> Endurance Cup returns to German venue with expanded six-hour format
> Grid grows to 48 cars for final long-distance race before Total 24 Hours of Spa
> Germany commentary added alongside established English and French options
> Entry list: Nurburgring
The Eiffel Mountains will come alive to the sound of GT3 engines this weekend (5/6 September) when GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS tackles a six-hour contest at the Nürburgring.
A 48-car field featuring 10 brands will be present at the German venue, which returns to the Endurance Cup schedule for the first time since 2016 and takes on extra significance as the final long-distance contest before the marquee Total 24 Hours of Spa (22-25 October).
The 5.1km Nürburgring GP-Strecke will pose a very different challenge to the one faced during July's season-opening trip to Imola. Competitors will find a much cooler climate in the Eifel region than the sweltering summer temperatures they experienced at the Italian venue, with highs of 22 degrees forecast for the weekend. The circuit itself is more technical, though cars will still reach speeds in excess of 250kmph on the long run to the final chicane.
The Nürburgring contest will feature 23 full-pro crews and 25 class contenders, with a number of new additions among them. It kicks off a busy period for GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS, with a run of four events in six weeks making for an action-packed autumn of GT3 racing.
Strong contingent of full-pro crews set for Nürburgring contest
A flying start to the 2020 season sees Audi head to its home event as the brand to beat. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has led the charge thus far, taking victory at Imola and adding a brace of Sprint Cup at Misano. Two full-pro crews will run in Germany, with Rolf Ineichen taking over from Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #31 Audi R8 LMS. Ineichen re-joins Mirko Bortolotti, with whom he won the most recent Endurance event at the Nürburgring in 2016.
Audi's strong start extends to its other top-tier representatives: Sainteloc Racing took fifth at Imola before adding a brace of Sprint Cup podiums, while Attempto Racing scored overall pole for the season opener and a top-three finish at Misano. Both will be in confident mood ahead of the trip to Germany.
If Audi is the brand to beat, the rival Porsche marque has the numbers to lead the fightback. Six full-pro 911 GT3-R entries are set to tackle the Nürburgring, two of which will come from the ROWE Racing stable. The squad's full-season #98 car will be joined by the sister #99, which features an all-star line-up of Simona de Silvestro, Timo Bernhard and Jeroen Bleekemolen. KCMG adds its new challenger, while two full-season entries from GPX Racing and another from Dinamic Motorsport complete an impressive roster for the Stuttgart marque.
Mercedes-AMG will be well represented on home turf. AKKA ASP took a podium finish at Imola and will look to add more silverware at the Nürburgring, while newcomers HRT and GetSpeed Performance can also target a strong finishes at their home event. An additional AMG GT3 run by JP Motorsport will see Mathias Lauda, Patryk Krupinski and former grand prix racer Christian Klien tackle the six-hour contest.
Imola represented the first time that a Lamborghini did not finish among the overall top-10 at an Endurance Cup race since the 2018 Total 24 Hours of Spa. There is plenty of scope to put that right at the Nürburgring, with reigning series champion Orange1 FFF Racing and a two-car assault from Emil Frey Racing both featuring significant driver talent.
Nor would it be a surprise to see a Ferrari contend for victory after both of the Italian marque's full-pro crews showed strongly at Imola. Indeed, the #51 AF Corse and #72 SMP Racing cars ran one-two at the hour mark before slipping back as the race progressed and have the pace to launch another podium assault in Germany.
Bentley squad K-PAX Racing also showed speed at Imola, but ultimately left unrewarded. The American outfit will call upon the most experienced driver in Endurance Cup history for the Nürburgring contest, with Alex Buncombe subbing for Alvaro Parente in the #9 Continental GT3. French outfit CMR also flies the Bentley flag and will give Nelson Panciatici his Endurance debut in the #107 machine.
Optimum Motorsport completes a field of 23 full-pro crews with its #69 McLaren 720S GT3, which made a strong first impression by taking eighth at Imola. Its line-up includes Rob Bell, a past winner at the Nürburgring, who adds vital experience ahead of Optimum’s second outing.
