June 23rd, 2011
The historic 24 Hours of Spa is one of the world’s longest running endurance events, tracing its roots back to the first race held in the Ardennes in 1924. This year the Total 24 Hours of Spa is the jewel in the crown event for the world’s newest international GT series, the Blancpain Endurance Series. While this will only be the third race in the Blancpain Endurance Series, the races held in Monza (Italy) and Navarra (Spain) have shown the new series represents the very best in endurance racing with big grids, different brands competing on a level field, plenty of racing action, all taking place on some of the most famous circuits in Europe.
While GT3 cars have been competing at the 24 Hours of Spa in recent years, 2011 will be the first time that GT3 has been the main class. Teams and drivers running GT3 spec cars will be fighting for overall honours for the first time at this historic event held at the world famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the magnificent setting of the Ardennes forest.
Sixty three cars are due to line up for the 2011 Total 24 Hours of Spa at 4pm on Saturday 30th July. Eighteen cars are entered in the Pro Cup, with current Blancpain Endurance Series leaders Paolo Ruberti, Gianluca Roda and Raffaele Gianmaria competing against some tough opposition in the AutOrlando Sport Porsche 997. Bert Longin, Filipe Albuquerque and Stephane Ortelli are currently second in the title race, with two podium finishes in Italy and Spain and the Team WRT Audi will be looking go one better at the team’s home race. Round 2 winners Frank Kechele and Nico Verdonck are joined by Matteo Bobbi in the nr1 Vita4One Ferrari 458.
Aston Martin, BMW, Ford, Lamborghini and Mercedes are also represented in the Pro Cup and will be joined by the new McLaren GT, which will be making its first international race appearance with Andrew Kirkaldy, Oliver Turvey and Alvaro Parente in one of the cars.
As well as Audi Sport Team WRT, Belgian race fans will also have the Marc VDS Racing Team and Prospeed Competition to cheer on in the Pro Cup. Marc VDS are running one Ford GT and one BMW Z4, which has proven very successful in the FIA GT3 European Championship. Belgian FIA GT1 World Championship regulars Bas Leinders and Maxime Martin will be joined by Marc VDS teammate Marc Hennerici in the nr40 BMW. Prospeed travel to their home race on the back of an FIA GT3 victory at Paul Ricard with race winner Max Soulet being joined Jan Heylen and Marc Goossens.
The Pro-Am Cup represents the largest entry with 29 GT3 cars entered for the race. Gianluca De Lorenzi and Alessandro Bonetti will be looking to extend their GT3 Pro-Am Cup lead in the De Lorenzi Racing Porsche 997 but they are only 5 points ahead in the standings of Paul van Splunteren in the Prospeed Competition Porsche. The selection of racing machinery is even wider than on the Pro Cup grid with Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche all represented. Famous names include Johnny Herbert, Olivier Panis, Stefan Johansson, Mark Blundell and Eddie Cheever.
The nr92 Marc VDS Racing Ford Mustang includes two of the most success drivers at the 24 Hours of Spa – four times winner Jean-Michel Martin and three times winner Marc Duez. Race One winners Marc A Hayek and Peter Kox, who won the 24 Hours of Spa in 1995, will be joined by Jos Menten, who is also a previous Spa 24 winner in 2009, in the Blancpain-Reiter Lamborghini.
Six cars are represented in the Gentlemen Trophy class with Aston Martin, Dodge, Ferrari and Ford battling it out for class honours. The Cup Class has swelled from one car in Navarra to five Porsche 997 Cup entries, giving Navarra winner Sergio Negroni and his teammates some competition for the class trophy.
The GT4 Class might be small but it is perfectly formed with four cars representing four different manufacturers – Aston Martin, BMW, Lotus and Nissan. Round 1 winners Eduardo Piscopo, Greg Mansell and Leo Mansell will be joined by Gianni Giudici in the Lotus Sport Italia Lotus Evora and will once again do battle with British team RJN Motorsport and the Nissan 370Z of Chris Ward, Alex Buncombe and Jordan Tresson. The grid is completed by two Belgian cars, an Aston Martin GT4 run by the Speed Lover team and the DVB Racing BMW M3.
