- All three drivers’ championships still on the line as 48-car field roars into Spain
- Ibañez/Joulié lead Silver Cup, but Meyuhas/Bastard are on a charge
- Beaubelique/Pla within touching distance of Pro-Am title
- Loboda/Solukovtsev lead five-way race for the Am crown
An impressive 48-car field returns to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend to fight it out for one last time this year and decide which crews will be crowned champions. The Silver, Pro-Am and Am classes are all still undecided, with some fantastic battles brewing up and down the grid.
NM on the back foot as Saintéloc makes a late charge?
After the opening race at Hockenheim last time out, it looked like NM Racing Team’s Lluc Ibañez and Enzo Joulié already had one hand on the Silver Cup championship. The pair had just taken their third win of the year and were sitting comfortably in the points. But that all changed when a terminal engine issue put their Mercedes-AMG out of the running in the second event, opening the door for their biggest rivals to score big.
Erwan Bastard and Roee Meyuhas head into the last round as the pair in form, having won two of the last four races aboard their Saintéloc Racing Audi R8 LMS, including that last outing in Germany. As a result, the pair have closed to within 18 points of Ibañez and Joulié, with a maximum of 52pts on offer this weekend. It really is game on.
Third-placed pairing Mike David Ortmann and Hugo Sasse aren’t completely out of the picture either. They’ve twice been race winners this year in their PROsport Aston Martin Vantage but have struggled for consistency over recent rounds. They’re 38pts behind the NM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG, but certainly have the pace to spring an upset. Things can change quickly in GT4 racing, so they cannot be discounted.
Early season pace-setters Gus Bowers and Konstantin Lachenauer have endured a nightmare last three rounds in their Racing Spirit of Léman Aston Martin, with four non-scores from the last six races. They are the last crew mathematically still in the title hunt, but with 47pts to make up to the leaders, they need to mix huge speed with huge luck to stand a chance.
CMR Toyota GR Supra drivers Romain Monti/Antoine Potty and Racing Spirit of Léman Aston Martin pairing Akhil Rabindra/Tom Canning are tied for fifth place, but both would need maximum scores just to level with the championship leaders, but even then would lose out on countback against Ibañez/Joulié’s greater number of wins and podium finishes across the year.
Of course, it’s not all about the title chasers, with a host of other teams queueing up to steal the glory. Benjamin Lariche and Robert Consani’s Team Speedcar Audi R8 LMS has been increasingly fast lately, and enjoyed its strongest weekend yet at Hockenheim. Berkay Besler and Will Burns should also be watched, with their Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport BMW M4 being a regular podium challenger. Allied Racing’s Moritz Wiskirchen and Alexander Hartvig have also shown well recently, including producing a stunning recovery drive to finish third last time out at Hockenheim, despite starting down in 26th.
There will also be a string of reworked line-ups, led by AGS Events’ Tom Verdier and Loris Cabirou, who should go well in their second event together. Otherwise, Selleslagh Racing Team will field the new crew of Arthur Peters and Stéphane Lémeret in its #32 Mercedes-AMG, Ruben del Sarte will be joined by British GT frontrunner Jamie Day in Mirage Racing’s Aston Martin, while Paul Cauhaupe teams with Simon Tirman in Autosport GP’s Alpine.
Will Beaubelique and Pla be crowned this time?
Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Jim Pla went into the second race at Hockenheim needing just a few points to put the Pro-Am championship beyond doubt. However, a puncture and then a stop-go penalty meant the title fight rolls on to the final round.
Akkodis ASP Team duo Beaubelique and Pla have been the class of the field for much of the year, racking up three wins and three second places in their Mercedes-AMG. They hold a comfortable 34-point lead and could wrap up the championship in the first race at Barcelona, provided they out-score their closest competition.
But that may be more difficult than it sounds due to the strong recent form of Saintéloc Racing’s Fabien Michal and Gregory Guilvert. With two wins from the last four races, they’ve been the biggest scorers across recent rounds and would surely have been closer to Beaubelique and Pla had it not been for a costly retirement in the first race at Hockenheim.
Kenny Herremans and Dante Rappange have moved up to third in the standings aboard the thundering V8 Racing Chevrolet Camaro and have shown the speed to win races, although they’ll need a dose of luck to overhaul the 48-point gap between them and the Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes-AMG.
