December 30th, 2015 by Paul Slavonik
With the qualification for the upcoming Blancpain GT World Championship Series now complete, the dust can finally settle as the Blancpain Endurance Series returns to its normal 12-week format.
As Season 1 of 2016 kicked off, the series returned to the Netherlands for three-hours of sim-racing along the 2.67 mile road course known as Circuit Park Zandvoort.
With the return to the standard Blancpain Endurance format, the rule of solo drivers also returns and who better to capitalize on this than GT3 star Luigi Nespolino of Team GT. Driving the RUF RT 12R, Nespolino drove a successful race in a Strength of Field (SoF) event of 3137 where he began in sixth. Through both attrition and skillful wheel-work, Nespolino worked his way to the lead early on and led 90 of the 112 laps on his way to victory. To top it all off, Nespolino won with a margin of over 42 seconds.
Taking home 194 championship points, Nespolino heads into Week 2 as the man to beat.
From Russia with speed
There’s no questioning the fact that Mikhail Kuznetsov is quick. Even as such, the fast Russian went from pole to checkered flag in a SoF race of 3185. Qualifying at the pointy end with a time of 1:35.917, Kuznetsov drove his McLaren MP4 to victory after leading 105 laps and gathered up 185 championship points in the process. Despite the fact that only three of the 20 cars finished on the lead lap in this particular race, Kuznetsov kept his nose out of trouble and went on to further solidify the fact that solo drivers are the top threat in this series.
MSP Drivers Home #95
Lukas Jestädt, Reto Hartmann and Julien Grünastel of MSP Drivers Home #95 proved to be the only bonafide team to make it to the Round 1 podium. Driving their BMW Z4, the trio participated in the same SoF race as Nespolino but started a little further back in eighth.
Although Nespolino was able to break away for the win, the MSP drivers fought their way up to finish in second by the end of the race. A hard-fought race against a competitive field, MSP also brought 187 points back to their Drivers Home as they prepare for the next round of racing.
Christmas in California
While most of us are wondering what goodies Jolly ol’ Saint Nick will park under our Christmas trees, the iRacing.com Blancpain Endurance Series teams are preparing for the next round which will be held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Located in sunny Monterey, California, the nearly 2.3 mile circuit always guarantees close racing and the infamous Andretti Hairpin will surely be busy. Still, it’s early days in Season 1 and much is still up in the air in regards to championships. Even so, that will do little to quell the action which is certain unfold.