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The MSV beginner’s guide to Blancpain GT

Thursday, April 23 2015

The Blancpain GT Series heads to Brands Hatch on 9/10 May, and the international sports car series will be a major highlight of the 2015 season at the Kent circuit. Here's a guide to what you can expect to see on the Grand Prix circuit this May.

The cars

The Blancpain GT Series is a championship for supercars, and entries include the Audi R8, Bentley Continental, BMW Z4, Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Gallardo, McLaren 650S, Mercedes SLS, Nissan GTR and Porsche 911, some of which are factory-supported. They employ a wide variety of methods to lap circuits as quickly as possible, from the traditional front-engined Bentley, BMW and Mercedes, to the mid-engined Ferrari, rear-engined Porsche, and technological tour-de-force Nissan and McLaren.

The differences extend to the engines, which include the brutal BMW V8, sonorous Audi/Lamborghini V10, and the sheer industrial might of the Bentley V8. Together they provide a stunning soundtrack unmatched in motorsport.

Whilst the road-going versions of these are something special, the race versions are even better, with modifications allowed within the championship's GT3 regulations, making them truly spectacular on track.

Race format

Brands Hatch will host a round of the Blancpain Sprint Series, which together with Blancpain Endurance rounds, counts for the overall Blancpain GT Series championship. The Sprint Series rounds consist of two one-hour races: a qualifying race and a main race, which provides the lion's share of the championship points on offer. Two professional drivers race each car, and they must change over during a ten-minute pit window that starts 25 minutes into each race. Therefore a car that was quick in the opening half may be slower later on and vice-versa, depending on how good the driver is.

The championship is one of the most prestigious in global motorsport, and attracts many high-profile drivers, who enjoy the cutting-edge cars, competitive atmosphere and manufacturer links.

Blancpain1The drivers

GT racing is traditionally shared between wealthy amateurs and career drivers, but the Blancpain Sprint format is a pure contest between professionals. The drivers are a mixture of emerging talents, such as GP2 graduates Robin Frijns and Stephane Richelmi, and former Grand Prix racers, including Bernd Schneider and Markus Winkelhock. By concentrating on all-professional crews, the racing is fast and furious, and the cars are being driven to their limits.

Drivers are rated Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze according to ability.

Ones to watch

BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil won the opening round at Nogaro, and although they'll have a different driver line-up at Brands Hatch, expect their two Z4s to be on the pace. Richelmi and Stephane Ortelli won the qualifying race and finished second in the main event with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8, and as the four-car outfit's Laurens Vanthoor is the reigning champion, don't be surprised to see the Belgian-run Audis to be fighting for the wins.

A Lamborghini won both of last year's Brands Hatch races, however, so the form book shouldn't necessarily be followed. The exact entry list will be released shortly, but amongst the drivers to look out for, Maimillian Buhk is a former champion and will be racing a factory Bentley, whilst the Audi contingent includes former Touring Car ace James Nash and the aforementioned Winkelhock, who has the distinction of having led his sole Grand Prix event.

Aside from Nash, home hopes should lie with Sean Walkinshaw, son of the legendary TWR and Arrows boss, and Craig Dolby, a race winner in Superleague Formula. Also watch out for McLaren junior Rob Bell in the Attempto Racing 650S.

Blancpain2Prizes

The race-winning team wins 30,000 Euros, second place earns 20,000 Euros and third 10,000 Euros. The highest-placed Silver Cup pairing (up-and-coming drivers aged 25 or under) wins 20,000 Euros, with 10,000 Euros to the runner-up in this category, whilst the top Silver pairing aged over 30 wins 10,000 Euros.

Teams score points in each race, with the qualifying race winner taking eight points and further points available down to sixth place, whilst the main race winner gains 25 points with the top ten all scoring. There is a Sprint championship and an overall GT championship for which the Sprint and Endurance rounds qualify.

TV coverage

The championship's sprint races are shown live on BT Sport, with highlights available on Eurosport and Freeview via Motors TV. There is also a Blancpain GT YouTube channel - click here to visit.

Tickets for the Blancpain GT Series at Brands Hatch on 9/10 May are available online from £14, with free entry for children under 13. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.