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Blancpain - A GT Series going from strength to strength

Blancpain A GT Series going from strength to strength

Just as big names were announcing their departure from other motor racing series, the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps showed a Blancpain GT Series in rude health.

On the flight to attend the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race on this year’s Blancpain Endurance Series calendar I read (in the Financial Times, of all places) that Porsche were abandoning the LMP-1 class and thus their participation in Le Mans in favour of the FIA Formula E championship. This followed on from the news that Mercedes-Benz were quitting their home DTM championship, also in favour of Formula E. With Volvo having announced in the same month that it would no longer produce pure petrol or diesel engines from as early as 2019, the trend towards the development of hybrid and electric vehicles is unmistakable.

You could be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that the mood at the Total 24 Hours at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium would be gloomy, but nothing could be further from the truth. With 63 cars on the grid from the main British, German and Italian supercar manufacturers, and over 90,000 spectators over the weekend, the event was as popular ever. If anything, it gains importance as a race where all the major manufacturers are present. And what benefits the GT Series also benefits its title sponsor and official timekeeper Blancpain, which has been supporting the series since 2010 and has seen it evolve from the Blancpain Endurance Series to the Blancpain GT Series, including both sprint and endurance races. Such is the popularity of the series, in fact, that an off-shoot has been formed in Asia this year, also under the patronage of Blancpain.

A GT Series going from strength to strength

© Georges de Coster

The association between high-end traditional watchmaking from Blancpain and cutting-edge motorsport emerged thanks to the passion of the brand’s CEO Marc Hayek, who drove in the series for a few seasons. But from a commercial point of view the approach was a canny one, taking the same lines as Rolex’s involvement in Formula 1. As both title sponsor and official timekeeper, Blancpain is above any individual affiliations with teams, which is why the end of its partnership with Lamborghini will have little effect on its presence at the races, where the Blancpain name is visible on all the cars, around the track and on all the TV graphics.

A GT Series going from strength to strength

© Georges de Coster

Spending a weekend following a 24-hour race gives you the opportunity to see that this is much more than simply signing an agreement and putting your name to a race. Unlike Rolex, Blancpain dispatches a dedicated team from Swiss Timing (the Swatch Group’s timekeeping arm) to provide the timekeeping and TV graphics service for every race. The team includes an FIA licenced motorsport timekeeper (a requirement from the organisers) who even has experience in Formula 1 from back when Longines were the official timekeeper (1982-1992). The real-time data comes from transponders in each car (plus two back-up systems: a photocell on the finish line and a high-speed camera scanning the finish line). Through its long-standing association with the series, Blancpain can also offer guests the full GT Series experience, including hot laps, pit stops and luxury facilities in its dedicated hospitality suite, where the brand can welcome clients, press and even the odd driver. I spotted the BBC’s Top Gear presenter and McLaren driver Chris Harris having lunch there after his final stint in the Garage 59 McLaren 650S.

A GT Series going from strength to strength

© Georges de Coster

Lecture 1 Comment(s)

8 August 2017
Thierry Gindraux
Great! congratulation for your article. See you next year in spa? Best regards. thierry
8 August 2017
Merci beaucoup Thierry. Mais avec plaisir!

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