Mugello; land of motorsport; ideal venue for the Ferrari Challenge World Finals; host of the last spectacle in the Maranello granturismo racing season. It was here, in the distant 1993, that the single brand began on the track owned by the Casa di Maranello, with the first meeting later renamed "All Ferraris on the track". For the 2017 Finals, the 25th anniversary of the Challenge was celebrated with an exhibition featuring several Kessel cars in the front row: 360 GTC, 430 Scuderia GT3 and 575 GTC, three glorious cars of the team were admired by the Maranello fans, before taking part in the closing parade on Sunday.
Kessel Racing bids farewell to the Ferrari Challenge 2017 after an extremely hard-fought and exciting season, on tracks across Europe with the usual level of commitment and an unequaled desire for victory. On Tuscan soil, the continental season ended, in addition to the World finals which have always given great emotions in all categories. In race one, held on Friday, Murat Cuhadaroglu was the best of the Grancia Team drivers, closing in his seventh position. Claudio Schiavoni and Fons Scheltema, respectively, finished seventeenth and nineteenth at the checkered flag. In the second race on Saturday, Cuhadaroglu improved his final position by finishing sixth, with Schiavoni thirteenth. Tough luck for Scheltema forced to retire after a few bends. At the end of the season at Mugello, Kessel was joined by Ferrari Long Island drivers; Christopher Cagnazzi in the Pirelli AM Trophy; and by Joseph Rubbo and Brian Kaminskey with the 458 EVO Challenge, for their last competitive appearance, on the occasion of the Mugello event.
Sunday, closing day of the long weekend, saw drivers compete for three World Finals with the 458 Challenge EVO, with Joseph Rubbo who won the last title driving the 458 Evo. Among the Shell Cup drivers, Scheltema and Cuhadaroglu finished ninth and thirteenth positions. With the Ferrari Challenge season concluded, there still remains a prestigious date in December with the 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi scheduled for the Yas Marina circuit.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "With Mugello, we close another season of the Ferrari Challenge, as always our point of reference. From the Challenge, many of our drivers' careers took off, after which they later distinguished themselves in Gran Turismo races. The Finals are always a wonderful event, where the Ferrari World meets up as if by magic, like last night at the gala dinner and today at the 70-year Ferrari celebration, where we proudly admired three cars developed and driven by my Father Loris. There is still an important appointment in our intensive calendar of 2017 races: Abu Dhabi, and then it will be time to start thinking about another year of racing.".
Another success for Kessel Racing, this time in the Michelin Le Mans Cup on the wonderful Portimao circuit. The Portuguese track is, among the more modern tracks, one of the most spectacular and most popular among drivers for those technical features that make it unique in the international motorsport calendar. Rich in natural undulations, the Algarve track was inaugurated in October 2008 and soon after entered the calendar of the most prestigious international races, both for two and four-wheel competitions.
This weekend, in Portugal, the Le Mans Series as well as the Michelin Cup came to an end. The Michelin Cup features endurance racing in the LMP3 class and the granturismo cars of the GT3 class. There were over twenty cars registered for the last test of the season, including the Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, entrusted to the team composed by Claudio Schiavoni and Andrea Piccini.
After winning fifth position among the GT cars on the starting line-up, Schiavoni and Piccini finished third in the two-hour race, adding another win to the Kessel trophy cabinet.
The joy of the podium at Portimao behind us, now the focus is on the Ferrari Challenge Europe, next weekend, at Mugello, which will be the seventh and final stage of the continental season, while Sunday's single race will see the two World Finals for the Shell Cup and Pirelli Trophy.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "Portimao has always been an extremely entertaining and fascinating track, which produces passionate races. A great performance by Claudio and Andrea winning a podium position for our car, which, they tell us, was also a great success for its livery. Now it is time to think about Mugello, where we are all called upon to make one final effort in a season which once again provided excitement and satisfaction. Follow us at Mugello and maybe come and cheer us on, everyone's support is fundamental to the success of our team. "
Barcelona and the Montmelò circuit hold important significance in Kessel Racing's competitive history. It was in 2009, in Barcelona, that a series of successes began in the GT Open, which lasted for four seasons, launching an era of successes in endurance granturismo racing, that continues to date. To the Kessel Racing Team’s honours, today we added Stephen Earle in the Iron Class of the GT Sports Club, David Perel in the combined driver standings for the GT Sprint and Endurance and Duyver-Perel-Zanuttini, as well as the entire Kessel Racing Team, in the Blancpain Endurance Series team rankings.
