“The nicest track in the world”: this is the tag line used by Spa-Francorchamps to publicize itself … and few would disagree. The legendary track in the Ardennes hills is arguably the most popular track for drivers and fans alike. The Belgian temple of speed will host the third round of the International GT Open, one that promises to be particularly exciting.
Not only the fight the 2018 titles is as open and intense as ever in the three classes (Pro, Pro-Am and Am), but the Spa round will have a fantastic 27-car grid, with some stellar additions, and the event will offer fans a great race programme, with the GT Open and sister F.3 based series, the Euroformula, joined by the TCR Europe, which has had a terrific kick-off, and the always spectacular Radical Challenge Championship.
New potential winners join at Spa
The Belgian round will see a number of new entries and additional heavy-weights joining the series.
Luzich Racing is entering a third car, to defend Mikkel Mac’s current leadership in the championship and compete on a equal foot with its direct rivals in the Teams’ standings, BMW Team Teo Martín and Imperiale Racing, who both have a 3-car line- up. Lueich’s third Ferrari will be entrusted to Marco Cioci and Matt Griffin, two established stars of the GT world’s scene who know the GT Open inside-out.
Spa will mark also the first appearance this year of Senkyr Motorsport, the stalwart Czech team that made its GT Open debut at Barcelona last year and is a top BMW customer team. The BMW M6 will be entrusted to a stellar pair of young guns, as Richard Gonda is joined by Joel Eriksson. The young (19) Swede, a Euro F.3 vice-champion last year and a BMW works driver in the DTM this year, will be making his GT3 debut at this occasion.
Rinaldi Racing is also coming to Belgium with a third car, adding another 488 for Russia’s Rinat Salikhov, who will drive alone, alongside its regular pairs, Perel- Kogay and Hook-Parrow.
Last but certainly not least, Brussels Racing is not missing its traditional rendez- vous with the GT Open: the fast Aston Martin Vantage has been recently upgraded and is entrusted to local heroes Tim Verbergt and Wolfgang Reip. Part of the #jointhebelgians marketing project, the entry will also serve a good cause, raising funds for the foundation launched by football star Jan Vertonghen to help children fighting against cancer.
The Situation in the Classes
The 2018 International GT Open has started with Ferrari teams in great shape, as Luzich Racing won the two races of the season-opener at Estoril, and RS Racing took one win at Paul Ricard with Di Amato Montermini. In France, BMW Team Teo Martín took its first win of the season, with Rueda-Saravia, and the lead in the Teams’ standings.
In the Drivers’ Pro and overall standings, Luzich Racing’s Danish star, Mikkel Mac, is leading, with 13 points over Teo Martín’s young duo, Fran Rueda-Andrés Saravia, and 15 over Daniele Di Amato and Andrea Montermini. At Spa, Mac will have again as team mate Alessandro Pier Guidi, as the reigning FIA WEC GT champion has no WEC commitment.
No doubt that many expect that in Belgium it will be the turn of the Lamborghinis, the third top force in the series. Reigning champion Imperiale Racing has visited the podium with its two pairs of young guns, Giovanni Venturini-Jeroen Mul and Riccardo Agostini-Rik Breukers, but is still seeking its first win of the season. It may be at Spa, where its two Dutch drivers will be as close as possible to home soil.
In contention for that Lambo maiden win is also the Ombra Racing pair of Fernando Rees-Damiano Fioravanti, in constant growth. Others to watch will be Álvarez- Beirão, on the other Teo Martín BMW, and the Lambo of Vincenzo Sospiri Racing, with Kan Ling racing at Spa with his last year’s team mate, Edoardo Liberati.
In Pro-Am, the Daiko Lazarus Racing Lamborghini of Miguel Ramos-Fabrizio Crestani leads the standings ahead of the Luzich Racing Ferrari of Alexander West-Michele Rugolo. None of these cars, though, have still won a race, with the four wins so far evenly shared between the SPS Automotive Mercedes of Valentin Pierburg-Tom Onslow-Cole and the Drivex Mercedes of Marcelo Hahn, at Spa again with Allam Khodair.
Candidates to victory in Pro-Am are numerous, as also Sowery-Cipriani (Daiko Lazarus Lambo), Perel-Kogay (Rinaldi Racing Ferrari), Wilkinson-Ellis (back with the Optimum Motorsport Audi after missing the Ricard round), Liang-Giammaria (Imperiale Racing Lambo) and Di Folco-Costantini (Target Racing Lambo) have been shining in previous events.
In the Am class, the fight is even closer, as the first five pairs in the standings are covered by only 7 points. Alex Hrachowina-Martin Konrad lead with the MS/HTP Mercedes, ahead of Konopka-Calko (ARC Bratislava Lambo), Lewandowski-Borlenghi (VSR Lambo), reigning champions Silva-Coimbra (Sports&You Mercedes) and Basso- Marques (Teo Martín BMW), the four first cited duos having collected one race win each.