PREVIEW: 2018 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup – Misano World Circuit – Pro Class


Credit: SRO - Patrick Hecq Photography

Following back-to-back Blancpain Endurance Cup events, attention will shift back to Sprint racing when a closely-matched field of 22 cars tackles the 4.2km Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Italy this weekend.

Competition is fierce in the Pro class, where every car entered is a genuine contender for a spot on the podium.

Fresh from their maiden Blancpain GT Series win at the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km, the Emil Frey Racing squad will travel to Misano with renewed confidence in their Lexus RC-F GT3.

Though their first success with the car came in an Endurance Cup event, the Swiss outfit has shown impressive single-lap pace this season and will be confident about their chances in the one-hour Sprint format races.

Victory at Circuit Paul Ricard has pushed the #14 Emil Frey Lexus crew of Albert Costa and Christian Klien into contention for the overall Blancpain GT Series title, while the #114 machine of Stephane Ortelli and Norbert Siedler has been equally impressive since the team made a significant breakthrough at Silverstone. They will head to Italy with added assurance and even greater incentive to perform.

Credit: SRO – Patrick Hecq Photography

 

If the Emil Frey squad are to contend for titles this year, they will need to overcome the might of Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. The Badour-based outfit leads the overall teams’ and drivers’ championships and also top the Sprint Cup standings, with the Audi R8 LMS well known for its ability to win short-distance races.

Their Sprint Cup line-up remains formidable, with two Pro class cars set to compete at Misano. Alex Riberas and Christopher Mies will once again drive the #1 Audi R8 LMS, while Dries Vanthoor and Will Stevens take their usual place in the #2 machine.

The French squad AKKA ASP Team are also challenging for the overall title. The French outfit has been impressively consistent this season and has put Mercedes-AMG within striking distance of its fierce rival Audi at the top of the standings.

Raffaele Marciello leads the line-up for the AKKA squad and pairs with Michael Meadows in the #88 car, while Nicolas Jamin and Felix Serralles share the #87 Mercedes-AMG.

Credit: SRO – Patrick Hecq Photography

Since winning the opening event of the year, Grasser Racing have not returned to the podium during the 2018 season, so far. They will hope to take their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 back to the top step on home turf, with three cars entered in the Pro class.

Reigning champions Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart lead the way in their #63 machine, with Ezequiel Perez Companc and Andrea Caldarelli aboard the #19 Huracan GT3 and Loris Hezemans paired with Franck Perera in the #82.

A further trio of Audi R8 LMS entries completes the Pro field. The #55 Attempto Racing crew of Steijn Schothorst and Kelvin van der Linde remain strong contenders for the Sprint Cup title having bagged a win at the Zolder season-opener and a podium at Brands Hatch. The sister #66 car of Pieter Schothorst and Pierre Kaffer is yet to score a headline result in 2018, but their R8 LMS has shown flashes of pace this term.

Finally, the Sainteloc Racing squad will field their #25 Audi R8 LMS for experienced campaigner Christopher Haase and his young teammate Simon Gachet. They complete a hugely competitive Pro class in which every car can claim victory at Misano.