But let's take it in order, starting with the GT Sports Club first on the track in Barcelona's weekend racing. In Saturday's qualifying race, among the IRON class drivers, Stephen Earle came in second place in the Ferrari 458 GT3. A good performance too by Peter Goerke in the other Kessel Racing 458 GT3: the Swiss driver was ranked fifteenth overall. For the IRON title, everything was decided on Sunday's race and a one point lead for Earle among the remaining contenders was the situation going into the last battle of the season. A battle, however, that wasn’t fought due to rain, which had been falling heavily on the Catalan track since early in the morning. With flooding on numerous stretches and various cars doing one-eighties even under the safety-car, the race director soon ended the race, thus awarding the title to Earle.
In the afternoon, it was the final and decisive race of the Blancpain Endurance Series in which Kessel Racing contended for the title in the AM category, both in the driver and team standings. The race, which was contested by almost fifty GT3 cars, saw third place for Kessel Racing's crew Duyver-Perel-Zanuttini, who deservedly won the AM title, repeating the success of the 2016, as well as success in the teams. Solid race by the Bronisewki-Piccini pair, who finished fifth-place in the PRO-AMs.
Now that the Blancpain Endurance Series and the GT Sports Club seasons are closed with the satisfaction of success, the focus is on the sixth round of the Ferrari Challenge Europa next weekend at Imola, on the Circuit dedicated to Enzo and Dino Ferrari.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): Barcelona is certainly a special track for us. Today we celebrate important titles: Stephen Earle's in the GT Sport Club has a particular flavour because the “Doctor” has been with us for so many years and is still as motivated and combative as when he joined my father’s team. In the Blancpain Endurance Series, we repeated the success of last year in the AM class, for both the driver and the team titles. Fantastic! I am delighted for Jacques, David and Marco who have crowned a wonderful year and let’s not forget the contribution by Niki Cadei in the key victory in the Spa 24 Hours. Bronisenewski and Piccini were always competitive, even though they did not have a very easy season. Tonight, we are celebrating our drivers, but from tomorrow hearts and minds for the Ferrari Challenge Europa, which awaits us in a few days in Imola. "
Silverstone, home of UK motorsport and one of the most famous tracks in the world. But also the track where, in 1951, Ferrari began its legendary history in Formula One, with the first in a long series of victories stretching to this day. Today, it staged the season’s fifth round of the Ferrari Challenge Europa, which returns to the track after the long summer break. A weekend of red passion with the Challenge, the cars of the XX Programme and the single-seaters of Maranello’s F1 Clienti department, all contributed to the spectacle on the blindingly fast bends of the British track. A magnificent parade of Prancing Horse cars further adorned the meeting on Albion’s isle.
Kessel Racing team drivers battled on the track although, for everyone, it was a complicated weekend. The first Shell Cup race, which took place on Saturday, saw Fons Scheltema close in fifth place, while Claudio Schiavoni was 11th at the checkered flag, whereas Rick Lovat, currently on the virtual podium in the overall standings, came seventeenth. In his debut, both in Kessel Racing and in the Ferrari Challenge, Turkish driver Volkan Ekinci, finished tenth among the PRO-AMs.
The second race of the Shell Cup had an extremely aggressive start and Fons Scheltema confirmed his fourth position while Rick Lovat came in tenth. Claudio Schiavoni, unfortunately, had to stop after a few laps. In the Pirelli Trophy, Ekinci finished seventh in the category in a complex race, a good performance especially for a debut in such a high-performance car as the 488 and in a competitive environment like that of the Ferrari Challenge.
