Circuit Zolder hosts the fifth round of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series, the third event in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup. It would be an excellent opportunity for Belgian drivers Enzo Ide and Dries Vanthoor to score their first podium finishes of the year.
Belgian drivers and teams have always played an important part in the history of the Blancpain GT Series. From the start, when the series was still called the Blancpain Endurance Series, the drivers from the little kingdom by the sea set their sights on race wins and championship titles. With Greg Franchi (Endurance champion 2011), Laurens Vanthoor (Endurance and overall Blancpain GT Series champion 2014), Wolfgang Reip (Endurance champion 2015) and Enzo Ide (Sprint champion 2016) the Belgians have conquered plenty of silverware. And that’s even before mentioning the endurance Pro-Am titles of Louis Machiels (2011-12) or the numerous team titles of Belgian Audi Club Team WRT (endurance 2011-12 and 2014-15, sprint titles 2013-16 and overall titles 2014-15) or that of Marc VDS Racing Team (endurance 2013).
However, so far this season, no Belgian driver has stood on the podium, marking the longest podium-free streak ever for Belgian drivers in the Blancpain GT Series. Zolder would be the perfect location to remedy that unusual situation, with two Belgians at the start: Enzo Ide, the reigning Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup champion, sharing the #1 Audi with Christopher Mies, and Dries Vanthoor, Laurens’ younger brother, together with Marcel Fässler at the wheel of the #5 Audi.
Both welcome the return of Zolder to the Blancpain GT Series calendar - especially the latter, since Vanthoor – literally – lives a stone’s throw away from the 4,004 km long former Grand Prix circuit. But although the 19-year-old has done quite a few laps of testing on his home track, he is yet to start a race there. Enzo Ide, on the other hand, claimed one of the most important wins of his career in Zolder, winning the 2011 Zolder 24 hours.
Just like the other rounds, Ide and Vanthoor will face stern competition. #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini-duo Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart would love to make it four-in-a-row, after their victories in Monza, Brands Hatch and Silverstone. But their fiercest title rivals Maxi Buhk and Franck Perera – still leading the Sprint Cup driver standings – are determined to put an end to the victorious run of the Italian green machine.
In Pro-Am Cup, Jules Gounon and Jean-Luc Beaubelique (#87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG) are aiming for a third consecutive podium finish, in order to further close the gap to championship leaders Alexander Mattschull and Daniel Keilwitz (#333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari), who left Silverstone empty handed. The same goes for reigning Pro-Am champion Michael Broniszewski (#11 Kessel Racing Ferrari), who is yet to score a win this season. All these full season competitors will have to deal with the driver pairing that are in the provisional runner-up position in the Sprint Cup standings, Carlo Van Dam and Piti Bhirombhakdi. With their spectacularly liveried #39 Kessel Racing TP12 Ferrari the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup rookies finished second in both the Misano and Brands Hatch main races and are aiming to go one better in Belgium.
For the first time in the 2017 Sprint Cup there will also be a competitor in the Am Cup. Endurance regulars Stephen Earle and David Perel will share the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 and will try to finish as high as possible in the overall results.
Dries Vanthoor (#5 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): “I must admit it feels a bit strange to say that this will be my first race in Zolder. I have done plenty of laps here, after all! I hope luck will be on our side this time, so we can get a good result. That would make me very happy, especially since there will be plenty of friends attending the race.”