The best endurance race of the year was the GT battle at the Daytona 24 which came down to the final minutes has gaps narrowed and fuel mileage was a concern. Who got their sums right and who got it wrong?
The DP's are unexciting largely, but the focus always returns back to the leader of the race... Thank goodness the GT battle was too close and hard fought to ignore.
Alex Job got it right and won, a thrilling race and impressive result for a car that didn't even make it out of the first hour of racing last season. Though it must be said the Grand Am version of the Audi R8 LMS is quite a bit different from its FIA spec counterpart.
The Le Mans race was ruined not only by the passing of Allan Simonsen but that caution/safety car period broke up which was to be an excellent GT-Pro race and gave Porsche and Aston more than half a lap over the chasing Ferraris, Vipers and Corvettes.
This weekend's Spa 24 will have NO fatalities (I hope) but no 3 car safety car/caution periods!
No safety car rants this weekend!
You'll get a hard fought, knocked down, dragged out fight.
Audi has stacked the deck again with 4 cars (6 in Pro total) DTM driver Ekstrom and WEC/Le Mans regulars Fassler, Lotterer.
BMW via Marc VDS as added a third car with the famous TBA drivers. With DTM off this week, you may see DTM regular and ALMS part-timer Joey Hand, one of the Mullers, either Jorg or Dirk and maybe Claudia Hurtgen who was victorious recently at Spa in a Z4 (ADAC GT series).
When Lance David Arnold was signed by Mercedes Benz Customer Sports at the start of this season, I was hoping MBZ would finally take the Spa 24 seriously. They have two strong teams in the form of HTP-Gravity Charouz from the ADAC/FIA GT series and Rowe from VLN/N24.
Rowe features the aforementioned Arnold and he'll be teamed with quick Jan Sayfarth (who's been fast in FIA GT Series this season) and ALMS regular/N24 regular Klaus Graf.
The HTP Gravity Charouz team features ADAC drivers Max Buhk (reigning European GT3 Champion) and recent winner in the FIA GT Series, his ADAC GT co-driver Max Gotz and add Benz DTM legend Bernd Schneider, who won at the shorten N24 race back in May but also the Dubai 24 in Jan, so he's going for the GT Endurance Sweep.
Not to be left out are Kessel Racing with Ferrari, who lead the Blancpain series Pro Cup driver's and teams championship going into this race which is apart of the Blancpain series officially. They will also add a second Pro car to this event which thus far features Giacomo Petrobelli.
There will be challengers from McLaren (ART GP, Hexis and Gulf Racing), Aston Martin (Darren Turner) and Lamborghini, but I personally think the winners are going to come from either the German manufactures or Ferrari.
The Ferrari F458 has proven to be very effective around Spa given all its high speed corners, especially when its dry. The car seems to struggle in wet/dry/intermediate conditions. I noticed this at Le Mans as well. At first I thought it was the Pirelli tires they run in all SRO series, but it seems to be a problem on Michelins as well (drivers complained about the balance of the car). I am not sure about Dunlops because only one team runs Dunlops and they were still competitive in mixed conditions at Silverstone at the LMS season opener.
In any case, if it stays dry, I expect the Ferraris to be near the front most of the time. Cesar Ramos has proven to be especially fast. He's put in stellar middle stints in Blancpain this season which has lead to the points lead as I mentioned and podium finishes in two of three races thus far.
One team to look out for that isn't in the Pro class is the RJN Nissan GTR's. These are the cars that feature the GT Academy winners (who were not allowed to return to the Brit GT series after old rich farts complained, especially after they won a race.).
The car that is considered the fastest and most experienced is the #35 with Lucas Ordonez, Peter Pyzera, Wolfgang Reip and 2013 Le Mans P2 sensation Jan Mardenborough. I fully expect these guys to qualify near the sharp end of the Pro class and challenge for a podium this weekend. Spa sweeping turns and long straights play to the strengths of this car, it should be very effective.
Speaking of Nissan GTR's, don't discount the one JRM Pro Class GTR with ALMS regular Lucas Luhr, Steven Kane and Peter Dumbreck, who finished on the podium in the last Blancpain race.
Thus far there isn't much information about the TV package for this year. Motors TV will have it in the UK with 4 and half hours of coverage on Saturday and 6 hours on Sunday including an hour for podiums and post-race interviews.
I am going to assume it will be streamed on the internet like in years past and have a similar break in the late evening.
Update #1 -
There have been changes to the entry list, you can follow it here. The only one that impacts my favorites is Jorg Muller will be replaced by Dirk Muller in the #14 Marc DVS BMW Z4 GT3.
I have official streaming information that is also available on the pdf file above.
Super Pole will be shown from 6:15pm to 6:35pm local time on Friday, July 27th
Saturday Race Start + The First Four Hours will be shown from 4pm to 8pm local time. There will be a break one hour and then 9pm to 11pm local time
On Sunday the stream will start up again at 8am local time till Noon, break for lunch and then the run to the flag from 1:30pm to 5pm (checkered flag at 4pm) which includes post race interviews and podiums for all classes.
The English broadcast will be available at the Blancpain Endurance Series web site.
Once its confirmed Audi TV will have the stream, will update again.
Update #2 -
As RJN and Nismo prepare for the Spa 24 race; The GT Academy "athletes" prepare to defend their point lead and possibly when this race overall.
Nismo's YouTube channel will also feature the English stream of the race this weekend, including qualifying for the Super Pole on Friday.
Check out this video of what it takes to prepare the Nissan GTR GT3 for its race twice around the clock.
Still waiting for confirmation (press release) on if Audi TV will also host the stream. If you have a smart TV then accessing the race, unblocked on YouTube should be easy for you. Don't have a smart TV?
Stay tuned, I may have an 11 Hour solution for you.
Update # 3 -
Thank You to Nissan and Dailysportscar here's the Spotters Guide
Finally my 11th Hour Solution for those of you with limited means & limited "talent". Go to your local Best Buy (for those of you in America, maybe Future Shop if you're in Canada) and get a Chromecast, its $35.
As long as your TV has an HDMI input (1.2 and higher), this will work. You can follow the directions and in minutes have stuff you normally watch from your laptop (or smartphone) on your TV.
Here's an unboxing -
Still waiting confirmation for Audi TV, but Radio Le Mans will give you live Flag To Flag coverage of the race, even when they turn the cameras off.