Although the satisfaction of a podium was missing, the Kessel team picked up important points at Silverstone as they began to gain numbers in view of the World Finals at the end of October. With the English leg out of the way, next up for the Ferrari Challenge Europa is scheduled for 15 days’ time at Imola, on the track dedicated to Enzo and Dino Ferrari, for the penultimate meeting of the 2017 calendar.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "It's been an exciting weekend as always and our drivers have shown guts and passion. We are now focusing on the upcoming commitments, starting with next week’s very important stage, when we will be competing in Barcelona in the last Blancpain Endurance Series of the season and in the GT Sports Club."
To end the 2017 season, the Blancpain GT Sprint Series final meeting was held at one of the most famous tracks on the European motor scene: the Nurburgring. The GP Strecke poses a challenge, laden with pitfalls, where driving skill makes all the difference in a championship that includes over thirty cars, all with similar characteristics.
After the trial session on Friday, Saturday saw the qualifying race, which saw Team HTP Motorsport and their Mercedes-AMG take overall victory with Perera and Buhk. In the "PRO-AM" class, the Bhirombhakdi-Van Dam team, with the Kessel Racing's Ferrari 488 GT3 won third place. Another win for Earle-Perel with the Ferrari 458 GT3 in the "AM" class, a category in which they had already been crowned Champions in the penultimate meeting in Budapest, during the last weekend of August.
Sunday's Main Race closed the Sprint Series season: in the "PRO-AM" class, an improving performance in the Ferrari 488 GT3, by Bhirombhakdi-Van Dam, who reached second. Our two drivers missed out on first place by mere points to be a very close category runner-up in the Sprint 2017. Stephen Earle and David Perel, however, came first overall, at the checkered flag.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "Today we closed the GT Sprint season, a season that saw us close with honour in second place among drivers, with Bhirombhakdi-Van Dam, and also as a Team in the PRO-AM class. I am very pleased with this first year of collaboration with our Thai team partner TP12 and I believe there is a basis for a lasting relationship. Earle-Perel and the Team enjoyed great success in the AM class, a success that extends what we saw in 2016 and which certainly enriches our trophy room in Lugano. The season has entered the decisive stage and we will be on track in Silverstone, next weekend, to do battle in the Ferrari Challenge. It will be a very important and emotional season end. "
After closing the GT Sprint season for the Blancpain Endurance Series, 2017 will be brought to a close with the last test, scheduled for Barcelona on the Montmelò circuit in two weeks, while next week the appointment is at Silverstone for the season’s fifth round of the Ferrari Challenge Europe.
With another race still to go in the 2017 season of the Blancpain championship, Kessel Racing secures its first title: at the Hungaroring in Budapest, the Ferrari 458 GT3 of Stephen Earle and David Perel added a new victory to the Swiss team’s list, claiming the title in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup, AM category! Last weekend, the Hungarian track - known for rewarding driving precision – saw the fourth leg of the GT Sprint series and the fifth of the GT Sports Club.
Saturday, among cars and drivers competing in the GT Sprint Qualifying Race were Piti Bhirombhakdi and Carlo Van Dam in second place in the PRO-AM class. Success, however, for Earle and Perel in the AM. A photocopy performance in the main race in the PRO AM class with another second place for Bhirombhakdi and Van Dam. In the GT Sports Club, the qualifying race on Saturday saw our Stephen Earle give it everything, as usual, finishing in fourth place overall, second in the Iron Cup. Alexis De Bernardi in the 458 GT3 finished the first race in overall seventh position.
The Main Race, which took place on Sunday, saw our Bhirombhakdi and Van Dam come within a hair’s breadth of a category win, missing out by a mere 0.371 seconds. After Budapest, the pair holds their very close second position in the overall rankings. Stephen Earle, with the AM title already in his pocket, also raced in the GT Sports Club, where he finished third overall and first in the Iron Cup. De Bernardi, after two hard-fought races, was sixth overall, but less than two seconds from third place. After the Budapest races, the overall ranking of the drivers sees Earle and De Bernardi in tenth and eleventh position. In the Iron Cup standings, after Budapest, Earle is ahead with a three point lead.
