The headlines after the Spa 24 official test will show that the Team Parker Racing Bentley driven by Seb Morris sat atop the times in a day affected by rain showers, but the day was also significant for Pipo Derani getting his first taste of the McLaren 650S GT3.
The 22-year-old Brazilian, a winner of the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours this year in prototype machinery, will partner McLaren factory driver Bruno Senna and Duncan Tappy in a third Garage 59 car entered for the Blancpain GT Series’ showcase event at the end of July.
They will join Endurance Cup championship leaders Shane van Gisbergen, Rob Bell and Come Ledogar in No. 58 and Academy drivers Andrew Watson, Struan Moore and Alex Fontana in No. 59.
Speaking after his first test, Derani said that his first impressions were nothing but positive.
“It was a great test and a strong start with Garage 59 and the McLaren 650S,” he said. “I got to know the team and the GT3 style and how everything works in and out of the cockpit.
“Coming from prototypes there is obviously a lot to adapt to, especially the different tyres. GT3 needs a distinct driving style and by the end of the test it was great to feel everything was getting more comfortable.
“It was great sharing the car with Bruno and Duncan, I think we have a nice trio for Spa. Hopefully we can enjoy a really good race and I am getting impatient already for the end of July.”
— Bas Leinders (@BasLeinders) July 5, 2016
The car will be staffed by mechanics and engineers drawn the International GT Open arm of Garage 59, all of whom Tappy will be very familiar with. The Briton was only too happy to allow Derani the majority of the running to learn the 650S and told Racing.GT that the team had gelled well.
“I think he adapted very well to it, it was a difficult day in terms of tracktime with the weather being on and off, but the main objective for the day was to give him time in the car and for Bruno to get back into the swing of things and that was exactly what happened,” Tappy said.
“Bruno I’ve known for a couple of years now through McLaren and Pipo I met on Monday evening. He’s a really cool kid, very relaxed, very calm, so I think he’ll be a great addition to the team.
“It should be a very strong line-up and we’ve got a great team in Garage 59 who have been absolutely on it this year in everything they’ve done, so we’re in a very good place.”
It will also mark Senna’s first race with McLaren since the Blancpain Endurance Cup finale at the Nürburgring last year, although he has continued to perform ambassadorial duties for the brand in the meantime, appearing at Goodwood and Pure McLaren events with the P1 GTR and 675LT.
Additional Pro Cup guest entries for Spa include a second Emil Frey Jaguar entered for defending winner Markus Palttala, Christian Klien and Jonathan Hirschi and a second HTP Mercedes for Thomas Jäger, Maxi Götz and GT Racing debutant Gary Paffett.
The 00 Team Black Falcon Mercedes which raced at Paul Ricard will return in the colours of American punk band Linkin Park. Maro Engel, Yelmer Buurman and Bernd Schneider will share the driving duties.
— Yelmer Buurman (@YELMERcom) July 5, 2016
In Pro-Am, the Australian Lago Racing Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX will return after a year away, with team patron Roger Lago joined by Steve Owen, David Russell and Bathurst 12 Hour winner Jonathan Webb.
Following the withdrawal of MP Motorsport’s entry, Barwell will run a second Lamborghini Huracan for British GT regulars Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen. They will be joined by Joe Osborne and Oliver Gavin, who were originally slated to partner Mark Poole and Richard Abra.
The full entry list can be found here.