The chequered flag waved down on a busy off-season as it came to a welcome end in April. With the start button pressed, the engine on the Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 fired up for the first time in preparation for the exciting NEW 2016 Blancpain GT Endurance Season.
The Kaspersky Motorsport team had a positive feeling from the data collected in pre-season and all the drivers were excited to get back behind the wheel once again! As with any racecar driver, there isn’t a moment goes by where they don’t think about racing and pushing themselves to the limits on some of the world’s most famous circuits.
The new 2016 endurance season would kick-off in Monza, then travel to Silverstone. From there the team would race around Circuit Paul Ricard, the historic Spa-Francorchamps and then end at the Nurburgring. Launching off the start line at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, our 2016 journey began.
Kaspersky Motorsport meets the Temple of Speed
Ask any driver and Monza will always be a special circuit to race on – being nicknamed the Temple of Speed, it was the first great opportunity that the team had to test their race set-up and competiveness with the other 55 GT cars.
The Kaspersky Motorsport team had a challenging first round in Monza and after 3 grueling hours of heated wheel-to-wheel racing, they would see the chequered flag wave down on them in P4 within the AM Class – a true test and there would be only improved performances ahead.
The sunset over the historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza with the last words from Alex – “This has been an exciting and eventful first race of the season. It was great to see the #49 car setting very competitive lap times later in the race”.
The Home of British Motorsport welcomes Kaspersky Motorsport
The next challenge in the season took the team to the Home of British Motorsport – Silverstone, UK. The circuit boasts some of the best corners in the world in Becketts and would give the #49 a new challenge for its driver set-up and finding a mixed balance between high speed and fast cornering.
Kaspersky Motorsport was the team to beat within the AM Class and the car had been impressive all weekend despite the cold conditions, keeping on pace with those from even the Pro Class. Unfortunately, just shy of the 3 hr endurance time there were a few technical issues that would mean the #49 would cross the finish line in P5.
Our chief race engineer explained the difference in set-up between Monza and Silverstone – “We run a completely different mechanical set up on the car for this track and also run a higher level of aerodynamic downforce than in Monza, in order to deal with the many quick corners”.
1000km at Circuit
There were contrasting conditions on the stunning Cote D’Azur in the South of France. Soaring temperatures and hot conditions laid ahead in what was a challenging 6 hour (1000km) endurance race at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Round 3 of the Blancpain GT season.
It was one of the teams’ biggest endurance tests of the season, but unfortunately would result in disappointment with only 1 hour of racing to go. The fast and racy #49 was leading the AM Class for over 4 hours, until a mechanical issue halted the car. No podium for the team.
A newly recruited Stephane Lemeret commented – “It wasn’t the best day for us, but looking at the weekend as a whole, the team did a really good job from practice right the way through to the race and we were very well-prepared. Alex did a brilliant job! We discovered a lot about the direction we want to go with the car and I think we can build on this and be even more competitive next time”.
Total 24 Hours of Spa – The Blue Ribbon Event
The event that every GT team looks forward to and prepares for each season – the Total 24 Hours of Spa! The Kaspersky Motorsport team had announced a strong 4-driver line-up and had hoped to be standing on podium at the end of 24 hours racing up Eau-Rouge.
However, it was a similar scenario to Round 3 at Paul Ricard. The #49 car was leading for most of the race and collected the team’s first points of the season on the 6hr mark. The team then continued to set the pace after several driver changes leading into the night-sky, taking on Eau-Rouge in the dark. Unfortunately, after 254 laps and in the early hours of the morning, the team was forced into retirement due to a technical issue on the car.
We got the last word from Alex – “I'm disappointed with the way the weekend ended, said we were fast all weekend here in Spa, so I had expected us to fight at the front. And we did, given that we led for the first six hours and were in a podium position after that. It was a missed opportunity and we missed out on the podium due to a mechanical failure. As a motorsport team, we want to race again and we will do so with even more motivation and team spirit. I want to get back on track as soon as possible and our next event is at the Nürburgring, a track I like a lot”.
The historic Nurburgring Circuit hosted the season finale of the Blancpain GT Endurance Series. The Kaspersky Motorsport team had two drivers to take the fight to the rest of the AM Class and try to fight for the right to stand on podium – a result the team had fully deserved all season.
Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. The speedy #49 had been impressive all race weekend in Germany, throughout Free Practice, Qualifying and the Main Race. The team had launched the car from P6 on the grid up to P1 within the hour and like the previous two races, they had held firm at the front of the AM Class for majority of the 3hours. An incident late on saw a Safety Car and upon the restart, the #49 had a wheel-to-wheel fight with another car, resulting in a damaged radiator, so the car had to be retired with only 30 minutes to go!
A disappointed Alex said – “It's been quite a disappointing weekend, for this the final round, we’ve made a good step forward in performance terms, understanding some issues that we faced in previous events. After a good start, a podium looked to be on the cards, but in all that traffic, a McLaren collided with me and the right radiator was broken”.
What did we learn from the 2016 season?
The 2016 Blancpain GT Endurance Series has been the best season yet. The competition’s popularity continues to grow, bringing in more global fans and reaching all-new audiences from the world of GT motorsport. In 2017, the racing franchise will expand into new regions, which means the Kaspersky Motorsport team can look to continue to attract new fans, and become more prominent on the GT grid.
The team was competitive in all five races of the Blancpain GT Endurance Series and showed strong race pace throughout, leading the AM Class for over 350 laps in 2016 and challenging at the front of the AM Class. Unluckily, the final piece of the puzzle was that elusive podium.
Overall the 2016 season was a special one; with the Kaspersky Motorsport team growing together including the all important back room staff and engineers. The team learned more about the Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 car, how it handles on different circuits, which helped them analyse key performance data so that the team could improve its race set-ups.
What now for the Blancpain GT Endurance Series in 2017?
The Kaspersky Motorsport team will be back in 2017 and ready to fight once again with a brand new Ferrari 488 GT3!