The next race in the GT Sprint is scheduled for mid-September on the German Nurburgring track, while, for the GT Sports Club the sixth and final seasonal round is scheduled for the end of September, on the Montmelò track in Barcelona.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "We finally came back to race after a few weeks off and could not have imagined a better return, thanks to our Stephen Earle and David Perel who bring home a new title for the team. Great work also from Bhirombhakdi and Van Dam in the PRO-AM, taking two podiums. Alexis De Bernardi also did well showing great desire and is getting closer to the championship elite. Now we go home and then we’ll again be concentrated on the season grand finale that awaits us."
Maranello, 23 August 2017 – The Ferrari Portofino is the new V8 GT set to dominate its segment
thanks to a perfect combination of sportiness, elegance and on board comfort.
Ferrari has chosen a particularly evocative moniker for this exceptionally versatile drop-top car, referencing one of Italy’s most beautiful towns. Portofino is renowned for its charming tourist port and, over the years, has become internationally synonymous with elegance, sportiness and understated luxury. The launch colour of the new Ferrari has also been dedicated to this marvellous town: Rosso Portofino.
Capable of unleashing a massive 600 cv and sprinting from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.5 seconds, the Ferrari Portofino is the most powerful convertible to combine the advantages of a retractable hard top, a roomy boot and generous cockpit space plus two rear seats suitable for short trips.
The Ferrari Portofino’s all-new chassis features a significant weight saving over the California T it replaces. Thanks to the extensive use of modern production technologies, all the chassis and body-in-white components have been redesigned with a consequent reduction in weight despite an increase in torsional rigidity.
The renowned Ferrari V8 turbo, part of the engine family that was nominated International Engine of the Year in both 2016 and 2017, now punches out 40 cv more than the California T’s power unit thanks to the adoption of new components and specific calibration of the engine management software. The characteristic Ferrari V8 soundtrack has also been further enhanced and can be fully appreciated, particularly in top-down driving.
All aspects of the 8-cylinder’s efficiency have been honed with the adoption of new pistons and con-rods, and a new intake system design. The geometries throughout the exhaust system have also been revolutionised. The new one- piece-cast exhaust header reduces losses, an important factor in ensuring Ferrari’s characteristic throttle response with zero turbo lag. These improvements, combined with the Variable Boost Management which adjusts torque delivery to suit the gear selected, enable the Ferrari Portofino to offer even higher levels of acceleration in all gears and lower fuel consumption compared to the outgoing model.
The Ferrari Portofino’s vehicle dynamic characteristics have been completely revised and benefit from the introduction of new technological solutions. For the first time on this type of Ferrari model, the third generation electronic rear differential (E-Diff3) has been adopted and integrated with the F1-Trac, improving both mechanical grip and the control of the car on the limit. The Ferrari Portofino is also the first GT in the range to be fitted with EPS (Electric Power Steering). This allowed the engineers to reduce the steering ratio by seven per cent for even more responsive steering without a trade-off in stability thanks to the integration with the E-Diff3. The magnetorheological damping system (SCM-E) has been uprated with dual-coil technology which helps reduce roll while simultaneously improving absorption of road surface unevenness. The result is an even more dynamic, responsive car that also delivers superior ride comfort.
The Ferrari Design Centre-penned Ferrari Portofino is an aggressively-styled car with a two-box fastback configuration – unprecedented in a coupé-convertible with a retractable hard top - that adds extra sleekness to its silhouette, lending it a sportier character without impinging on its elegance and dynamism.
Close collaboration between the Aerodynamics department and Ferrari Design has ensured maximum efficiency in the development of the surface treatment. Starting with the front, the form of the large radiator grille opening, that stretches from edge to edge of the carefully contoured nose, is underscored by a new full-LED headlight assembly with a more horizontal shape. The outside edge of the headlight hides an innovative air intake which vents into the front wheelarch and exits along the flank to reduce drag.
The tail design underlines the car’s sporty stance which has been further enhanced by placing the tail lights futher apart. This elegant solution cleverly conceals the rear volume housing the all-new RHT which features a more lightweight design and can be raised or lowered at low speeds.
A weekend of high adrenaline at Spa-Francorchamps for Kessel Racing, which once again asserted itself as a leader among the AMs, while Earle took two podiums in the GT Sports Club.