New class arrivals confirmed for six-hour contest
The Pro-Am field remains strong for the Nürburgring weekend, with 13 cars set to contend for class honours at the German venue. Aston Martin squad Garage 59 will look to repeat its Imola victory, with Alex West, Chris Goodwin and Jonny Adam looking to be a potent combination. The favourite to mount a challenge is the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari, which has started 2020 with runner-up spot at Imola and a brace of Sprint Cup wins at Misano.
They will be joined by two other Ferrari squads in AF Corse and Rinaldi Racing, both of which finished among the top five at Imola and will have their sights set on the podium in Germany. Mercedes-AMG is also represented by three cars, all of which will look to get points on the board after failing to see the chequered flag at the season opener. SPS Automotive Performance, AKKA ASP and RAM Racing have no shortage of experience among their line-ups and will be keen to show well at the German marque's home event.
Barwell Motorsport will also be chasing a better result after finishing ninth in class at Imola. Fellow Lamborghini squad Orange 1 FFF Racing welcomes a new addition, with Elia Erhart joining its existing duo of Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Phil Keen. Boutsen Ginion Racing will welcome back Jens Klingmann, who returns as the #10 BMW's designated pro driver after missing Imola through injury.
The grid is bolstered by a pair of Porsches from Herberth Motorsport. The crews are anchored by the Renauer twins: Robert partners Daniel Allemann and Ralf Bohn in the #991, while Alfred will join Dimitrios Konstantinou and Jürgen Häring in the #992 machine.
As ever, the Silver Cup battle is near-impossible to call. Barwell Motorsport scored victory at Imola with its #78 Lamborghini of Patrick Kujala, Alex Macdowall and Frederik Schandorff, who delivered an assured performance at the Italian venue. They will face renewed pressure from Garage 59, which adds Total 24 Hours of Spa class winner and former Barwell driver James Pull to its line-up.
Madpanda Motorsport has also added a Silver Spa winner in Romain Monti, who will drive the #90 Mercedes-AMG alongside Ezequiel Perez Companc and Patrick Assenheimer. The squad is one of three Mercedes-AMG entrants in the class, with regular front-runners HRT and AKKA ASP looking to bounce back after disappointing results at Imola. Indeed, the season opener represented the first time since the Silver class was added to the Endurance Cup that neither squad was present among the top-three.
It was Dinamic Motorsport that completed the podium last time out and the Porsche squad has every hope of more silverware in Germany. The same can be said of Tech 1 Racing, which has shown formidable speed with its Lexus but is yet to score a matching result. Audi will be represented by Attempto Racing and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, while Team Parker Racing (Bentley) and Orange1 FFF Racing (Lamborghini) bring the Silver Cup field to 11 cars. Sainteloc Racing completes the grid, with Pierre Yves Paque, Clément Seyler and Michaël Blanchemain driving an Audi in the Am Cup.
Support series add five hours of action to Nürburgring weekend
Following testing on Thursday, the event's first official track activity takes place on Friday 4 September, with the bronze test getting underway at 16.55. A busy Saturday begins with free practice at 09.00, followed at 13.35 by pre-qualifying. Competitors will then have a chance to study their data before the all-important qualifying session at 19.10. Six hours of racing will follow on Sunday, with the green flag set to fly at 11.45.
Further on-track action comes from a trio of regular support categories: Lamborghini Super Trofeo, GT4 European Series and Formula Renault Eurocup. Each will stage a pair of races over the course of the weekend, totalling almost five hours of competition to run alongside GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS.
As ever, extensive TV and live-streaming options will be available for fans to follow every second of the action. For the first time, this will include a German commentary feed provided in collaboration with NürburgringTV, which will run alongside the established English and French streams.
Whatever the language, there should be no shortage of talking points in this thrilling contest between Europe’s leading GT3 heavyweights.