Six things to look out for at Monza GT
This weekend, the iconic parkland circuit of Monza in northern Italy will host the opening round of GT World Challenge Europe, the first of 10 race weekends in the most competitive GT racing series in the world. And for the 11th consecutive year, the championship is supplied by Pirelli.
Having missed out on a place in the eventual calendar last year – due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic – Monza makes its welcome return for the first time since 2019 and is sure to throw up some excellent racing, high-speed thrills and plenty of unpredictability after a long off-season.
And there's plenty more happening this weekend too, wherever you look. Here are six reasons why you should be following the action at Monza:
BUMPER ENTRY FOR OPENING ENDURANCE CUP RACE
A total of 44 cars across nine brands will be represented for the opening round of the season, which will be a three-hour race held on Sunday. Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche will all be battling each other around the ‘Temple of Speed' that is the Monza circuit this weekend, with 17 cars entered in the Pro category alone. Added to that, there will be a fiercely contested fight in the competitive Silver Cup category, as well as the Pro-Am and Am classes throughout the weekend.
NEW DAWN FOR GT2 MACHINERY AS INAUGURAL SERIES KICKS OFF
In order to create a streamlined ladder for GT racing, the GT World Challenge Europe organisers (the SRO Group, led by Stephane Ratel) have introduced a new-for-2021 European based series specifically reserved for GT2 machinery. The standardised regulations are sure to make for a competitive and exciting “junior” series below the top-tier GT3 championship and will feature brands such as Aston Martin, Audi, Lamborghini, Mercedes and Porsche. The first ever round will take place at Monza, through two one-hour races on Saturday and Sunday. A moment of history, and one which is well worth watching as the new series provides a stepping stone for tomorrow's next big sportscar aces. These cars are on paper more powerful than GT3 cars, although they have less complex aerodynamics. Around Monza, in the right hands, they have the potential to be even faster than GT3 machines.
STYLE AND POWER PERSONIFIED IN LAMBORGHINI ONE-MAKE SERIES
Another support series to watch out for this weekend is the one-make Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe, which also kicks off its 2021 season at Monza. All drivers use spec V10 Lamborghini Huracán ST Evo cars which are capable of achieving up to 620hp and a top speed of around 320kph. There are four separate classes in Super Trofeo: Pro, Pro-Am, Am and Lamborghini Cup, and each class is supplied by Pirelli – just as all Lamborghini road cars use P Zero tyres too. Each class represents a certain level of experience level, with Lamborghini Cup reserved for racing newcomers. Past Super Trofeo drivers have included the likes of Dorian Boccolacci, Conor Daly, Chris van der Drift, Dean Stoneman and Emanuele Pirro.
HIGH-SPEED BLASTS THROUGH THE PARK
One thing that's guaranteed in every category is that Monza dishes up some of the highest speeds in motor racing. Although quite different to its original banked oval format from the early 20th century, Monza still retains much of its character through the long, flat-out straights and tricky chicanes. There are a number of overtaking opportunities throughout the lap, most notably under heavy braking for the first chicane at the start of the lap. The second chicane is also a popular place for overtaking, as is the Ascari chicane and the final turn. Many of these overtaking manoeuvres are created either through effective slipstreaming – which Monza is famous for – or by a mistake for the car in front coming out of the previous corner.
BIG NAME ATTRACTIONS AND FACTORY EFFORTS
The GT3 class is entirely customer-based, meaning that no official manufacturer entries are allowed. However, in reality, manufacturers partner with private teams who in turn operate a factory-supported entry, most often with official factory-backed drivers. Naturally, this means that the biggest names are competing each weekend.
Leading the effort for defending overall Teams' champions Audi is Dries Vanthoor, Kelvin van der Linde and Charles Weerts, while Mercedes has split their efforts between AKKA ASP (Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon) and HRT (Vincent Abril, Maro Engel and Luca Stolz).
For 2019 GT World Challenge Europe champions Lamborghini, FFF Racing has recruited the services of former Audi driver Mirko Bortolotti to partner fellow factory drivers Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli, while Emil Frey Racing will field two factory drivers in the form of Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoè.
For Ferrari, the Iron Lynx team makes its GT World Challenge debut this season and replaces AF Corse as the factory supported entry for the Prancing Horse. Ex-Formula 2 drivers Callum Ilot and Antonio Fuoco join forces with Davide Rigon, while defending Endurance Cup champion Alessandro Pier Guidi teams up with Come Ledogar and Nicklas Nielsen.
Porsche is the ubiquitous threat and has talent all across its driver rosters, with Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet joining former factory driver and Le Mans overall winner Earl Bamber at GPX Racing.
BATTLES THROUGHOUT THE FIELD IN VARIOUS CLASSES
The action isn't just at the front. GT World Challenge Europe has many battles all the way down the field in each of its classes. Pro class cars generally fight at the sharp end, but Pro-Am drivers have shown throughout the years that the talent is just as strong in the perceived second-tier class in the series. Likewise in the Silver Cup which has proven to be more than a match for the Pro class runners. Last year, the Sainteloc Racing Audi duo of Steven Palette and Simon Gachet took an overall victory at Magny-Cours while many others have been in podium contention throughout the history of the series.