Unique emotions: Kessel Racing's AM team took category first place in the most difficult, challenging and hard fought GT race of the year, the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps! The Duyver-Zanuttini-Perel-Cadei team kept the lead for the whole day from start to finish: no slip-ups, no collisions, no unplanned stops. A true masterpiece for the Ferrari AM of the Swiss Kessel Racing team, repeating their victory of 2016. And that was not the only satisfaction this long and intense weekend of racing had to offer.
Less fortunate, however, was the pro-AM car, innocently caught up in a bad accident around ten hours from the end of the race. Matteo Cressoni was at the wheel of the number 11 car, when it was hit violently by a Lamborghini in the most demanding section of the circuit. Despite heavy damage to Ferrari, Cressoni was relatively unscathed and after a medical examination, was promptly discharged from hospital.
In the GT Sports Club, the classic two races took place, with the qualifiers on Friday, while the main race took place on Saturday before the 24 Hours got underway. In the Iron category, Stephen Earle with the 458 GT3 came third on both occasions, earning a well-deserved podium. Alexis De Bernardi had a less successful weekend, unfortunately victim of a slow puncture in the qualifying race and had to retire during the second stage of the main race. In the Iron Cup standings, Earle, with two races to go, lies in second place only two points from the leader, Frers.
Ronnie Kessel (team owner): "Winning a race and a championship is difficult, repeating it on a track like Spa, back to back, is nigh on fantastic. The team worked perfectly as usual, and the victory repaid the work put in. The drivers and the whole team deserved the applause they received from the wonderful SPA crowd. It was a pity about the other car, we were very worried about the accident this morning; thankfully Matthew is ok, which is the most important thing. At Spa we also competed in the GT Sports Club where our "Doctor" climbed the podium and is now only two points from the top of the standings. Alexis De Bernardi had a tough weekend, but is in great shape and will be back soon."
With the success of Spa under our belt, the Kessel Racing racing season takes a short summer break until the GT Sprint race at Hungaroring, scheduled for the Magyaran track at the end of August.
Season Fourth Round and Kessel Racing again asserts itself on the French Paul Ricard Track! Ferrari Challenge Europe 2017 is officially on a break until September, when it will return to Silverstone for the British stage, a tradition for the red mono. Even on French soil, the Challenge attracted the enthusiastic participation from its drivers and fans present, enticed by the Prancing Horse, which, this year, marks seventy years since its birth.
Kessel Racing, in France, fielded no less than seven cars, with Marc Muzzo, who joined Ettore Contini in the Pirelli Trophy in the AM class, while Claudio Schiavoni, Deborah a Mayer, Rick Lovat, Murat Cuharadoglu and Fons Scheltema were, as always, on the track in the Shell Cup.
Saturday, in Race One of the Pirelli Trophy, Marc Muzzo finished in fourth place, just missing the podium, in his first drive at Paul Ricard, while Ettore Contini finished his race in fifth place. In the Shell Cup, Race One saw Rick Lovat fourth, Scheltema fifth, Cuhadaroglu ninth place, eleventh was Schiavoni and Deborah Mayer came third among the Ladies.
Sunday, closing day weekend of the Provençale weekend, saw both categories contest the last races. In the Pirelli Trophy, in the AM class, Contini came in third-place and Marc Muzzo again finished in fourth place. In the Shell Cup, in the Gentlemen, veteran Fons Scheltema came fourth, Schiavoni fifth place and Lovat finished ninth.
With Paul Ricard behind us, Kessel Racing already has the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps on the horizon. Next weekend sees the fourth stage of the Blancpain Endurance Series with the "24 Hours", a prestigious endurance race which will attract over sixty GT3 class cars with over two hundred drivers, from all over the world.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "The track of Le Castellet is always the scene of great battles. Even when I drove in the Challenge it was a battle to the death with three or four other drivers. It’s always hot, made hotter by the dark asphalt, and if you push the car too much in the early stages, you are likely to find yourself in trouble. Our drivers did well, all of them important players in the 488 Challenge. Contini, after only a few races is already on the podium, as he was in the 430. Scheltema acquitted himself well, as did all the others. We now have the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps as our priority. We want to do well, as we have in recent seasons. Follow us and let us feel your support. On such an important occasion, that support will be crucial".