Stephane Ratel, CEO SRO Motorsports Group, said: “2011 also marks an evolution for the Total 24 Hours of Spa as the GT3 cars take centre stage for the first time. The result of this move has been a huge increase in interest from teams and drivers and has resulted in the biggest grid for the 24 Hours of Spa for many, many years. Since its launch in 2006 by SRO, the GT3 class has offered an affordable route into sportscar racing and has provided the basis for championships, both national and international, across the world. Now the 24 Hours of Spa, the leading endurance race for GT cars, has become the focus for teams and drivers racing GT3 cars and for the 2011 we will have representatives from Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Corvette, Dodge, Ferrari, Ford, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche, The GT3 cars are joined by a very exciting grid of GT4 cars from Aston Martin, BMW, Lotus, Nissan and Porsche. The Spa 24 Hours is one of the few places where you can see so many manufacturers competing against each other for victory.”
Marc A Hayek, President and CEO of Blancpain, said: “Dream cars, prestigious circuits, incredible people, GT racing has always had a slightly mythical air, and I think that the motorsport world was ready for a return to the roots of these competitions. Therefore, it is hardly surprising to see that the Blancpain Endurance Series has rapidly become the unmissable series for GT racing in Europe. Outdoing all expectations, not only has the public been enthralled, but so have the teams, to the point that the starting grid for our next event at Spa-Francorchamps is the most successful in the history of this legendary circuit. As CEO of Blancpain I am delighted with this success.
The event gets underway on Wednesday 27th July with traditional race car parade in the centre of Spa where the cars and drivers will meet the public on Place Royale. The track action begins on Thursday 28thJuly and as well as the massive grid of cars for the Total 24 Hours of Spa there will be qualifying and races over the next three days for the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, which includes the FIA Formula 3 International Trophy, the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo and the French F4 Championship.
Regulations for Spa
As well are the standard Blancpain Endurance Series rules, there are several specific conditions in the sporting regulations for this event compared to the other 3-hour races.
The race will be considered as a single event during which intermediate classifications will be drawn up after 6 and 12 hours of racing at which time points will be awarded according to the following table. Only the classification at the end of the 24 Hours is considered as the official result of the event.
The points in the intermediate classifications after 6 and 12 hours will be awarded equally to the car and to all the drivers in the crew, whatever their driving time.
Throughout the event, no fewer than three drivers and no more than four drivers may drive one and the same car. The maximum continuous driving time per driver is three hours, after this period a minimum one hour’s rest is required. No driver can drive more than 14 hours in total.
Driver classifications for the GT3 Pro-Am Cup, GT3 Gentleman Cup and the GT4 Cup have been altered to accommodate four drivers in each class. In the Pro-Am Cup two bronze drivers can race with either – two Platinum, a Platinum and a Gold driver or two Gold drivers. Alternatively there can be three silver and one bronze driver sharing a GT3 Pro-Am Cup car.
In the GT3 Gentleman Trophy teams can choose to have either two silver and two bronze or one silver and three bronze drivers in their car. In the GT4 Cup the driver classifications are the same as the GT3 Pro-Am Cup. There are no driver classifications in the GT3 Pro Cup.
The maximum continuous driving time per driver is three hours. After this period, a minimum of one hour’s rest is required. No driver can drive more than 14 hours in total. The maximal duration of a driving stint will be 65 minutes. This will be extended to 70 minute while the safety car is on the track. The car will need to pit but the driver does not have to change unless the three hours has been completed.
The Season So Far – A look back at the first two races of 2011
Round 1: Monza
In April Monza hosted the first ever Blancpain Endurance Series race and fittingly it was the Italian team AutOrlando Sport and Italian driver Paolo Rubeti who took the chequered flag to record the first ever Blancpain Endurance Series win in a Porsche 997 GT3 R. Ruberti was joined by Gianluca Roda and Raffaele Gianmaria on the top step of the podium. The second placed car was the nr32 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 LMS of Stephane Ortelli, Bert Longin and Filipe Albuquerqe, which finished 58 second behind the Porsche but led the race before it had to pit for a splash and dash pitstop 10 laps from home. An early puncture also delayed the Audi, but they fought back to claim a podium place in the first race of the season. The Marc VDS Ford GT of Bas Leinders, Maxime Martin and Markus Palttala was third.
