New season and new life! The International GT Open is ready to embark on its 12th edition and presents itself completely re-energized. No less than 23 cars are entered full-season this year, representing nine different car brands. Many new entries, a greater diversity in machines and nationalities and realm of ‘heavy’ names among drivers characterize the 2017 grid. As customary, more cars will join on a selected events basis, bringing back big and diversified grids. This, together with the high qualitative level of entries and the exciting show on track that the series has enjoyed in recent years, promises to bring to the fans a very enjoyable product.
The fundamentals of the International GT Open have not changed: a balanced race format and calendar, including top tracks across Europe, stable rules, controlled costs, premium TV coverage and a relaxed atmosphere constitute a package that has positioned the GT Open as one of the best platforms for pro-am racing in the continent, providing rich sporting content and attracting more and more teams and drivers.
Jesús Pareja: “Nice to be back on a high!”
Once again, the International GT Open will be part of exciting race weekends promoted by GT Sport, which include the Euroformula Open (the F.3-based formula that has become an important ladder in the single-seater pyramid) but also a new sister series, the TC Open for touring cars. It will launched as from the second event of the season at Spa, completing the offer of GT Sport, who now covers the three pillars of track racing: GTs, single-seaters and touring cars. In addition, spectacular series as the Radical European Masters, the F.Renault Eurocup and other, will be partnering in selected events.
Ahead of the start of the 2017 season, Jesús Pareja, CEO of GT Sport, comments: “We are really looking forward to this new season, which marks a sort of new beginning. The market of GT3 racing remains extremely competitive, but is benefitting from the continuous improvement of the economic environment. It is a fact that in recent years we have suffered from the slowdown in some of our key markets in Southern Europe, but the trend is changing. This said, what makes us particularly happy is that the GT Open has
been able to attract this year many new entrants from all over Europe and beyond, with a great diversification of brands and nationalities represented. It proves that our offer is valid and that we were right in sticking to our philosophy. This year will also be very important for GT Sport as we launch the TC Open, which underlines the come-back of touring car racing and completes nicely the exciting package we are providing to racing fans.”
Three classes, one field
The greatest novelty for 2017 is that the series will go back to a 3-class configuration, each one with its own results and podiums, according to driver status: Pro, Pro-Am and Am.
This year too, the International GT Open will kick-off from Estoril, the beautiful track in outskirts of Lisbon, and 24 cars are expected to be taking the track in what is the most far- away round of the year.
Lamborghini won the title for the first time last year; the Huracáns will continue to be very well represented in 2017. Reigning co-champion Thomas Biagi will sport the #1 on one of the cars of Imperiale Racing, with his new team mate, Giovanni Venturini. For its first full-year campaign, the Italian team enters also a second top pair, Vito Postiglione-Andrea Fontana. Another top Huracán is entered by Ratón Racing for Edoardo Liberati and China’s Kang Ling, who joins from single-seaters. In the Pro-Am class, the Bull will have a strong representative in Tonio Liuzzi-Hiroshi Hamaguchi, the pair of FFF Racing.
BMW Team Teo Martín, who took the Teams’ title last year, will defend its crown with no less than three M6 cars. Portugal’s Lourenço Beirão da Veiga will drive one and will be associated, according to the events, to a stellar country-fellow: F.E star António Félix da Costa (who will be at Estoril for the first round) and former F.1 driver Tiago Monteiro. On another car, the Spanish team will field two 20-year-old young guns, Fran Rueda-Victor Bouveng, with the third car of Filipe Barreiros-Francisco Guedes giving the assault to the Am honours.
Ferrari will continue to be a strong contender this year. AF Corse will enter Marco Cioci- Piergiuseppe Perazzini full-season (on top of other race-by-race entries), while under the colours of Spirit of Race, stalwart GT Open racer Miguel Ramos and newcomer Mikkel Mac will form another pair bidding for the title.
In Pro-Am, the 488 of SF Racing, with Fu Songyang and Andrea Caldarelli, and the FF Corse car of Ivor Dunbar and Johnny Mowlem, will be the Cavallino’s top representatives.
McLaren’s 650S are also among candidates to the titles, with three cars in the Pro-Am class. Garage59 is back for a second full season, with unchanged pairs, Michael Benham- Duncan Tappy and Alexander West-Côme Ledogar, while Balfe Motorsport has hired GT star Rob Bell to pair with Shaun Balfe.
Completing the ranks in Pro is the Aston Martin Vantage of Solaris Motorsport, now rebuilt after a huge crash at Paul Ricard during winter testing, with Francesco Sini-Mauro Calamia.
The Mercedes AMG cars will be starring in the Pro-Am and Am categories. Portuguese team Sport&You its doubling its effort. Alongside reigning Am winners Luis Silva-António Coimbra, they enter another car (in Pro-Am) for Brazil’s Marcio Basso and Fulvio Figueiredo. Another Pro-Am Brazilian duo, formed by Marcelo Hahn and Stock-car star Allam Khodair is the new pair of Drivex, the Spanish team that has switched to Mercedes machinery. Sporting the Star will be also two new entry teams. SPS Automotive Performance from Germany enters one car in Pro-Am for Switzerland’s Valentin Pierburg and former BTCC star Tom Onslow-Cole, while Austria’s MS Racing will race in Am with Martin Konrad-Alex Hrachowina.
A Bentley Continental will be present in the GT Open for the first time; it comes by the hand of UK’s Jordan Racing with a British Am pair, Jordan Witt-Chris Stockton.
Last but certainly not least, the GT Open has the privilege to have been chosen as the ground for the race debut of the brand new Lexus RC-F GT3. The two units are prepared by two different teams, both new to the series. Switzerland’s Emil Frey Racing enter one car for Albert Costa-Philipp Frommenwiler, while German squad Farnbacher Motorsport entrust its unit to the family’s boys, Dominik and Mario Farnbacher.