With an honourable mention to Bake Off presenter Paul Hollywood, Racing.GT introduce the GT newcomers who could make a splash in 2016.
1. Felix Rosenqvist (Blancpain Sprint Cup)
The Swede won just about everything there was to win in Formula 3, including the FIA European Formula 3 championship, the Macau Grand Prix (twice) and the Zandvoort Formula 3 Masters (twice). Now 24, he’s had to wait for his chance and watched on as the likes of Max Verstappen, Roberto Merhi and Pascal Wehrlein have gone on to race in Formula One, but Mercedes could ignore him no longer and rewarded Rosenqvist with the role of Mercedes DTM reserve driver, and a race seat in the Blancpain Sprint Cup at Jerome Policand’s AKKA ASP team. With Frenchman Tristan Vautier alongside in the new Mercedes-AMG GT3, Rosenqvist ought to be found at the sharp end.
2. Will Stevens (Blancpain Sprint Cup)
Fresh from Formula One and with a point to prove after his seat was taken by Rio Haryanto, Stevens was a late addition to WRT’s massive Blancpain Sprint line-up and will be expecting to fight for wins straight away with one of the best in the business alongside in Rene Rast. The Brit will be combining his debut foray in GT racing with a season in the World Endurance Championship at the Manor LMP2 team. There is only one clash between the two with the Spa 6 Hours falling on the same weekend as Brands Hatch, but with Rast also set to contest the WEC with G-Drive, it remains to be seen whether they will take up their entry.
3. Dries Vanthoor (Blancpain GT Series)
Another WRT driver and a rather familiar surname… If 17-year-old Dries is anything like as quick as his brother Laurens (the two will share a car in the Blancpain Endurance Cup and race against each other in Sprint), then Vanthoor the younger will shine. To read our exclusive interview with the Belgian, click here.
4. Albert Costa (Blancpain Endurance Cup)
You would perhaps be forgiven for not remembering that Costa, who has not raced since winning the 2012 Megane Trophy, beat the likes of Jean-Eric Vergne, Antonio Felix da Costa and Kevin Magnussen to the 2009 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and also beat Vergne to the 2.0 WEC title. The Spaniard stepped up to the more powerful 3.5 series the following year, and finished fifth, improving one position the following year and taking a debut win on home turf in Catalunya, but lacked the funds to go much further. But that’s about to change – Stephane Ortelli is the perfect team-mate to ease the transition to GT racing and equipped with an Emil Frey Jaguar that is finally starting to show its potential, Costa at last has a chance worthy of his talent.
5. Davide Valsecchi (Blancpain Sprint Cup)
Valsecchi got closer than most people to racing in F1, but despite being the Lotus F1 Team reserve, the Italian was overlooked in favour of the more experienced Heikki Kovalainen when the team needed a relief driver for the final two races of the 2013 season. That, and the fact that Kovalainen could only manage 14th with a car that Romain Grosjean took to second place in Austin, understandably didn’t go down well with Valsecchi, who was at the time, the reigning GP2 champion – and those don’t grow on trees. After a few years out of the spotlight, he’s back in 2016 in an Attempto Racing Lamborghini, with Max van Splunteren already describing him as ‘like a pitbull.’
6. Scott Malvern (British GT)
Although a supply issue means Simpson Motorsport are unlikely to receive their Porsche Cayman GT4 until much later in the year, it will take more than a minor triviality like that to put Malvern off. The underfunded 27-year-old, who won 18 times on his way to the 2011 British Formula Ford title, is a racer from the old school who will drive the wheels off anything, and can be counted on to wring the maximum from the team’s rented Ginetta G55 GT4. How he and former Radical racer Nick Jones fare in these less than ideal circumstances will be one of the many interesting subplots in a GT4 field packed to the rafters with fresh talent, including Beechdean new-boys Jack Bartholomew/ Jordan Albert, Ecurie Eccosse McLaren pair Ciaran Haggerty/ Sandy Mitchell and former rally driver Robert Barrable at Team HARD.