- Six-hour race returns to popular day-night format
- The French site is preparing to organize a 10th consecutive season in the Endurance Cup
- Virtual competition resumes with second Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series event of 2021
An ultra-competitive field of 47 cars will race under the setting sun next weekend (May 28-30) when Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS takes on the 1000km Circuit Paul Ricard.
It marks the French site’s 10th year as part of the Endurance Cup program and will see the event make a popular return to its traditional early summer date. A favorite among competitors and fans alike, the race is second only at the Total 24 Hours of Spa in terms of distance and creates one of the season’s most spectacular settings as day gives way to night.
In addition to a busy track schedule, the weekend will also feature the second Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series competition following last month’s successful launch at Monza. The Fanatec Esports Arena will host an hour-long Assetto Corsa Competizione race in which real-world riders will battle for crucial points in preparation for their teams’ championships.
Porsche, the brand to beat as the battle for honors resumes
The 2021 season got off to a spectacular start last month with a three-hour rainy race at Monza. Amidst the drama, the Porsche Dinamic Motorsport team delivered a confident performance to clinch the overall victory and steal a start in the Endurance Cup title battle.
The No. 54 crew of Christian Engelhart, Matteo Cairoli and Klaus Bachler was the class of the peloton in Italy and will now set out in search of the Stuttgart brand’s first overall victory at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Dinamic will also field the n ° 56 sister of Romain Dumas, Andrea Rizzoli and Mikkel O. Pedersen, while GPX Racing will rely on the main Porsche drivers Earl Bamber, Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet.
The Mercedes-AMG AKKA ASP team finished second in the opener and their all-star team of Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon and Dani Juncadella are among the big favorites to clinch first place this weekend. HRT also represents Mercedes-AMG in the race for the overall victory and the German squad will be looking to bounce back after Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Vincent Abril had a tough day at Monza.
The Circuit Paul Ricard has fond memories for Ferrari after its superb victory last year, which sealed the Endurance Cup drivers’ title for Alessandro Pier Guidi. The reigning champion leads the # 51 Iron Lynx crew and will aspire to a repeat alongside Nicklas Nielsen and Côme Ledogar, while sister machine # 71 showed excellent rhythm at Monza with Davide Rigon, Antonio Fuoco and Callum Ilott at the wheel.
The most recent final victory for a McLaren came at Circuit Paul Ricard in 2016. Longtime factory driver Rob Bell was behind the wheel and will seek to guide the newcomer to the JOTA Sport series to a result. solid this weekend alongside his compatriot McLaren, Ben Barnicoat and Oliver Wilkinson. A second 720S GT3 joins the peloton at Circuit Paul Ricard as JP Motorsport returns to the series with Patryk Krupinski, Karol Bascz and Christian Klien, the latter overall winner of this event in 2018.
BMW will aim for the top of the order with a two-car effort from Walkenhorst Motorsport. In machine No.35, French ace Thomas Neubauer will look for home victory alongside Timo Glock and Martin Tomczyk, while sister No.34 will feature an equally strong lineup of Marco Wittmann, Sheldon van der Linde. and David Pittard.
Orange1 FFF Racing put Lamborghini on pole at Monza. Technical issues put an end to the Chinese team’s chances, but the pace and experience of Andrea Caldarelli, Mirko Bortolotti and Marco Mapelli should ensure another shot at glory. Fellow Lamborghini Emil Frey Racing can also be a threat with his two-car lineup. Albert Costa, Norbert Siedler and Giacomo Altoè win the # 163, while the young trio Jack Aitken, Konsta Lapalainnen and Arthur Rougier share the # 114 Huracán.
An impressive Audi contingent completes the peloton of 18 Pro crews, with Saintéloc Racing fielding a pair of cars. Christopher Haase, Adrien Tambay and Alexandre Cougnaud share machine n ° 25, while sister n ° 26 Audi presents Markus Winkelhock, Frédéric Vervisch and Finlay Hutchison. Entry # 66 Attempto Racing should also be a factor with Mattia Drudi, Chris Mies and Kim-Luis Schrmam at the wheel.
Team WRT Audi n ° 32 were one of the main contenders for victory at Monza before a puncture put an end to the hopes of the Belgian team. The talents of Dries Vanthoor, Kelvin van der Linde and Charles Weerts should ensure another good race, although with such competitive terrain they will need to be in top form.
