The Blancpain GT series has kicked off for real this weekend with the sprint series. McLaren GT customer team Garage 59 are the team to watch out for with two glorious McLaren 650S GT3s, in stunning black, white and orange Mclareny colours. With an insane 38 cars signed up for the first round and a wealth of hot young talent throughout the field, this year is surely going to be a brilliant year. Not least for Garage 59 with arguably the best driver combo of shiny gold and platinum ranked McLaren superstars in Alvaro Parente, Rob Bell, Craig Dolby and Martin Plowman racing in cars #58 and #59
First up, Misano, Italy, and things are looking promising as Alvaro Parente makes it into second place in an insanely competitive qualifying session that sees the top 15 cars all within one second of one another. As the drivers all line up on the grid for the cold, damp, darkness of the night time qualifying race, Lady Luck’s evil sister struck with car #59 which failed to get away from the gird and proceeded to spend the first 15 minutes of the hour long race in the pits. Dry/wet/in between conditions which are not a McLarens friend, coupled with incorrect tyre pressures meant that car #58 slipped right down the pack, however with a new set of slicks on a drying surface, Bell, the fastest man on the track, managed a speedy drive back up to 9th.
Rob Bell started in the #58 car, managing to get up to 6th, helped along a little by the scuffles up front and a drive through penalty for Vanthoor. It was pretty much a race on his own until after the pitstops when, with some pretty special overtaking, Parente made short work of Rast in the Audi, and moved the #58 up into 5th place. Car 59 was not so lucky as they were dished out a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane. A mechanical failure for third place Rosenqvist moved Parente up once again, finishing only one step away from the podium. A solid finish for the first race of the season.
Despite the army of Audis, there were four different cars finishing in the top four and I can’t wait to see how the McLaren is going to get along when not hampered by non-McLaren friendly weather conditions. This is shaping up to be a very exciting year in the Blancpain GT series. Roll on Monza in two weeks time when the endurance races also kick off!