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Michelin GT3 Cup: Paul Ricard Test Days, Paddock Notes

A stunning spring day in Southern France greeted the early adopters for the ACO’s new for 2016 Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup.

Many of the headlines (though DSC were the only media present today thanks to an invitation from TF Sport) will be about the numbers of cars present.

In all there were nine GT3 cars present though one TF Sport Aston was not running and FF Corse had a pair of Ferraris though only one is officially entered just yet for the new Series.

That though would be ignoring the underlying mood in the paddock which promises to see several additional cars for full or part season from several of the teams present, plus, we believe, other cars set to join the grid that are not yet present or announced. Our current expectation is for an entry for the opening round which is well into double figures.

That said there have been discussions about the potential to expand the entry with the addition of Silver/ Silver partnerships, the organisers consulting the current entrants on the proposal, and receiving an almost universal raspberry in response.

More than one team spoken to by DSC though suggested that an incentivised additional Bronze/ Bronze sub-class might be a valuable addition.

These are very early days though for the new Series which will support the ELMS at all rounds bar the season opener at Silverstone plus a support race on race morning for the Le Mans 24 Hours where the GT3s will be joined by LMP3s from the ELMS and Asian LMS.

The GT3 series season opener then will be in May at Imola, almost two months away.

Around the Teams

AF Corse

Mads Rasmussen was out on track with his #51 Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia but it’s fair to say that most attention focussed on the second AF Corse car present, a brand new Ferrari 488 GT3 for car owner Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci.

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This car is the second 488 GT3 delivered to a European customer we believe (the first also went to an AF Corse customer) and the fifth delivered anywhere – the Vicious Rumour and Maranello Motorsports cars gave the new Ferrari its racing debut on Thursday at Melbourne’s F1 supporting Aussie GT round and the Scuderia Corsa GT3 car is currently contesting the 12 Hours of Sebring

More from Messrs Flohr and Castellacci in our next piece

FF Corse

Anthony Cheshire’s beautifully presented squad had another pair of Ferraris present, and again it was a 458 and a brand new 488.

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The 458 (above) though was present to ensure that full season entrant Ivor Dunbar got plenty of track time, his team-mate Johnny Mowlem otherwise engaged in Florida this weekend.

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By the afternoon the car owner hoped to be aboard his new ‘baby’ the team having taken delivery at the track of Dunbar’s new 488 GT3, the car shaken down today by Matteo Mallucelli with Christiano Michelotto and a full technical support team dialling out a couple of new car niggles.

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FFF Racing

The third two car garage was from Italian based, but usually active in Asia, FFF Racing, the team here with their full season entered Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and McLaren 650S GT3.

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The full season McLaren duo are here, Adrian Quaife Hobbs and Hiroshi Hamaguchi but in the Lamborghini neither Sean Fu Songyang or Andrea Caldarelli are here today, the team instead utilising the car to give drivers bound for GT Asia some track time.

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TF Sport

TF Sport would have preferred not to have both of their Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3s in the garage but a pair of misfortunes made that inevitable.

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Yoluc-Hankey

The first happened in testing last week, one car suffering mild rear end damage and the second came this morning as a freak failure of a front subframe (no kerb hopping and no contact) brought today’s running to a close, the team spending the remainder of the day replacing the front sub assembly on one car with the undamaged portion of the other car.

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Tockwith Motorsport

This was the surprise package of the day, and marks a return to ACO rules racing for a man who remains the youngest Briton ever to compete at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

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The Yorkshire based Tockwith Racing team sees Nigel Moore aboard the family owned and run Audi R8 LMS, this car sourced from the Portuguese GT Championship, the ex Ginetta and Formula Palmer Audi Champions joined by young karting graduate Phil Hanson.

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The car though suffered gearbox niggles with the team opting not to risk the car further whilst waiting for the arrival of a replacement item from the UK.