The class winners were Marc A Hayek and Peter Kox in the Blancpain-Reiter Lamborghini (GT3 Pro-Am Cup), with Hayek bringing the car home in 4th overall. Georges Cabannes and Gregory Guilvert were the GT3 Gentlemen Cup winners in the Ruffier Racing Lamborghini Gallardo and the GT4 Cup was won by the Lotus Italia team with Edoardo Piscopo, Leo Mansell and Greg Mansell holding off the challenge of the RJN Motorsport Nissan to claim the first GT4 Class win of the new series.
Round 2: Navarra
One month later the Blancpain Endurance Series travelled to Spain and to prove that the action packed entertainment of the first event wasn’t a one off, the second 3-hour race of the 2011 season was just as exciting.
The nr1 Vita4One Ferrari 458 of Michael Bartels, Frank Kechele and Nico Verdonck took their first victory in the Blancpain Endurance Series, finishing 17 seconds ahead of the Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 LMS of Stephane Ortelli, Bert Longin and Filipe Alburquerqe. Ortelli, starting from Pole Position held the lead until Kechele went ahead of the Belgian driver on lap 17. The Vita4One Ferrari then set the pace for the rest of the race with reigning FIA GT1 World Champion Michael Bartels taking the chequered flag. Round 1 winners Gianluca Roda, Raffaele Gianmaria and Paolo Ruberti taking the final podium place in the AutOrlando Porsche 997 GT3 R to maintain their championship lead after two races.
The Pro-Am Cup Class was won by the nr20 SOFREV Auto Sport Promotion Ferrrari 458 Italia of Ludovic Badey, Franck Morel and Jean-Luc Beaubelique. Morel led the race until the final pitstops, with Beaubelique taking the chequered flag in 5th overall one lap behind the leading four Pro Cup class cars. The GT3 Gentlemen Trophy was won by Round 1 winner George Cabannes in the nr31 Ruffier Racing Lamborghini, with Cabennes being joined by rally driver Fabien Michal, who was taking part in his very first circuit race.
The GT4 Cup went to the nr61 Lotus Driving Academy Lotus Evora of Freddy Barth, Rolf Maritz and Lorenz Frey after the leading Lotus Italia Evora of Greg Mansell retired with gearbox failure. The GT3 Cup De Lorenzi Racing Porsche 997 GT3 of Luigi Emiliani, Sergio Negroni and Marco Cassera struggled to reach the chequered flag after the gearbox lost 5th and 6th gears but the Italian’s crossed the line to lift the GT3 Cup Trophy.
Notes for editors: copyright free images are available for editorial use only from the Blancpain Endurance Series website by using the following –
Blancpain, a tradition of innovation for over 275 years
In 1735, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain began his watchmaking activity and installed his first workshop on the upper floor of his family home in Villeret, a village in the Swiss Jura mountains. By inscribing his name in the official communal property register, this pioneer created an establishment that is now the world’s oldest watch brand.
Throughout its history, Blancpain has succeeded in maintaining solid continuity in its capacity for innovation and its respect for traditional horological values. Whether by perfecting complications, designs and production methods, or by exploring new horizons, the Manufacture has been devoted for more than 275 years to taking the art of watchmaking to places it has never yet ventured. From the first models created in the 18th century to the prestigious timepieces currently emerging from its workshops, Blancpain has forged an authentic tradition of innovation. The key to its success lies in the mastery of all fields involved in making an exceptional mechanical timepiece – from the creation of the movement and its components through to the functional design of the watch, along with the choice of materials and the extremely refined and entirely hand-crafted finishing.
Without ever straying from its precious heritage, the brand steadfastly pursues its quest for performance, precision and elegance by offering a range of exceptional timepieces equipped with the most sophisticated horological complications. The nature of its collections – including the pure lines of the Villeret, the efficient complexity of Le Brassus, and the avant-garde design of L-evolution – is firmly rooted in watchmaking traditions while constantly pushing them towards new limits. In the same way, the ladies’ collection celebrates beauty and refinement, while the Sport collection is composed of instrument watches that are ready to face any situation on land, under water or in the air.
While remaining unswervingly loyal to its values, Blancpain regularly associates with partners that share its passion for excellence. Whether in the field of motorsports, sailing, scuba diving, or that of gastronomy and the art of living, the Manufacture is proud of its partnerships that represent far more than mere co-branding. On the contrary, Blancpain commits itself fully to such forms of cooperation by joining forces with its partners in a determination to excel and to foster both creativity and authenticity.