The 2018 Blancpain GT Series is ready to go: the championship rules for 2018 have been confirmed with a tried and trusted formula, but there’s no shortage of innovations either. Starting with the latest evolution of the P Zero tyres that exclusievly equip all the competing cars, which have become even quicker this year. As always, the jewel in the crown will be the Spa 24 Hours, which will celebrate its 60th edition in July, but before then there are many other spectacular races to enjoy: either trackside or live on your screens.
1. WHO WON LAST YEAR
Austrian team Grasser Racing triumphed last year, with its Lamborghini Huracan line-up clinching the Overall Driver Champion title (with Mirko Bortolotti) and the Endurance Champion title. Kessel Racing from Switzerland was first in the Am team standings (for non-professional drivers), also taking the drivers’ title in the same category with South African David Perel. German team Rinaldi Racing were best of the mixed Pro-Am category thanks to Alexander Mattschull. When it came to the individual team titles, Bentley Team M-Sport won the Endurance Cup, while Belgian Audi Club Team WRT won the Sprint Cup.
2. THE 2018 CALENDAR
The championship gets underway at Zolder in Belgium on April 6 with the first round of the Sprint Series, before heading to the epic ‘Temple of Speed’ at Monza from April 20-22 for the debut of this year’s Endurance Series. Two British rounds of the championship will take place during May, at Brands Hatch (5-6 May) and Silverstone (18-20 May) while June plays host to the Paul Ricard race in France (1-2 June) and Misano Adriatico in Italy (22-24 June). From 26-29 July the legendary Spa 24 Hours takes place, before the summer break that ends on 31 August with the Hungaroring encounter, close to Budapest. Midway through September, the Nurburgring race happens (14-16 September) before the season finale at Barcelona from 28-30 September.
3. THE CARS
The cars that take part in the Blancpain GT Series are all GT cars in GT3 specification: derived from production supercars but tweaked for competition purposes. The GT3 versions of cars such as the Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Audi R8, Bentley Continental, Ferrari 488 GTB, Porsche 911, BMW M6, Lamborghini Huracan, Lexus RCF, McLaren 650S, Mercedes-AMG GT and Nissan GT-R are currently homologated for the championship. There’s a Balance of Performance in place to put the cars on a level playing field, but within the FIA GT3 regulations manufacturers can increase performance, reduce weight, refine the chassis and enhance driver safety – so there’s plenty of technical freedom too.
4. ENDURANCE AND SPRINT
The Blancpain GT Series calendar is based on two different types of races: Endurance and Sprint. The first category, taking in long-distance competitions, features races that last from a minimum of three to a maximum of 24 hours, while the second category showcases shorter races lasting just 60 minutes. The Blancpain GT Series competitors can take part in just one of these categories or alternatively both, to fight for the overall title.
5. TV COVERAGE
For those who aren’t able to enjoy the Blancpain GT experience trackside, both the Sprint and the Endurance Series can be followed on satellite TV channel Eurosport, Motors TV, as well as various other channels throughout Europe that show races live. Alternatively, it’s possible to watch online thanks to the GT World YouTube channel (as well as on www.blancpain-gt-series.com) using a smartphone, tablet, computer or smart TV. Thanks to the network of traditional TV channels alone, there’s coverage of the championship throughout 54 countries in 20 different languages.
You can buy race tickets from the official site of the championship organisers and promoters: SRO Motorsports Group. Standard admission tickets tend to cost around 15 Euros for Saturday, 20 Euros for Sunday, and 25 Euros for both days. There are also VIP packages to make the most of the top hospitality on offer in the paddock: including meals in the SRO lounge, VIP parking, a grid walk, and other benefits depending on the package selected.
7. WHAT TO SEE
As well as the Sprint and Endurance races, Blancpain GT Series weekends frequently host support events, such as the Lamborghini Super Trofeo or GT Sports Club. The latter is organised by the same promoter as the main championship (SRO) and offers the public a 25-minute Qualifying Race and a 40-minute Main Race. The competition is reserved for Bronze drivers (the entry level in the driver rankings, based on age, results obtained, and performance). There’s always plenty to see.
8. THE NEW P ZERO TYRES
There’s just one compound but a wider working range: the P Zero DHD2 tyres that Pirelli has developed for the 2018 season have been designed to offer equal performance to the wide variety of competing cars, which are all very different in terms of vehicle architecture and weight distribution. The tyres also have to adapt themselves equally to many different types of races: from sprint encounters to 24-hour marathons, as well as to many different levels of driving ability. Like the majority of Pirelli’s motorsport tyres, the P Zero covers used on the Blancpain GT Series are created at Pirelli’s Izmit ‘factory of champions’ in Turkey.
9. NOVELTIES FOR 2018
The modifications made to the rules have been designed to increase the on-track spectacle. The number of Pro teams is now set at a maximum of 26 crews (from 32 last year), with an exception made for the Spa 24 Hours. Also, the mixed Pro-Am crews in the Endurance Series can now be made up of two Bronze drivers plus one professional (as opposed to two Silver drivers plus a Bronze, as was the case before). Qualifying has additionally been modified, to take into account the times from all three drivers competing in the car. Nothing changes though for the Sprint races.
10. GT RACING ALL OVER THE WORLD
There are a number of different GT championships all over the world, with Pirelli at the forefront of the key ones. As well as the Blancpain GT Series that takes place in Europe, the Italian firm is also present at the Pirelli World Challenge in the United States; characterised by a strong manufacturer presence, with 25 brands represented over seven classes. Pirelli is also the exclusive tyre supplier to the FIA GT World Cup in Macau, as well as the Intercontinental GT Challenge. Pirelli additionally supplies a number of key national GT championships, from Europe to Australia, and is present at landmark events such as the Nurburgring 24 Hours and Bathurst 12 Hours.