Excitement is all-but guaranteed as no fewer than 17 Blancpain GT World Challenge America GT3 cars from six different manufacturers will descend on Virginia International Raceway this weekend.
The field for the double-header World Challenge weekend includes defending race winners, previous series champions and factory drivers who will line up for the pair of two-driver, 90m races on VIR’s spectacular 17-turn, 3.27-mile grass verged road course.
In addition, Mercedes-AMG and Ferrari will each nominate four drivers to collect points for the global Blancpain GT World Challenge.
In the Pro class, there are two crews tied at the top of the standings: Reigning champions Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina got their title defense off to a fine start in the Circuit of The Americas season opener with a commanding Race 2 victory coupled to a fourth in Race 1. The R. Ferri Motorsport duo will be looking to build on those results in their Ferrari 488 GT3 by taming the only track at which they didn’t claim an overall victory last season.
Joint championship leaders Rodrigo Baptista and Maxime Soulet, on the other hand, have a winning history at VIR. The K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 pair will be seeking to repeat their win from 12 months ago in a bid to draw clear in the points.
The other K-PAX crew features the equally formidable pairing of Andy Soucek (who like Soulet is a Bentley works driver) and Portuguese ace Alvaro Parente. After taking two second-place finishes at COTA, they are keen to go one better at VIR with their yellow-trimmed Continental.
Another team entering two cars this weekend is Alegra Motorsports with a pair of Porsche 911 GT3 Rs destined for Germans Wolf Henzler and Marco Holzer (sharing the No. 24) and the American/Canadian pairing of Michael De Quesada and Daniel Morad (No. 22).
The Pro field is filled out by the Wright Motorsports Porsche, drivers Patrick Long and Scott Hargrove to go one or two better than their brace of third-place finishes in Texas.
A total of nine cars will lock horns in what is shaping up to be an intriguing Pro-Am class battle.
Multiple World Challenge title-winning team RealTime Racing rejoins the World Challenge fray with an Acura NSX GT3 Evo to be driven by the accomplished Dane Cameron and Bret Curtis, squad returning to GT3 after spending 2018 competing in TCR.
Following their Race 2 win at COTA, Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli will arrive at VIR as championship leaders. Marcelli impressed by putting the Racers Edge Motorsports Acura on the overall pole in the previous race and will, like many other drivers in Pro-Am, be hoping to mix it with the top-class runners once again.
Gradient Racing also has an Acura listed for Ryan Eversley and Till Bechtolsheimer who sit third in the standings, just ahead of Wright Motorsports Porsche driver Anthony Imperato.
Imperato will have a new co-driver this weekend in Australian hotshot Matt Campbell, who helped guide Porsche to victory in this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour and who will be making his Blancpain GT World Challenge America debut.
Former IndyCar racer Alex Barron and his driving partner Kevan Millstein will be at the helm of the K2R Motorsports Porsche, while BMW is represented by Cameron Racing’s M6 GT3 for Henry Schmitt and Greg Liefooghe.
DXDT Racing has two Mercedes-AMG GT3s entered: the Utah-based squad’s No. 04 will be driven by Colin Braun and George Kurtz, with Ryan Dalziel and David Askew in the No. 63 sister machine.
One11 Competition is also on the Pro-Am grid with its Ferrari 488 GT3 for Alfred Caiola and Matt Plumb.
Two Ferraris make up the Am class sub-plot, with Christopher Cagnazzi and Brian Kaminsky aiming to halt the momentum of Martin Fuentes and Caeser Bacarella who swept the COTA weekend in their tricolored 488 GT3.
Track action kicks off on Friday April 26 with two 60m practice sessions ahead of qualifying at 10:35 a.m. EDT on Saturday morning.
The first of two 90m races gets underway Saturday at 2:10 p.m. EDT followed by the second race at 1:15 p.m. EDT on Sunday afternoon.
Both races and qualifying will be streamed live on gt-world-challenge-america.com, with Sunday’s contest to be shown live on CBS Sports.