Among the major storylines to follow during the 2019 Blancpain GT Series season, the battle for Silver Cup honours looks set to be particularly exciting.
Created in 2014 and originally reserved for Sprint events, last year saw the Silver Cup expand to Endurance rounds. The move was a success: strong grids and close competition became standard, while the top Silver crews fought for the overall podium on several occasions.
This year the class has attracted numbers that are second only to the top-tier Pro category. Several crews have been announced in recent weeks, suggesting an even more competitive 2019 season in both the Endurance Cup and the re-named Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe.
Indeed, this year’s Silver Cup field includes entries from the series’ most accomplished outfits, with title-winning teams representing Audi, Lamborghini and Mercedes-AMG among those set to be involved. Add in a number of class specialists and it would seem that a hugely exciting season is in prospect.
Notably, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has revealed a brace of Silver Cup cars in both championships. Among these, the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe pairing of Oscar Tunjo and Rik Breukers looks particularly strong, while an Endurance Cup effort comprising Breukers, Charles Weerts and Ricardo Sanchez should also be a contender for class victory and competitive overall results.
Fellow Audi squad Phoenix Racing recently confirmed that it will contest Endurance events in the Silver class, with full-season drivers Finlay Hutchison and Kim Luis Schramm joined by GT4 graduate Ivan Parerras. Like WRT, Phoenix can be relied up to field a fast car and has lined up three promising youngsters for the task.
We will also see a Ferrari contend for Silver honours this term as Rinaldi Racing launches its first assault on the class with its #333 car. Long-time Rinaldi driver Rinat Salikhov will remain on board for a sixth year in succession as he graduates to the category this term. He will be joined for the full campaign by David Perel, who has clinched back-to-back Total 24 Hours of Spa wins in the Am Cup and Pro-Am classes, while Denis Bulatov will complete the trio at Endurance rounds.
While it is immensely difficult to pick a pre-season favourite, reigning class champion Nico Bastian must be high on the list. The experienced German remains with AKKA ASP team this term, driving the #90 Mercedes-AMG alongside Timur Boguslavskiy and Felipe Fraga at Endurance events and with Thomas Neubauer in Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe.
These crews join a number of previously confirmed line-ups, including FFF Racing (Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO), GPX Racing (Porsche 911 GT3 R) and Black Falcon (Mercedes-AMG GT3). There is more to come, too, with the likes of Jenson Team Rocket RJN (Honda NSX GT3 Evo) and Ombra Racing (Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO) yet to reveal their crews. Indeed, there is even the potential for more additions.
So, while the battle for overall victory will be the main attraction when the season kicks off at Monza (13/14 April), events in the Silver Cup will also be well worth keeping an eye on. What’s more, it would be no surprise to see the leading class contenders vying for the overall podium.