Paul Ricard Thursday Notebook

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup returns to action at Paul Ricard this weekend. After hosting last season’s finale, the French venue is now the site of round two, marking its earliest-ever calendar slot in this championship.

***There have been a handful of revisions to the Paul Ricard 1000km entry list since its initial publication last week. View the latest 47-car entry list here.

***Martin Konrad has joined Dominik Baumann and Valentin Pierburg in the SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo. The experienced Austrian driver worked with fellow Mercedes-AMG team RAM Racing last term. Baumann and Bronze driver Pierburg ran the season-0pening 3 Hours of Monza as a pairing.

***Similarly, Nick Moss has joined the Optimum Motorsport-run Inception Racing McLaren squad alongside Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy. Moss drives for Optimum in GT Open and finished on the Paul Ricard podium two weeks ago.

***Haupt Racing Team has recruited Gabriele Piana to replace Ricardo Sanchez, who has moved one garage along to the German team’s Silver Cup rival Madpanda Motorsport.

***It’s understood that HRT is set to retain Piana for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which would give the Italian a chance to defend his and HRT’s Silver Cup win from last year.

***SRO has issued a 24-driver entry list for Saturday afternoon’s Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series race. There have been a few driver changes since the first round at Monza last month. Christopher Haase, Vincent Abril, Yannick Mettler, Mattia Drudi, Tommaso Mosca and Piana are set to race for real-world teams’ points in the virtual series for the first time.

***The minimum refueling time for Saturday’s six-hour race has been set at 41 seconds, one less than at Monza.

***The teams from GT3 powerhouses Porsche, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG will be aiming to break a winless streak for German brands in the Paul Ricard 1000km. The last German overall win came in 2013, for a BMW Z4 GT3 run by Marc VDS. Bentley is the most successful brand at Paul Ricard with three wins in 2014, 2017 and 2019.

***CMR’s Bentley Continental GT3 is now in the Pro category due to Stuart White being classified as a Silver driver rather than a derogated Bronze, as was the case at Monza.

***The trio of McLarens entered by JOTA, Inception Racing and JP Motorsport represents the largest Endurance Cup contingent from the British manufacturer since Strakka Racing’s three-car program with the McLaren 650S GT3 in 2017. Only JOTA and the Optimum-run Inception squad raced at Monza, although both retired early on and will be looking to bounce back.

***GPX Racing’s technical partner ART Grand Prix has an increased presence at this Endurance Cup weekend, with the French team also running three cars in the supporting Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine. TCR Europe, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the GT4 European Series complete a busy event schedule. 

***GPX has modified the Martini livery that featured on its Porsche 911 GT3 R at Monza, to comply with France’s strict alcohol marketing rules. The red stripes and Martini logos have been removed from the car, as well as all team kit and equipment.

***RAM Racing’s original Endurance Cup chassis was not repaired after an accident in the 3 Hours of Monza. Team principal Dan Shufflebottom told Sportscar365 that the Paul Ricard chassis competed in last weekend’s British GT round at Brands Hatch.

***Shufflebottom added that new signing Fabian Schiller came in “well recommended” from his previous work with a member of RAM Racing’s Endurance Cup engineering crew. Schiller has replaced Callum MacLeod in the No. 69 Mercedes-AMG.

***SRO Motorsports Group joined the motorsport community in paying tribute to former FIA President Max Mosley, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 81. Among his long list of motorsport achievements, Mosley worked with technical advisor Peter Wright to introduce the Balance of Performance system to GT racing.

***Stephane Ratel paid tribute to Mosley on behalf of SRO: “I was very saddened to learn of Max’s passing. He was such a significant figure within international motor racing and did tremendous work to make our sport what it is today, particularly in terms of safety. His intelligence and experience were always greatly appreciated when SRO collaborated with the FIA. His role in the creation of Balance of Performance was especially important and is just one of the many achievements for which he will be remembered.”

***SRO held its 2020 prize-giving ceremony for GTWC Europe and the GT4 European Series in one of the Paul Ricard paddock buildings on Thursday evening. The winter spike in coronavirus cases meant the event could not take place at the end of last year.

***Track action starts tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. CEST with a one-hour test for Bronze-rated drivers. The day also includes three hours of GTWC Europe practice sessions, with the 90-minute runs starting at 3 p.m. (9 a.m. EST) and 8:40 p.m. (2:40 p.m. EST).

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