An intense weekend of racing has just come to an end. Kessel Racing competed at Paul Ricard in France, in the Blancpain Endurance Series and the GT Sports Club, while in Hungary, at the Hungaroring, the third round of the Ferrari Challenge Europe 2017 season took the stage.
BLANCPAIN GT SERIES IN LE CASTELLET
Paul Ricard saw the third Blancpain Endurance Series Seasonal Stage over 6 hours and the first satisfying result of the Kessel Racing weekend, with the category victory by the AM of Duyver-Perel-Zanuttini. Broniszewski-Rizzoli-Cressoni's PRO-AM car had earned pole position in their class, but during the race they were penalized by a long pit stop in the initial stages after a technical failure.
Paul Ricard, also saw the third round of the GT Sports Club. In Sunday's qualifying race sixth place for De Bernardi and 11th for Earle, ranked second among the Iron Cup drivers. The main race, which in fact closed the agonistic weekend in Provence, produced the fifth overall position for De Bernardi and Earle in fourteenth, but still second among the drivers of the special Iron Cup standings.
FERRARI CHALLENGE IN BUDAPEST
In Budapest, however, it was the third round of the Ferrari Challenge Europe: on Saturday, in the first Shell Cup race, Rick Lovat came third place, while Fons Scheltema had to drop out of the race a few corners from the checkered flag. In the Pirelli Trophy, Ettore Contini, returning to the Challenge after a few seasons off, finished fifth in the PRO-AM class. On Sunday, the in the final races, Contini finished in 6th place in the PRO-AM class in the Pirelli Trophy, while in the Shell Cup, Fons Scheltema reached fourth position, third among the Gentlemen, and Rick Lovat finished his race weekend in seventh.
With the double weekend of Paul Ricard and Budapest concluded for Kessel Racing, the next track meetings are set for Spa-Francorchamps for the tests preceding the "24 Hours" at the end of July; The Ferrari Challenge Europe, on the other hand, will be held on the weekend of 22 and 23 July on the French Paul Ricard track.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "It was certainly a red hot weekend and not just because of the temperatures. Delighted for the success of the Gentlemen car at Paul Ricard, while there is disappointment for what happened with the PRO-AM car which had shown to have deserved a place among the leaders. Happy also in the GT Sports Club where our drivers put on a great show as always. In Budapest we witnessed the return, after many seasons, of Ettore Contini who deserves a special applause for the positions obtained after so many seasons off, to appear once again in the Trofeo Pirelli. In Shell Cup there was a podium with Lovat in race one and other placings".
Red hot weekend for the Kessel Racing Team! The second stage of the Ferrari Challenge was held on the Monza circuit, the track that has written memorable pages of motorsport history, and which twenty-five years ago hosted the first race of the inaugural Ferrari Challenge.
Race 2 of the Shell Cup ended with two Kessel Racingí drivers on the podium! Great performance for Fons Scheltema and Deborah Mayer: Scheltema clinched pole position and came second overall, Deborah Mayer celebrated her best race this season and success among the Ladies. Lovat finished seventh, while Schiavoni came in fifteenth. Cuhadaroglu and Goerke were less fortunate, however, both out of the race after a few corners.
Race 1, on Saturday, took less results for the Kessel Racing team: Fons Scheltema finished sixth overall and first among the gentlemen, Lovat came in eighth place, ahead of Cuhadaroglu, ninth, eleventh was Schiavoni, twelfth Goerke, while Deborah Mayer came in thirteenth.
With the second seasonal meeting of the Ferrari Challenge Europe behind us, the third stage is already on the horizon at the Hungaroring in the fifteen days.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "Coming to Monza is always a great pleasure and evokes wonderful emotions. Our drivers and the whole team demonstrated great talent and Iíd like underline Deborah Mayer's success in the Ladies and the second-place finish by Fons Scheltema in race 2. In fifteen days, we will be back on the track in Budapest for the next exciting stage of the Ferrari Challenge".