Extended grids for Silver and Pro-Am Cup
History was made in Monza when Emil Frey Racing became the first Silver Cup participant to score an overall Endurance Cup podium. The Lamborghini outfit must be seen as the team to beat again this weekend, with its all-Swiss crew of Alex Fontana, Ricardo Feller and Rolf Ineichen combining speed and experience. They are joined in the Lamborghini camp by Grasser Racing, who will look to post a solid result after a difficult first game at Monza.
Mercedes-AMG remains the best-represented Silver Cup brand and has a number of potential winners among its contingent. Winward Racing sealed a podium last time around, while AKKA ASP, SPS Automotive Performance and Toksport WRT also started the season among the scorers. In contrast, there was no reward for the pace displayed by Madpanda Motorsport or HRT, which provided both a lot of motivation for this weekend’s event.
Team WRT finished second and fourth in their class at Monza and should once again be one of the main contenders at Circuit Paul Ricard. The Audi Attempto Racing team also started the season positively with a sixth place finish and bring in youngster Max Hofer for the next competition. German roster Car Collection will add a new Audi to the Circuit Paul Ricard grid, with the return of Milan Dontje joined by series newcomers Patrick Kolb and Simon Reicher in machine # 24. Garage 59 will continue a good ending with his Aston Martin, while the Ferrari Rinaldi Racing team will have high hopes for its revised crew, with Benjamín Hites joined by David Perel and Nicolas Varone.
The new Pro-Am season started as the previous one ended: with Garage 59 on the top step of the podium. The Aston Martin crew of Alexander West, Chris Goodwin and Jonny Adam will look to secure the British team their fourth consecutive victory at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Lamborghini Orange1 FFF Racing and Barwell Motorsport representatives joined Garage 59 on the podium last time around and both can be seen as a serious threat to Circuit Paul Ricard victory.
If we want to see a winner for the first time at Circuit Paul Ricard, Inception Racing is a strong candidate. The British team took pole in the class at Monza and have since made their victorious debut in the Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Regular drivers Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy are joined by Nick Moss for the upcoming event.
Boutsen Ginion Racing has drawn a lot of positive attention to Monza thanks to his superb Michel Vaillant livery and will be looking to strengthen the pace he showed at the start of the race. The opening turned out to be disappointing for the Porsche Allied-Racing team, which withdrew from the event following an accident in free practice. The Circuit Paul Ricard will therefore represent the series debut of the German team.
The Mercedes-AMG GetSpeed team was only one podium finish at Monza and will aim for further improvement this weekend. SPS Automotive Performance and RAM Racing will also line up AMG machines, the latter adding Fabian Schiller to its lineup for the Circuit Paul Ricard event.
Ferrari will be the best-represented Pro-Am team with five cars, two of which will join for the coming weekend. AF Corse will field a pair of 488 GT3s, with the # 53 making its first appearance of the season in the hands of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin. Kessel Racing are unchanged from Monza, while Jonathan Hui reclaims his place at Sky Tempesta Racing after missing the opener.
History will be made on the Circuit Paul Ricard when the first all-female crew will tackle an Endurance Cup event. The Ferrari Iron Lynx team will present a Pro-Am candidacy for Katherine Legge, Sarah Bovy and Doriane Pin as part of its Iron Dames initiative, which aims to develop and inspire the next generation of women in motorsport. The grid is completed by the French CMR team, which will compete in Pro or Pro-Am class with its Bentley n ° 108.
Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series joins busy weekend
This year, the Paul Ricard 1,000 km circuit resumes its traditional two-day program, which begins at 9:00 a.m. CEST on Friday with a 60-minute bronze test. The full peloton will be on track at 3:00 p.m. for free practice and again at 8:40 p.m. to tackle the pre-qualifiers, which both last 90 minutes.
All competitions take place on Saturday, starting at 10:45 am with qualifying. This will set the grid for the six hour race of the evening, which is scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. and will run until midnight.
The event will also include the second round of the revolutionary Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series. The 60-minute Assetto Corsa Competizione race is part of a busy Saturday, with a qualifying set at 1:05 p.m. and the next race at 1:35 p.m. Once again, the action will take place on-site at the Fanatec Esports Arena.
The Track Assistance package includes actions from the European GT4 Series and Lamborghini Super Trofeo, both of which will host their second events of the 2021 season at the Paul Ricard Circuit. The Alpine European Regional Formula Championship comes straight from a slot on the Monaco Grand Prix support package and will add a pair of single-seater races to the roster, while TCR Europe will make the first of five appearances at the alongside Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS.
As always, the Circuit Paul Ricard weekend will be one of the busiest of the season. With widened grilles and the awe-inspiring spectacle of GT3 cars competing at sunset, it also promises to be among the most memorable.