar and Shane Van Gisbergen. The winners were acknowledged in grand fashion at SRO’s Night of the Champions awards ceremony in the Tower of London.
April 8/9 Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
May 20/21 Chang International Circuit, Thailand
June 24/25 Suzuka International Circuit, Japan
August 19/20 Fuji International Circuit, Japan
September 23/24 Shanghai International Circuit, China
October 21/22 Zhejiang Circuit, China