Monday, May 19, 2014

International GT Open Round 1 Race 1&2 with Interview from Ben Evans

Two weeks ago International GT Open kicked off it's season at the famous Nurburgring, along with its companion series Euro Formula Open.

 You can watch the highlights and full races here. I was able to interview via email veteran racing TV commentator Ben Evans who has been doing the English call of the series for the past few seasons (originally known as the Spanish GT Championship).

 Check it out and I hope it becomes a regular feature of the blog.

  Hi Anthony,

Firstly apologies, I thought this had been sent but was stuck in my inbox.

Wow lots of questions, I'll answer what I can, but there are some that I'm afraid I don't know the answer to, as the teams won't tell me everything for obvious reasons.

I noticed Scuderia Villorba Corse has entered their GT3 car. I believe this is the same car used in the Blancpain Series both sprint and endurance.

 Has Villorba Corse abandon their GT2 Ferrari car ahead of the rules changes to GT cars in 2016 or was this to streamline things a bit?

 I wish I could tell you more, I don't know the specific reason for the switch, but my guess is that its a range of factors - availability of GT2 spares, factor support & as you said the prevailing trend to GT3. Last weekend was the first time that Villorba ran the GT3 on Dunlop tyres, and given that Friday was a washout the team did a lot learning in the races. I would expect to see them challenging for wins in Portimao. Andrea Montermini is right at the top of his game & Niccolo Schiro is quick, learning and has the right attitude.

 Do you think recent adding of GT3 cars to European Le Mans Series has had an impact on GT Open grids?

 I thought the grids were very good at the weekend, 24 cars was up on the season average for last year, and more than we're seeing in Blancpain Sprint. Generally however it has been a difficult winter for all GT championships. The GT Open grid feels very different because there are so many new cars, but it still has a very healthy grid.

Has the series seen more international interest since moving to YouTube?

 Yes I think so, having a live non geo-blocked HD stream is a huge plus. The series (and EuroFormula Open) have lots of global interest. For example we are back on Argentinian TV this year with the return of Juan Manuel Lopez, and also extensively across Asia with Tanart Sathienthikarul and Sandy Stuvik in EuroFormula. It's great, after most weekends I'll get emails from people all over the world who've watched the races.

Is Isaac Tutumlu's blow up in his Autrolando Sport Porsche signs of budget concerns?

 I would say not, there were a couple of other factors. Firstly it was absolutely freezing at the Nurburgring over the weekend and that can always make engines vulnerable. Secondly he had a big moment at the chicane which i think knocked an oil pipe or similar loose. This is my third season with the GT Open & only the second time I can remember a mechanical issue with an Autorlando car as they are as a rule superbly prepared. I really felt for Isaac Tutumlu though as he is an excellent driver who as yet in GT Open hasn't had the luck. All things being equal I wouldn't be surprised to see an Autorlando victory in Jerez.

On that note have the Porsche teams been notified of a replacement for their GT3-R's? I know Porsche Motorsport was bleeding personal due to the work load for the LMP1 car; that has to carryover into preparing production based cars like the GT3-RS (GT2/GTLM) and GT3-R (which hasn't been announced yet).

 I'm afraid I don't know & I didn't see anyone there from Porsche to talk to.

What changes are allowed to make a GT3 car competitive in Super GT versus FIA/ACO GT2 cars?

I'll get a detailed answer for you but need to ask around as don't know the full technical details.

What is the series doing about clashing weekends? Just this past week was the Tudor series at Laguna Seca and WEC at Spa. Not only that but British GT, DTM and WTCC. I managed to watch all of these but I am not the average fan. Are heavy motorsport weekends like this impacting attendance and viewers online?

 Unfortunately clashing weekends are one of those things. Last weekend was a good time for all the championships you. mentioned as there was no F1 clash which is the big driver for all Europe based calendars. Planning the following year's calendar is a year round process. The starting point for GT Open is going to the tracks the drivers love & then building a calendar around when works best to visit each track.

What is your summary of both races this weekend?

 It was a really intriguing weekend and I am excited about the season. The big takeaways for me were: the strength in depth is immense, all the Super GTs have race winning potential. Additionally the balance of performance works, even with such a change in cars there were close battles especially in GTS. On paper it may appear as if the Corvettes dominated, and no doubt they were strong, but at Portimao and Jerez tyre management will be an issue. It was freezing cold and that helped the big cars increase tyre longevity. 

The driver talent is awesome this year, Montermini, Pastorelli and Tomas Enge could/should have become superstars, I could watch them all day. In particular Tomas Enge was just sublime on Sunday & set fastest lap after fastest lap. Daniel Zampieri is so exciting to watch, he just wrings everything from the car. He & Roman Mavlanov could be genuine title contenders. Likewise Catsburg/Soulet are both very rapid, Matt Griffin is always superb, Joel Camaithias, Stefano Gattuso, Andrea Piccini - I could go on all night.

The other big unknown is the pace of the Valsecchi/Venturini Lamborghini which ended up the wrong side of the wall after a monumental crash in Saturday qualifying & so didn't race. Once the car is repaired I'd expect it to be strong.


 No thank you Ben! You can follow him on Twitter

 You can catch all GT Open events live on YouTube. Archived races from 2013 are also located on their YouTube channel.

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