WEC: as happened with Ford, which made a request to the ACO to allow the participation in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans of the two Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates GTs racing in the IWSC, in these days Porsche has done the same for the two Porsche North America cars entered in the IWSC. The ACO will communicate a decision in the next weeks. However the German Manufacturer has already announced that, if the French federation approves its request, Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and newly signed factory driver Kevin Estre will be at the wheel of the first Porsche North America 991 GT3 RSR, while Fred Makowiecki, Earl Bamber and Joerg Bergmiester will drive the second one. As reported two weeks ago, defending GT Champion Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen will return together for all the season, with Wolf Henlzer joining them at Le Mans, in the Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche. On the Chevrolet Corvette front Larbre Competition has ruled out the possibility of stepping up to GTE PRO, due to the impossibility of having a 2016 spec C7.R, thus the French squad will try to arrange at least a second-car effort in GTE AM. Proton Competition has confirmed that a 991 GT3 RSR will be brought on track also in this latter category under the Abu Dhabi Proton Racing banner, with Patrick Long, Heinemeier Hansson and Khaled Al Qubaisi designated as drivers. In closing Scuderia Corsa, the 2015 Tudor USCC GTD Champion Team, will be back to Le Mans in GTE AM with a Ferrari 458 Italia GTC for current Tudor USCC GTD Champions Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler and a third unknown driver.
Blancpain GT Series: the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series GT3 AM Champion squad Team AKKA ASP will switch from Ferrari to Mercedes. With a three-AMG GT3 purchase the target of the French Team is to take part in the Blancpain GT Series. However a 458 Italia GT3 will be kept for some events.
Blancpain Endurance Series: the 2015 GT3 PRO AM Runner-up squad Kessel Racing has presented its 2016 plans. Two 488 GT3s will be in the GT3 PRO AM ranks, while one 458 Italia GT3 will be a contender for the GT3 AM honours. Furthermore Team owner Ronnie Kessel has not excluded the possibility of lining up one of the two 488 GT3s in the Blancpain Sprint Series. MRS GT Racing, which left Nissan before the end of the season, will run two McLaren 650S GT3s – the class in which they will be involved is still unknown – but a parallel programme in the Blancpain Sprint Series is under evaluation too. VonRyan Racing, which used to fly the McLaren flag, will cease operations due to Dave Ryan’s return to Formula One with Manor Marussia F1 Team.
IWSC: Scuderia Corsa has revealed its 2016 plans in the North American series. As expected, it will enter a 488 GT3 in the GTD category for all the season, but, in addition to this project, which will see Scuderia Corsa defend the GTD Team and Drivers’ Titles won in 2015, will also participate in the NAEC in GTLM with a 488 GTE. Both the crews are very strong, with the 2013 Grand AM GT Champion Alessandro Balzan and 2014 GTD Runner-up Christina Nielsen sharing the No. 63 Ferrari and with the two times 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps GT3 PRO AM winner and 2014 24 Hours of Daytona GTD hero Alessandro Pier Guidi, 2008 LMS LMP1 Champion Alexandre Premat, who finished third in the 2006 GP2 Series, and Brazilian Daniel Serra in the No. 68 Maranello car. Ford, Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche and BMW have recently presented their line-ups as well. The No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford GT will be crewed by Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, with the No. 67 in the hands of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe. Antonio Garcìa and Jan Magnussen will take the reins of the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, while Olivier Gavin and Tommy Milner will return together in the No. 4; at Daytona and Sebring the two duos will see the addition of Audi drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Fassler respectively. The No. 911 and No. 912 Porsche North America 991 GT3 RSRs will feature the same drivers announced for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Estre and Henlzer named for the NAEC rounds only. Lucas Luhr and John Edwards will drive No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM, with Kuno Wittmer and Graham Rahal who will join them at Daytona. Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner will be at the wheel of the No. 25 and will be aided by Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler at Daytona. In the GTD class Change Racing will represent Lamborghini, bringing on track the third Huracàn GT3 of the Championship, and a fifth Porsche will be run by Heart of Racing. Konrad Motorsport will race in the NAEC with one or two Lamborghinis, while Lexus has postponed the debut of the two F Performance Racing RC F GT3s to the second half of the season. Riley Motorsports will line up a second Dodge SRT at Daytona and AF Corse has said that its GTD entry will be operated by the Spirit of Race division.
