The iconic Italian venue of the Nazionale di Monza, located within the historic Parco di Monza set less than 20 kilometres from the centre of Milan, will provide the location to begin an enthralling new season of competition.
First opened in 1922, the modern circuit retains the same defining characteristic with its 5.793 kilometre (3.600-mile) layout consisting of long straights broken up by chicanes, with Curve di Lesmo and Curva Parabolica situated at either end to form a loop. With a circuit that enjoys a setting that is almost unparalleled among modern racing facilities, Blancpain GT Series drivers can expect to reach 285kmh (177mph) at the ‘Temple of Speed’.
Last year’s event was won by the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car of Dries Vanthoor, Alex Riberas and Chris Mies following a thrilling duel with the #43 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG. Six brands have taken victory from eight previous outings at Monza, and with a hugely competitive entry list confirmed for this year’s race.
The Monza contest will be headlined by a 19-car field of full-season Pro competitors, with the entry list led by Mercedes-AMG squad Black Falcon. They will defend its Endurance Cup titles with an unchanged line-up of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman but are sure to face stiff competition from fellow Mercedes-AMG outfit AKKA ASP Team, which clinched the overall title in 2018. They led by local hero Raffaele Marciello with a third Mercedes-AMG entry coming from Strakka Racing, which claimed last year’s Endurance Cup drivers’ title in the Pro-Am category.
Audi will be the best-represented Pro class brand this term, with four of the Ingolstadt marque’s updated R8 LMS EVO machines set to hit the track. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT lead the assault, with further strength coming from Attempto Racing and Sainteloc Racing.
Local favourite Lamborghini will also deploy an upgraded car this year thanks to an impressive trio of Huracan GT3 EVOs set to contend for home glory at Monza, with two coming from series newcomer FFF Racing and another from 2017 Endurance Cup champions Grasser Racing.
Porsche has bolstered its Pro class assault and adds another new-spec car to the 2019 grid. ROWE Racing will field a brace of 911 GT3 R machines, both of which feature significant talent from the Stuttgart marque’s factory roster, while series newcomer Dinamic Motorsport is a third Pro entry.
Aston Martin will bring an all-new car to the 2019 grid with its Vantage GT3, three of which will tackle the Pro class. Following an impressive 2018 campaign, Swiss outfit R-Motorsport will resume its two-car assault and will be joined by 2016 Endurance Cup title-winner Garage 59.
Bentley will continue its long-term commitment to the Blancpain GT Series with a two-car assault on the Endurance Cup. The M-Sport squad will compete with numbers 107 and 108 as the British marque celebrates its centenary year.
Last but not least there is the iconic Ferrari brand who will be represented by the #62 SMP Racing entry. The Russian-backed 488 GT3 was competitive for victory at Monza last season after starting from pole and its crew will hope to be in contention once again on home soil.
The battle for top honours is not the only attraction at Endurance events with healthy grids in the Silver Cup, Pro-Am and Am Cup categories.
This year’s Silver Cup has taken a significant step forward both in terms of numbers and the quality of its competitors. The Lamborghini brand will dominate the grid thanks to entries from FFF Racing, Grasser Racing, Barwell Motorsport, Ombra Racing, and Daiko Lazarus Racing. There is also significant talent representing the leading German brands as Audi will rely on Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and Phoenix Racing, while Mercedes-AMG will look to heavyweight squads Black Falcon and AKKA ASP.
Rinaldi Racing will field a Ferrari 488 GT3, marking the outfit’s first full assault on the Silver class, while Honda joins the grid full-time thanks to Jenson Team Rocket RJN. A stunning Gulf-liveried Porsche 911 GT3 R from GPX Racing completes an impressive 13-car Silver Cup line-up.
The Pro-Am category promises to remain hugely competitive this year too, with seven teams representing five brands contending for class honours. Reigning overall class champions Sainteloc Racing will bid to add the Endurance crown with its Audi R8 LMS EVO. AKKA ASP Team and Ram Racing will do battle using Mercedes-AMG machinery, with both squads combining its young talent alongside accomplished gentlemen drivers.
There will also be a brace of Ferrari 488 GT3s, with the renowned AF Corse squad fielding its #52 machine and working alongside series newcomer Tempesta Racing to run the #93 entry. Team Parker Racing will bring its new-spec Bentley Continental GT3, while 2017 class champion Oman Racing with TF Sport (Aston Martin Vantage GT3) returns to the Pro-Am ranks seeking to regain its title.
A total of 10 cars competing for Am Cup honours will complete the Monza grid. Defending champions Barwell Motorsport lead the entry list with their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO, which is also the weapon of choice for Raton Racing by Target and the #15 Boutsen Ginion machine.The Belgian outfit will field a BMW M6 GT3 alongside its Lambo, while series newcomer Tech 1 Racing adds its Lexus RC F GT3 to the field.
There will be a trio of Ferrari 488 GT3s – two from Rinaldi Racing and another from HB Racing – while 2018 runner-up Garage 59 will switch to Aston Martin machinery for the new season. There is also a one-off entry from local squad Antonelli Motorsport who will add a Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the Am Cup grid for Monza.
The Monza weekend gets underway on Friday (12 April) with 90-minute private testing sessions at 10.00 and 13.50.
The first full-field run then takes place on Saturday morning, with a 90-minute free practice getting underway at 11.35. Pre-qualifying will be staged at 17.20, followed on Sunday morning at 09.45 by the deciding qualifying session. The race will begin at its traditional time of 15.00 on Sunday afternoon, culminating at 18.00.
The weekend’s support package features single-seater and GT action. The stars of the future will compete in Formula Renault Eurocup, which joins the Blancpain GT Series for the first of seven support slots this season.
The GT4 European Series will also hit the track as it gets its 2019 campaign underway, with Blancpain GT Sports Club completing an exciting support line-up.