Los GT3 de nueva generaciĆ³n ensalzan la temporada


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“Start your engines!”: time has come for the International GT Open to take again the track. The 2016 season, the 11th in the series’ history, is to kick-off this weekend at the Circuito do Estoril in the outskirts of Lisbon. The landmark track, the beautiful surroundings and the mildness of Portuguese spring are a perfect set-up for a great season-opener, the first of the seven rounds scheduled for this year.

The GT Open kicks-off with very minor changes to a formula that has proven successful over the past ten years and has allowed the series a clear and consolidated position in the crowded market of GT racing in Europe: stable rules, top venues, reasonable costs, a friendly no-frills atmosphere and a premium TV coverage continue to be the pillars for GT Sport’s pro-am GT3 and Cup competition.

This year more than ever racing fans will have the possibility to enjoy diversified and exciting race weekends, as the GT Open will share events with other top international series. Obviously, the Euroformula Open, the F.3 cars-based sister championship by GT Sport, which has become a key step for single-seater drivers, will be accompanying the GT Open  in all rounds, with traditional partners like the SEAT León Eurocup and the Radical European Masters coming along in a number of occasions. The great novelty for 2016 is that the relaunched Formula V8 3.5, one of the greatest feeders of F.1 drivers, will also join the party in 5 events, as from Round 2. The season-opener will benefit instead of the presence of the TCR International Series, the new global championship for touting cars launched in 2015 and already an acclaimed success.

For the International GT Open, 2016 will be marked by the coming in of the new generation of GT3 racing models that a number of manufacturers are currently launching. Spectacular machines such as the BMW M6, the Lamborghini Huracán, the Ferrari F488, the Mercedes AMG and the Radical RXC turbo are ready to join the likes of the McLaren 650S and the Aston Martin Vantage as from Estoril, while others will do it very soon. Significantly enough, the number of top teams is also rising.

Teo Martín Motorsport will defend the overall Drivers’ title conquered upon its return to racing in 2015 with a renewed outfit. The Spanish squad has switched to BMW M6 cars (hence its new denomination: BMW Team Teo Martín), campaigning two units full-season. Reigning co-champion Miguel Ramos takes the track with a new team mate, Roldán Rodríguez, the former GP2 race winner and F.1 tester who is back to racing. In the other car, Colombia’s sportscar star Gustavo Yacamán debuts alongside young gun and former ETCC champion Fernando Monje.

McLaren is going to be extremely well-represented by Garage 59, the new squad stemming from previous teams close to the Woking-based manufacturer. Their two 650S are managed by Tim Mullen and entrusted to pro-am line-ups, with Michael Benham associated to Duncan Tappy and Alexander West paired with Kevin Estre for this first event (with Côme Ledogar joining as from Spa).

Another stellar new entry is the one coming from Italy through Orange1 Team Lazarus, the outfit led by Tancredi Pagiaro, with a Lamborghini Huracán for former FIA GT1 world champion Thomas Biagi and former GP2 racer Fabrizio Crestani.

Another title candidate to be watched, following the excellent form shown at the end of last season and during winter testing, is the Aston Martin Vantage by British squad TF Sport, with Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluc defending the hopes of Tom Ferrier’s squad.

AF Corse will continue to be a driving force in the GT Open. The reigning Teams’ champion is starting the season in the Pro-Am category with a new Ferrari F488 for Thomas Flohr-Francesco Castellacci, and will step-up its effort as from the Spa round.

Balfe Motorsport is stepping up its effort and will campaign the entire season with its Ferrari F458, again perfectly driven by Phil Keen and Shaun Balfe. Also a faithful GT Open contender, Spain’s Drivex, is also on the starting block, with its latest machine, the Audi R8 LMS ultra, driven at Estoril by local hero César Campaniço and Andrés Saravia, Guatemala’s young talent, who joins from the Euroformula.

A significant development is that Radical Cars is bringing to its racing debut the new GT3 car, the RXC Turbo, entrusted to Colin Noble and last year’s GT Open Cup champion James Abbott. More great news is that Dutch squad V8 Racing, which clinched Teams’ titles and Drivers’ runner-up honours in 2013-14, is back to the Open. The Corvettes are gone and replaced by the Renault RS01 in GT3 configuration, with Diederik Sijthoff-Filipe Barreiros as first top line-up.

The GT-Am category is also bound to offer a great show as from Round 1. Sports&You starts at home its full-year campaign, with regulars António Coimbra and Luis Silva bringing to debut the team’s new Mercedes AMG. Their main opponents should be the strong AF Corse pair formed by double GT-Am champion Claudio Sdanewitsch and Belgium’s star Stéphane Lémeret. The Lusitanian delegation in GT-Am also comprises the Porsche 911R GT3 of António Nogueira.