Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images Courtesy of SRO Media, JOTA & RAM Racing
This weekend the Fanatec GT World Challenge (GTWC) Europe kicks off its 2021 season with the 3 hours of Monza.
The Autodromo returns to the calendar after a one-year absence. What are the most eye-catching novelties? Who are the favorites? And which Brits are on the entry list? This preview will tell you all you need to know.
SRO, Fanatec & Assetto Corsa Competizione First to Combine Virtual and Real Life Racing
SRO, new championship title sponsor Fanatec, known for its top-notch sim-racing gear, and Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official GT World Challenge-game, are the first in the motor racing world to combine eSports and real racing within one championship. How does this work?
During each Endurance cup round there will also be a virtual race on site in the Fanatec Esports arena.
Each team that enters one or more cars in the Pro or Silver Cup, must appoint one driver for the virtual race. They only have to select one driver per Cup in which they compete, regardless of how much cars they enter.
So, if they enter two cars in the Pro Cup and one in the Silver Cup, the team will have to select one driver from the Pro line-up and one from the Silver.
After its inaugural race at Monza, the Esports Cup will have its next rounds at Paul Ricard, Spa, Nürburgring and Catalunya.
All races will be streamed live on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and of course GTWC’s own website.
Nine manufactures contest the 2021 title
No less than nine manufacturers will be on the 2021 Endurance Cup grid. This will be reduced to eight during the Sprint Cup events as BMW won’t be present.
Ferrari’s effort to defend its 2020 title will be spearheaded this year by newcomer Iron Lynx instead of AF Corse. they even take over the starting numbers #51 and #71.
Last year’s champ Alessandro Pier Guidi will be joined by young Danish driver Nicklas Nielsen and Frenchman Come Ledogar in the #51.
Davide Rigon and young Italian GT Endurance champion Antonio Fuoco will joined them in the sister #71. Alongside them will be last year’s FIA F2 runner-up and newly baked Ferrari F1 test-driver Callum Illot.
Last year’s Pro-Am champions Sky-Tempesta racing also return to defend their title. They retain the same driver line-up of Briton Chris Froggatt, Jonathan Hui and Eddie Cheever.
Additionally, Rinaldi Racing and Kessel Racing both make their return to the series in 2021.
Attempto also join the highest category with Mattia Drudi, Kim Luis Schramm and Chris Mies.
Mercedes will be the best represented manufacturer on the GTWC grid, with no less than nine AMG GT3’s racing full-time. For the race at Monza, their entry list will increase to 11 at Monza.
Two of those will compete in the Pro category. AKKA ASP composed another star line-up with Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon – who transfers from Bentley – and multiple DTM race-winner Dani Juncadella.
HRT is certainly not less, with the same line up as last season. Germany’s Maro Engel and Luca Stolz will be joined by Frenchman Vincent Abril.
Of the other nine AMG’s, six are entered in the Silver Cup (by AKKA ASP, SPS, TokSport, HRT, Madpanda, and US-newcomers Winward Racing), with the other three contesting the Pro-Am cup.
One of those is British team RAM Racing. Their all-British line-up of British-GT stars features Sam de Haan, Rob Collard (switching from Barwell) and Callum Macleod.
Last year, Porsche was only active during the Endurance Cup events, but in 2021 the Stuttgart brand returns to full-season competition.
Dinamic will run a Pro entry in both the Endurance and Sprint Cup, newcomer Allied Racing will contest the Pro-Am Cup. GPX and Dinamic then add another 911 in the Pro Cup at the Endurance events.
Without doubt, all Pro entries will compete for overall victory. GPX managed to sign Australians Matt Campbell and Earl Bamber, supplemented with Mathieu Jaminet.
Dinamic’s #54 will be piloted by Matteo Cairoli and Germans Christian Engelhart and Klaus Bachler. Moreover, the #56 is in the hands of Mikkel Pedersen, Andrea Rizzoli and Romain Dumas.
Mirko Bortolotti has returned to his old employer Orange 1 FFF after a year with the Audi WRT squad. He’ll pilot the #63 with his old colleagues and fellow Italians Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli.
Of the other Orange 1 Lambo, the #19 entered in the Pro-Am category, Phil Keen is one of the drivers, joined by Japanese Hiroshi Hamaguchi.
GRT returns to the series, fielding one Huracan in the Silver Cup for Tim Zimmermann, Emillian Dimitru Galbiati and Clemens Schmid.
Emil Frey will run three cars this season, of which two in the Pro Cup. The #114 with Williams Reserve Driver Jack Aitken, Konsta Lappalainen and Arthur Rougier (who transfers from Sainteloc Audi).
Additioanlly, the #163 will be occupied by Lambo-regulars Norbert Siedler, Giacomo Altoè and Albert Costa.
Barwell Motorsport have been reduced to one entry this season. Their Pro-Am efforts will be led by Miguel Ramos, Henrique Chaves and Adrian Amstutz.
This season, McLaren aims to rejoin the upper ranks of the field and have teamed up with renowned British racing team JOTA.
The all British line-up consists of Oliver Wilkinson and veteran Rob Bell, who already raced the 720S last year for Optimum Motorsport.
They’ll be joined by Ben Barnicoat who also drove the 720S for EMA / 59 Racing. The car will be raced in both the Endurance and the Sprint Cup events.
Garage 59 continues their two car effort in 2021.
In the #159 Silver Cup entry, Valentin Hasse Clot is now joined by Dane Nicholas Kjaergaard, who joins from Team Parker Bentley. Brit Alex Macdowall will be their third driver after transfering from Barwell Motorsport.
In the #188 Pro-Am cup entry Alex West (SWE) and Chris Goodwin (GB) are paired again with Jonny Adam (GB).
Remarkable is the second year of absence of the R-Motorsport squad. The Corona pandemic already forced them to pull their two Vantages from the entry list in 2020.
This year in March, the team decided to skip yet another year and focus on their 2022 campaign.
Although Bentley officially ended its factory GT3-program, they remain present in the GT World Challenge.
French outfit CMR continues to field a Continental GT in the Endurance Cup, and even two in the Sprint Cup events.
Nelson Panciatici remains loyal to the team and is joined by compatriot Gilles Vannelet and South Africa’s Stuart White.
2021 marks the return of Walkenhorst Motorsport to the GT World Challenge, having previously competed in the Blancpain GT series.
The team will field two M6 GT3’s in the Pro Cup, in Endurance events only. The #34 is driven by former DTM champion Marco Wittmann (GER), Sheldon van der Linde and Brit David Pittard.
German DTM-veteran Martin Tomczyk and former F1 driver Timo Glock will pilot the #35, alongside youngster Thomas Neubauer. The Frenchman made a name for himself last season with a couple of stellar performances in the Tech 1 Lexus.
The third M6 will be run by the Boutsen Ginion team, who pay tribute to the creator of Michel Vaillant, Jean Graton with a beautiful art car.
Two days were scheduled at the end of March, with almost all manufacturers present. Only McLaren/JOTA was absent.
Over the four sessions, the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes topped the list twice, while Dinamic Porsche and Sainteloc Audi topped the other sessions.
All participating manufacturers delivered competitive times at some time during the two days, although Mercedes, Audi and Porsche were consistently fast.