After the season's opening race at Misano Adriatico, and the second round of the 2017 season at Brands Hatch, England, it was the turn of the Belgian track of Zolder to host the third race of the season of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup. The Belgian circuit is a spectacular old-style track, which hosted numerous F1 Grand Prix in the seventies and eighties, and for the last few years has been an invaluable stage for GT races.
Three Ferraris from the Kessel Racing Team raced at Zolder, including the number 11 car, which saw Broniszewski-Piccini become 2016 PRO-AM Champions, the number 39 car with Bhirombhakdi-Van Dam at the wheel, and the number 888 of the 458 GT3 with drivers Earle and Perel. Saturday's Qualifying Race saw the team put on a great performance with a stunning victory in the PRO-AM class for Bhirombhakdi-Van Dam and third place for Broniszewski-Piccini who drove a superb comeback race. Earle-Perel also took first place in the AM class. With Saturday's greatly satisfying results, Sunday's Main Race saw the return to success of the 2016 Champions, Broniszewski-Piccini, in the PRO-AM class, ahead of Bhirombhakdi-Van Dam and the AMG GT3 Mercedes of Beaubelique-Gounon. The AM class saw success for the 458 GT3 of Earle-Perel, who leave Belgium with two victories.
The Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup season will now take a break until the end of August after which the fourth race of the season will take place on the Hungaroring track just outisde Budapest.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "It was another weekend of great passion and great results, with victories in both the PRO-AM and AM classes. Special thanks to all the team, who worked, as always, in an exemplary fashion. The season has now reached a crucial moment with many overlapping appointments. The most important thing will be to stay focused and work with great passion, as always."
The 25th season of the Ferrari Challenge took place at the "Ricardo Tormo" circuit in Cheste, a village near Valencia. The races on Spanish soil saw the start of a new era for the 488 Challenge in the single-brand trophy of the Prancing Horse. Around 40 cars from the old continent, as well as some 458 Evos, gave life to a thrilling weekend with the first laps of the brand new 8-cylinder turbo berlinetta of the Prancing Horse, a new protagonist in the Ferrari Challenge.
Kessel Racing's team in Valencia was made up of fresh faces and likeable past drivers with six cars in the Shell Cup with Fons Scheltema, Rick Lovat, Murat Cuharadoglu, Claudio Schiavoni, Deborah Mayer and Peter Goerke at the wheel.
After testing and the free practice sessions on Friday, Saturday saw the program of the first round come to life with qualifications and race one, thirty minutes long, as usual, as has been the case for the last seasons. The race was won by Johnny Laursen (Formula Racing), ahead of Lovat, second, who had a lengthy duel with Cheung (Formula Racing). Schiavoni got a superb fourth place finish, Scheltema finished in seventh position, Cuhadaroglu in ninth, Deborah Mayer in fourteenth, while Goerke finished in sixteenth position.
The second race, which brought the Spanish weekend to a close, saw the dominance of Rick Lovat, who got pole position and then went on to lead the race from start to finish with the chasers finishing far behind. Scheltema finished his weekend in Valencia in 6th place, Schiavoni came 8th and Cuhadaroglu came 14th, ahead of Goerke and Deborah Mayer.
The next event with the Ferrari Challenge Europa will be held at the Monza National Race track the second weekend in June.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "It was a great weekend that was characterised by high commitment what with having to get to grips with an amazing car that is the 488 Challenge, which we knew nothing about until Valencia. Lovat got off to a good start with two very tense races. The other drivers were not bad either, so we expect a lot from them during the season. See you at Monza, our home track, in less than a month. We're hungry to produce great results there too, so that is exactly what we're preapring for."
Big emotional races for Kessel Racing at Silverstone, which took centre-stage for the second seasonal event of the Blancpain Endurance Series and the GT Sports Club.
The GT Sports Club opened the weekend proceedings at Silverstone with the qualifying race, the first race of the weekend: Alexis De Bernardi outqualified Fons Scheltema and took seventh place for Kessel Racing, with Scheltema coming ninth with Stephen Earle behind him in tenth position and first among the Iron Cup drivers. In the Main Race, which brought Saturday's racing at Silverstone to an end, the Kessel team took sixth place with De Bernardi's Ferrari, and eighth with Scheltema, while Earle came first once again in the Iron Cup.