After a great start to the season, Centri Porsche Ticino’s challenge has faded in recent rounds, with Ivan Jacoma and Alex Fontana suffering first a clash at Spa and then a braking issue at Hockenheim. They’re still (just) in the picture, but sit a full 50 points behind. Regardless, they’ll be hoping to finish the year as strongly as they started it.
Loïc Villiger and Antoine Leclerc are fifth in the points in their Code Racing Alpine A110 Evo and will be keen to return to the sort of winning form they showed at Spa, while Robert Haub enjoyed two podium finishes at Hockenheim alongside new team-mate Theo Nouet. Their Drago Racing Team ZVO Mercedes-AMG could be a candidate for a win this time out.
Andreas Mayrl and Vincent Andronaco definitely deserve a strong weekend. There’s no doubting the pair’s pace in their Allied Racing Porsche 718 Cayman, but too many non-scores have wrecked their title challenge. In fact, they’ve scored a podium place in every race they’ve finished this year. The issue is they’ve only finished four of the 10 so far…
W&S Motorsport’s Hendrik Still and Max Kronberg put in their best weekend of the season at Hockenheim, scoring two second-place finishes. The pair’s Porsche 718 Cayman is looking increasingly rapid and could well grab a breakthrough win before the year is through.
Simon Gachet and Eric Debard return in their Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes-AMG after skipping Hockenheim, plus it’s also worth keeping an eye on Rodrigue Gillion/Nico Verdonck (PROsport Aston Martin), Jean-Laurent Navarro/Julien Briche (JS Competition Mercedes-AMG) and the Greystone GT team, which will be back to its full complement of McLarens this weekend for regulars Tim Whale/Adam Carroll and Richard Distl/Alain Valente.
Loboda and Solukovtsev’s late push gives them the edge in Am
W&S Motorsport pairing Mikhail Loboda and Andrey Solukovtsev scorched into the lead of the Am class thanks to a perfect weekend at Hockenheim, giving them a slight advantage in what will be a five-way fight for the title.
The duo scored both pole positions and both race wins in Germany in their Porsche 718 Cayman to grab the championship lead for the first time this season. They only hold a five-point lead though, so will need to keep up the tempo if they are to get across the championship finishing line.
Right behind them we have the unusual situation of team-mates with different scores after Benjamin Ricci was forced to skip the second race at Hockenheim, leaving father Mauro to race their Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes-AMG solo. Mauro now sits second in the points, with Benjamin 12pts further back in third. Benjamin will also sit out the final round, so Mauro will be partnered in the #61 Mercedes-AMG by World Cup and Euro 2000-winning goalkeeper-turned handy GT racer Fabien Barthez.
Julien Lambert and Wilfried Cazalbon are next up, their AGS Events Aston Martin being 22 points down on W&S’s Porsche. They need a big performance in race one to keep their title hopes on track and are more than capable of producing one having been twice race winners this year.
NM Racing Team’s Aleksandr Vaintrub and Stanislav Safronov are fifth, 34pts off top spot. The Mercedes-AMG drivers have been regular visitors to the podium this year and will be desperate to add to their sole victory to keep themselves in the chase.
Reigning class champions Michael Blanchemain and Christophe Hamon are the last crew in contention, but they’ll need a dream weekend to cling on to their crown. The pair’s Team Fullmotorsport Audi hasn’t lacked speed this year, but it has lost ground through three retirements and currently runs 43pts down on the class leaders.
Others to watch for include Paolo Meloni/Massimiliano Tresoldi (W&D Racing BMW M4), Henrik Lyngbye Pedersen/Markus Lungstrass (Team Spirit Racing Aston Martin), Cyril Saleilles/Benoit Lison (Team Fullmotorsport Audi), Frederic de Brabant/Albert Lagrange (Mirage Alpine) and new entry GPA Racing, which will field an Aston Martin Vantage for French GT regulars Florent Grizaud and Kévin Jimenez.
The GT4 European Series season finale at Barcelona gets underway with two free practice sessions on Friday, September 30, before qualifying and race one take place on Saturday, October 1 at 11:40CEST and 17:00 respectively. The last race of the season is set for 12:25 on Sunday. All sessions will feature live timing, and qualifying and both races will be live-streamed via the GT4 European Series website and GT World YouTube channel.