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Blancpain GT News Notebook

Endurance Cup and World Challenge Europe news nibs

Grasser formally confirms its 2019 commitments

Grasser Racing has confirmed its full 2019 plans this week, the reigning (back to back) Daytona 24 Hours GTD-winning team set to contest the Blancpain GT Series, ADAC GT Masters and IMSA endurance races again.

The team will race on 22 weekends this year, with factory support from Lamborghini and Huracan GT3 EVOs.

It will run two cars Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. As it stands, Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti will race with Rolf Ineichen and Christian Engelhart. The names of the other drivers will be announced at a later date.

Another Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with the successful pairing of Bortolotti and Engelhart will line up in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe (formerly Blancpain Sprint Cup).

In GT Masters, GRT will run a trio of Huracans. Bortolotti, Marco Mapelli and Franck Perera will share the three cars with Engelhart and Ineichen. Michele Beretta, a young talent from Lamborghini’s Junior programme, will complete the squad at Grasser. He will be contesting his second year in the ADAC GT Masters.

And finally, in IMSA, the team will complete the Michelin Endurance Cup, competing with a GTD class Huracan GT3 at Sebring next week, then later in the year the Watkins Glen 6 Hours and Petit Le Mans with Bortolotti, Ineichen and Engelhart.

“I’m pleased to see our programme for 2019 taking shape,” said team Principal Gottfried Grasser. “With the Lamborghini SQ, we can field works cars with high-calibre drivers in each series, so I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. Despite our mega success with a win in the 24 Hours of Daytona, we embarked on an intensive programme of testing with the new GT3 EVO early this February and I’m really looking forward to the season with the new car which showed great potential right from the very first tests.

“It makes us feel extremely proud when we see what a great car Lamborghini has put together. I think that with our squad of extremely successful drivers and our loyal partners, we can build on our excellent season from 2018 and achieve our ambitious goals in 2019.”

Daiko Lazarus third driver named

Daiko Lazarus Racing has confirmed the third driver for its new Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO, which is set to contest the full Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup this term.

The Italian squad had previously announced that long-time Lazarus racer Fabrizio Crestani would be joined by Nicolas Pohler in a Silver Cup entry, leaving a final spot to be filled ahead of the season-opening trip to Monza (12-14 April).

The Padua-based squad has now confirmed that Swiss-born Kris Richard will complete its crew, with the former touring car ace set to make his Blancpain GT Series debut this term.

Richard arrives with plenty of pedigree from his previous racing exploits, his greatest success to date has come in 2016 when he clinched the European Touring Car Cup title. Richard has competed extensively in global touring car series and also has prior experience of GT3 equipment.

Ombra Racing announces Blancpain return

Ombra Racing has announced plans to return to the Blancpain GT Series with the new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO in 2019, alongside its confirmed full-season GT Open campaign.

The Italian squad clinched Silver Cup victory at last year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, with Alex Frassineti, Romain Monti, Andrea Rizzoli and Kang Ling steering the #12 machine to glory.

Ombra will remain in the ultra-competitive Silver class this term to contest the five-round Endurance Cup, which will include defending its Spa triumph over the final weekend of July.

“2019 is an important year for us,” commented Ombra manager Davide Mazzoleni. “Not many teams can celebrate 25 years of history and we are proud of this achievement.

“We come from a solid season on both the technical and sporting side, closed in good style in Barcelona [with second in class], and we want to start from there. We are aware that the new Huracán EVO will require dedicated development, but we have a very high-level team ready to start working.”

The team is set to announce drivers for the programme soon.

Barthez to take on Endurance Cup

Fabien Barthez is set to contest the 2019 Endurance Cup season in a Panis-Barthez Competition-run Lexus RC F GT3.

Barthez’s team, which has been competing in the ELMS’ LMP2 class in recent years will join the category this year in collaboration with the accomplished Tech 1 outfit. The partnership has become the flagship squad for the Lexus brand and will enter both the Endurance Cup and the new Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe.

Barthez will be part of an Am Cup crew at all five Endurance events, the same programme he ran last term with AKKA ASP Team.

“It makes sense to go back to Panis-Barthez Competition and Tech 1 Racing just when the team is taking up a new challenge with the Lexus RC F GT3,” commented Barthez.

“It’s almost four years since we launched the Panis-Barthez Competition project. I know the team by heart and its DNA is still there so it’s only logical and natural to tackle this season in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup together.

“Despite its experience, the team will be finding its feet in a new championship. The aim will be to really enjoy ourselves, which I’m sure we will because that too is an integral part of our DNA. We’ll take the races as they come to accumulate experience with this car.”

Barthez will be joined by two further Bronze-graded drivers for the Am Cup campaign and an additional Silver for the Total 24 Hours of Spa. The line-up will be announced soon.

Schramm to race with Phoenix

Kim-Luis Schramm will step up to a full-scale assault on the Blancpain GT Series this year after agreeing on a deal to compete for Phoenix Racing in the Endurance Cup and Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe.

The 21-year-old German made three appearances last term for the Attempto Racing squad, driving an Audi R8 LMS at Circuit Paul Ricard, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

He will take the controls of the new EVO version of the R8 this term, with Phoenix returning to Blancpain GT Series competition after a two-year absence.

Schramm is the German squad’s second signing for 2019 following the announcement that teenager Finlay Hutchinson will make his series debut with Phoenix this term. There has been no confirmation regarding exact driver line-ups, though he could race alongside Hutchinson in a planned assault on the Silver class in the Endurance Cup. Separate Pro class entries for World Challenge Europe are also possible.

“I am delighted to be taking on a new challenge in the form of the Blancpain GT Series with Phoenix Racing,” commented Schramm, who scored a best finish of 11th at the season-ending Barcelona event last term.

“Kim-Luis joins Finlay Hutchison as yet another young Phoenix Racing driver who has already shown what he is capable of,” added team principal Ernst Moser. “We are delighted to have him on board and can’t wait to get on track in the new season.”