ELMS: TDS Racing could remain in the series for 2016. However, following the abolition of the GTC category, the 2015 GTC Champion squad will be forced to step up to GTE. Currently, despite Marc VDS Racing has left Autoracing, BMW does not seem to be interested in supporting any other Team to compete with a Z4 GTE, thus TDS Racing will have to change Manufacturer too: a programme with a Ferrari 458 Italia GTC or an Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE is under evaluation. In the last two years TDS Racing also participated in the Blancpain Endurance Series in GT3 PRO AM, fighting for the 2014 Team Title until the season finale and losing it against Scuderia Villorba Corse.
Intercontinental GT Challenge: the first race of the new SRO Motorsports Group Championship, the Bathurst 12 Hour, will see Maranello Motorsport catch victory with a very strong crew, composed of the 2014 WEC GT Champion Toni Vilander, 2007 ALMS GT2 Champion Mika Salo, who gained first place at the Mount Panorama competition in 2014, and a third driver, who will be revealed later. Both Vilander and Salo won the 24 Hours of Le Mans two times in GTE PRO and GT2 respectively. The Melbourne-based squad will take part in the event with a 458 Italia GT3, but it is understood it has ordered three 488 GT3s for the Australian GT Championship. Three more 458 Italia GT3s are expected to contest the Bathurst 12 Hour and will be those managed by Trass Family Motorsport, Vicious Rumor Racing and Trofeo Motorsport. Seven Audis, four Mercedes’, two Bentleys, a Porsche, a Nissan, three McLarens and three Lamborghinis will compete in the A class, which will be split, as happened in 2014, into the PRO AM and AM groups. The first one will allow two Platinum or Gold rated drivers, while the latter only one. The Balance of Performance used by the SRO Motorsports Group for the Intercontinental GT Challenge, including the Australian marathon, will be the same of that utilized for the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Pirelli World Challenge: after the organizers have signed an alliance with the SRO Motorsports Group this year, the 2016 season of the North American GT3 series is forthcoming. The 2015 GT Champion Team Effort Racing will enter two 991 GT3 Rs, which will be in the hands of Porsche’s factory driver Patrick Long and Michael Lewis. GMG Racing, after leaving Audi, will move to Porsche and should line up at least one car. Calvert Dynamics with Phoenix Performance will be third squad to bring on track a Porsche, which will be driven by Andrew Davis. Cadillac Racing will return to the Championship with two ATS-V.Rs for the four times GT Champion Johnny O’Connell and a still-to-be-determined second driver. Weistec Engineering will be on the grid with two Mercedes-AMG GT3s, while Always Evolving Racing will continue its collaboration with the former Ferrari Team AIM Autosport, winner of the 2012 Grand AM GT and 2014 NAEC GTD Team and Drivers’ Titles, and Nissan North America, running two GT-R Nismo GT3s. The 2015 line-up may not change, allowing James Davison and Bryan Heitkotter to be back at the wheel of the Japanese cars. The 2015 GT Asia Series Champion squad Bentley Team Absolute will operate two Continental GT3s for Andrew Palmer and Adderly Fong, replacing Dyson Racing. K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports and Bob Stallings Racing will represent McLaren, with the first Team which will race with at least two 650S GT3s and the second set to compete with a further Woking GT for Jon Fogarty. RealTime Racing will again participate in the series with two Acura TLX-GTs. This car will feature a significant change on the technical front, as it will be modified to a rear-wheel drive configuration. Many other squads could announce their plans in the following weeks. As we previously reported, NGT Motorsport had manifested the intention of being part of the Championship with one or two Ferraris, possibly two 488 GT3s. Drivers options include Balzan and Pier Guidi. In 2015 Balzan has primarily run in the International GT Open, with Pier Guidi taking part in the ELMS, in the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and in selected GT Asia Series rounds. R.Ferri Motorsport, after a positive 2015 season, could return to Pirelli World Challenge alongside Ferrari as well and with at least a 488 GT3. It is not to exclude an effort of the 2015 GT Runner-up and 2014 ELMS GTC Champion Olivier Beretta. According to Sportscar365, among the Teams evaluating a programme in the series we find TRG-AMR on the Aston Martin front, CRP Racing, which could be involved in the challenge with an Audi, Turner Motorsport, interested in flying the BMW flag not only in the IWSC, but also in the Pirelli World Challenge, M1 Racing, which could switch from Audi to another Manufacturer, and maybe Reiter-Engineering. Following the agreement with the SRO Motorsports Group the Stephane Ratel-founded society will monitor the Balance of Performance, which will be similar to that used for the Blancpain Endurance Series. In closing the organizers have moved the Utah Motorsports Campus event forward two weeks (August 12-14).
Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup: the Balance of Performance will be supervised by the ACO, while Shell has been named as fuel supplier. In addition to its Blancpain GT Series plans Team AKKA ASP is considering to join the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup too.
*Photo: Olivier Beretta.