The provisional entry list for the final round of the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series has been released today. The maximum capacity grid of 30 is, given the non-presence of the #3 G-Drive Lamborghini and #90 Scuderia Villorba Corse Ferrari, made up of 20 series regulars plus 10 cars entered by eight additional teams who have been invited to travel to Azerbaijan to take on the Baku World Challenge for a share of the €175,000 prize pool.
The additional invitees include:
Blancpain Endurance Series stalwarts Boutsen Ginion Racing, who will bring their #15 and #16 McLarens; the vastly exparienced pairing of Rob Bell and Kevin Estre take the wheel of the #16 car and in the #15 car Kiwi driver Chris van der Drift moves over to Boutsen Ginion to partner Frederic Vervish from the Bhaitech McLaren he has inhabited since Portimao, thus leaving a seat free for Alvaro Parente in the #60 McLaren. Also from the Endurance series, is the GT Russian Team of Alexey Vasiliev and Marko Asmer who took their #177 Mercedes SLS to Zolder for Sprint Series practice and will now travel to Baku with the car, assuming they can rebuild it in time after its airborne antics at Zolder.
Making the trip from British GT is the #107 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Beechdean AMR that made its Sprint Series debut at Zolder, where Andy Soucek and Jonny Adam finished a strong fifth in both races. Baku’s street circuit, unlike the Vantage GT3 that Soucek had never sat in prior to Zolder, will not be unknown to him, with Soucek having raced in the 2013 event with Oliver Turvey in a Molitor Racings Systems McLaren.
Also making the trip from the UK are Trackspeed who enter the event for a second time with one of their three Porsche 997 GT3Rs in the hands of Norbert Siedler and Porsche expert Richard Westbrook. In 2013 Nick Tandy and Marco Holzer had a bit of an all-round shocker finishing 11th in the qualifying race, after starting 18th, before holing a radiator in the main race after some bumping and boring on the tight track.
The German ADAC GT Masters series provides four of the remainder of the entrants: Prosperia C. ABT Racing 2014 winners in both Team and Drivers’ Championships bring the Audi R8 LMS of Rene Rast and Kelvin van der Linde, but with Rast already having a Sprint Series drive in the #2 WRT Audi, van der Linde is joined by Endurance Series #3 WRT Audi driver Christopher Mies; additional Porsche interest is supplied by German squad Schütz Motorsport, whose Jaap van Lagen finished runner-up in the ADAC Drivers’ standings behind van der Linde and Rast, yet it is a returning Marco Hölzer who takes the wheel of the #36 car alongside Martin Ragginger in Baku; and a two chunks of Detroit muscle are present care of a joint venture between 2013 ADAC GT Masters winning team Callaway Competition and their close ally RWT Racing, both bring Corvettes in Z06R trim with their established 2014 ADAC driver line-ups of Daniel Keilwitz & Andreas Wirth and Sven Barth & David Jahn respectively.
As was noted before, a lot can change in a week in the world of motorsport and from the reserve list come British GT stalwarts Triple888 Racing entering a BMW Z4 into the Silver Cup competition. Whilst not complete strangers to Blancpain after two Blancpain Endurance Series appearances this year, Baku will be the first Blancpain Sprint Series outing for Triple Eight. Joe Osborne and Ryan Ratcliffe are said to be ‘up for the challenge of Baku’ in the team’s maiden GT race on the Asian continent, which should provide some intel for visit to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai later this winter.
After seeing the Eurovision Song Contest two years ago. I can’t wait.
A Zackspeed Mercedes SLS completes the grid. Andreas Simonsen, of Endurance Series heritage having driven with Black Falcon this year, will share driving duties in the Pro class with Alon Day the self-proclaimed ‘first Israeli professional racing driver’ last seen in the 2013 FIA GT Championship.
Notable team absences are the #90 Scuderia Villorba Corse Ferrari of Filip Salaquarda and Alessandro Balzan, and the #3 G-Drive Lamborghini, Roman Rusinov is on WEC duty.
Driving seat changes of note: Brazilian twins Ricardo and Rodrigo Sperafico take the reins of the #0 BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil Z4 whilst Caca Bueno and Sergio Jiminez return home to the Stock Car Brasil Championship where Bueno lies 4th overall and Jiminez sixth; Nelson Piquet Jnr heads off to Las Vegas for the Red Bull Global Rally Cross season finale and is replaced by Miguel Paludo who was last seen racing NASCAR Trucks; and finally BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert replace Thomas Jäger with BMW factory driver Jens Klingman.
Practical information – daylight saving time is utilised in both London and Azerbaijan meaning that the +4-hour time difference will still be in place after clocks change 26th October.
Blancpain Endurance Series – Round 7: Baku World Challenge, Azerbaijan.
Baku City Circuit, 2.72 miles (4.379km), 18-turns.
Lap Record: 1:42.583 – Rene Rast – Audi (2013)
Saturday, 1 November
Free Practice 1 : 05:00 GMT 09:00 local time
Free Practice 2 : 07:30 GMT 11:30 local time
Qualifying Practice : 12:00 GMT 16:00 local time
Sunday, 2 November
Qualifying Race : 05:15 GMT 09:15 local time
Main Race : 09:55 GMT 13:55 local time