Staged one month ahead of the opening event at Monza (12 to 14 April), the test will see more than 30 professional teams representing 11 globally significant brands travel to the South of France hoping to lay the foundations for a successful campaign.
Competitors targeting glory in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe (formerly the Sprint Cup) and Blancpain GT Sports Club will tackle two days of running, seizing a vital learning opportunity as many teams prepare to field new drivers for the first time. Several will run with upgraded machinery, while some have switched manufacturer for the upcoming season. The participants will be targeting clean running from start to finish and with a favourable forecast predicted on both days, it is unlikely the need for the wet weather Pirelli tyre will be called into action.
The Lamborghini Huracan GT3 will be among the best-represented car at the test, with nine of the new-spec machines set to hit the track at Circuit Paul Ricard. Three of these will come from series newcomer Orange 1 FFF Racing, which is led by 2017 Endurance Cup drivers’ champion Andrea Caldarelli.
The Mercedes-AMG contingent will be out in force following a standout 2018 campaign that saw the German marque earn a clutch of championship trophies. Among their representatives will be reigning overall champion AKKA ASP Team and defending Endurance Cup winner Black Falcon.
Audi (R8 LMS GT3) and Ferrari (488 GT3) also remain popular. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, Phoenix Racing and Sainteloc Racing will each field a pair of cars from the Ingolstadt brand, while seven of the Maranello-built machines will travel to the South of France.
Aston Martin (Vantage GT3), Porsche (911 GT3 R), Bentley (Continental GT3) and Honda (NSX GT3) will also be represented by multiple cars at Circuit Paul Ricard. There will be a single Lexus RC F GT3 courtesy of series newcomer Panis-Barthez/Tech 1, a McLaren 720S GT3, while BMW will be present thanks to the returning Boutsen Ginion outfit and its M6 GT3.
The trip to Circuit Paul Ricard is the first of several official test sessions set to be staged during the 2019 season. In addition to the annual Total 24 Hours of Spa test which this year expands to two days on 2 and 3 July, further running will be available ahead of the Monza, Silverstone and Barcelona rounds of the Endurance Cup, and the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe events at Misano and Budapest.
With the test days underway, the Blancpain GT Series has also finalised its full-season entry list for the year ahead which will see 10 major automotive brands represented as teams compete for glory in the fiercely contested championship.
Comprising the long-distance Endurance Cup and sprint-format Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, the series has forged a reputation for ultra-close racing between world-class GT competitors. And with strong entries across the Pro, Silver Cup, Pro-Am and Am Cup classes, another exciting campaign is in prospect.
A 49-strong grid will contest the five-round Endurance Cup, while there are 24 full-season entries for Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe. The list of brands set to hit the track is impressive with Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche all represented. Each will be present on the Endurance Cup grid this term, while six will also contest the five-round Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe.
Speaking about the confirmation of the teams, Stephane Ratel, SRO Motorsports Group Founder and CEO, said: “I am pleased to see another extremely healthy entry list for the Blancpain GT Series and to welcome a number of new and returning teams to the paddock this season. We are also particularly thankful to the teams that have been most faithful to the series and continue to race with us year after year.
“The Endurance Cup grid remains at the same extremely high level that we have become accustomed to, with 10 brands represented in 2019, extending the long run of success that the category has enjoyed since its creation. Among this year’s entrants, we will see the first full season in Endurance for Honda with its NSX GT3, as well as a number of new and updated cars from our existing brands.
“There is also a healthy grid for the launch of Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe. The numbers are up from last year’s Sprint Cup field and competitors are clearly excited by the new GT World Challenge concept.
“Overall, we can see increased balance between professional and non-professional drivers this season. This was a founding principle of our series and remains a matter of great importance. We have put significant work into this area and I am glad to see that it is paying off.
“With the grids set for the season ahead, I now look forward to our opening race weekend at Monza.”