Ahead of the 2018 racing season, competitors in the Blancpain GT Series recently completed the two-day official test at Circuit Paul Ricard with an intensive on-track programme enabled by ideal conditions. The group test was attended by 45 cars in total, from all 11 of the manufacturers which will be contesting the 2018 season. Entries of note included the debut Lexus run by Emil Frey Racing from Switzerland, alongside new cars from Bentley and Nissan. With bright sunshine and clear skies over Paul Ricard from Tuesday morning to Wednesday afternoon, competitors could complete their test programmes without a hitch.
Running various configurations, individual teams approached the two day session differently, with some targeting improved lap times while others focused on optimising their setup. Many competitors also focused on tyres, putting a high amount of effort and time into familiarising themselves with the new specification tyres provided by series supplier Pirelli for the 2018 season. With some corners having been modified, Paul Ricard’s fresh surface also gave the teams plenty of work, enabling their vital setup optimisation to be carried out before the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup kikcs off at the French venue on the 1st of June. For several teams this meant an even busier schedule, with some competitors running well over 200 laps by the end of official testing.
In terms of lap times, British GT regular Callum Macleod put Team Parker Racing’s Bentley Continental GT3 at the top of the charts with a 1:52.454 lap time on Tuesday afternoon. British GT regular Callum Macleod was behind the wheel for the team, which will field a car in the full Blancpain GT Series this season. This was closely followed by the #66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS which will be piloted by brothers Steijn and Pieter Schothorst for the 2018 season. The #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 and #27 Team Lazarus Lamborghini Huracan also posted commendable times in Tuesday’s session.
Attempto’s Audi R8 LMS topped Wednesday’s times with a 1:53.103 lap, followed by German squad Grasser Racing’s #63 Lamborghini Huracan. Spirit of Race’s #54 Ferrari 488 GT3 rounded out the top three for Wednesday with another strong performance. After successfully completing the official test days, the teams will now turn their attention to the Zolder circuit in Belgium, where the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup’s 2018 season opener will take place on the 6th to 8th of April.
Pieter Schothorst, #66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS: “I’m happy with how things have gone during the test days. Wednesday was very productive, especially in the morning when we collected important data. We’ve just focussed on the new tyres, trying to get the right setup for qualifying and race trim. There’s still something to find in the car and we’re not yet as quick as we can be, but overall I’m very positive and I think we’ve got a great season ahead of us.”
Callum McLeod, #32 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “It was a very pleasant surprise to be fastest. We never expected it, but we’re in a really good place with our car. The Team Parker mechanics and engineers have done an amazing job over the winter and it’s working better than ever for us. Team Parker have a brilliant line-up for the Blancpain GT Series this year, both in Sprint and Endurance, and I’m hoping to compete in the Sprint Cup round at Brands Hatch.”
Lucas Ordonez, #23 GT Sport MOTUL Team RJN Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “The first time testing a new car is always a challenge for the team and the drivers. The NISMO guys in Japan have worked hard on development and improved a lot of things, so we needed mileage to make use of those improvements. The test days are crucial for this and now I can’t wait to race at Monza with our new car.”
Christian Klien, #114 Emil Frey Lexus Racing Lexus RCF GT3: “We have already done some test days prior to this and I have to say that our Lexus is a nice car. You get in and immediately feel comfortable, which is always a good sign. We’re happy with the progress during testing and the car is definitely reliable. We know we have a good product and Emil Frey Racing has put all the pieces together to be successful.”