The main event on Sunday involved the Blancpain Endurance Series with the second round of the season. The number 11 car had little luck in the PRO-AM class, driven by the Broniszewski/Rizzoli/Cressoni crew, which was hit within seconds by the number 2 Audi and had to endure a long time in the box that compromised the end result. However, the number 888 car with drivers Duyver/Perel/Zanuttini took a splendid second place, which, thanks to getting on the podium at Silverstone, has revived their championship hopes.
Now that this English chapter has come to an end, the racing calendar will now take the Endurance Series to France and the Paul Ricard circuit at the end of June.
Ronnie Kessel (Team Owner): "It was without a doubt an intense and exciting weekend. In the GT Sports Club we won both races with Earle in the Iron Cup, while De Bernardi and Scheltema put on a great show in two intense races. In the Endurance Series, our drivers in the AM class were outstanding and came second after a wonderful race, whereas our PRO-AM drivers had their race spoilt within seconds whilst jostling with others. We are now focusing on the upcoming races with this coming Sunday being the next one with the first stage of the Ferrari Challenge on the circuit of Valencia".
For two weekends in a row England is the stage for the Blancpain GT Series races, with two major meetings at Brands Hatch for the GT Series Sprint Cup, and a week later the Blancpain Endurance Series will take place at Silverstone.
Brands Hatch, a historic British track just outside London, was the first of the two British races, which took place on a very technical and demanding track. After the various practice sessions on Saturday, Sunday saw two races take place, which, like always in this part of the world, attracted huge crowds.
Sunday morning's "Qualifying Race" saw Van Dam's yellow car quickly hit a problem right from the start by suffering a puncture due to contact in the first corners, while Piccini produced an amazing comeback from the back that rewarded him with third place in his class. After the "pit stop", which included a driver change, Bhirombhakdi/Van Dam got up to third place, while Broniszewski/Piccini had to bring an early end to their race due to contact with the CasË car that consequently sent them off-track. Bhirombhakdi/Van Dam were once again on the podium in the afternoon race by taking second place in the PRO-AM class. Less fortunate were Broniszewski/Piccini whose performance led them to taking fifth place in their class. With the season's second race at Brands Hatch over and done with, the Blancpain GT Series calendar has scheduled the third round in early June on the Belgian track of Zolder.
Ronnie Kessel: "An obviously very difficult weekend, which saw us take two podiums with Bhirombhakdi and Van Dam, while Broniszewski and Piccini, despite their usual speed, had to come to a stop against their own will, which this weekend meant they finished far away from the Podium. But they will be back soon. We are getting ready for the upcoming challenges of the GT Series at Zolder but our focus is now on Silverstone, another Blancpain race in England, this time in the Endurance Series that will see us on track at Silverstone next weekend."
The 2017 edition of the Blancpain Endurance Series started with the traditional meeting at the Monza National Racing circuit. With over fifty racing cars and one hundred and fifty drivers from all over the world, the S.R.O. sponsored series on the Lombard track confirmed the impressive spectacle that has been with it since the very first edition.
Kessel Racing's weekend came to a close with a splendid second place for the "PRO-AM" car driven by Broniszewski-Rizzoli-Cressoni, which was tipped by Oman Racing Team's Aston Martin with Al Harthy and Adam at the wheel. The "AM" car of Duyver-Perel-Zanuttini was less fortunate in the race; it was involved, at no fault of its own, in a big pile-up that marked the first start, which forced Race Control to delay the race to allow the track to be cleared following the ten car crash.
Now that the season's first race at Monza has been wrapped up, the Blancpain Endurance Series calendar is looking forward to the second race of the season in mid-May at Silverstone, England.
Ronnie Kessel: "It was an extremely exciting weekend with both our cars and drivers being competitive right form the get-go. The "PRO-AM" car got a fantastic second place, while it is obviously a great disappointment that the AM car was involved in the accident at the start at no fault of its own. But the season is long and there will be time to redeem ourselves, starting with Silverstone in mid-May. "
Misano Adriatico and its race track, dedicated to Marco Simoncelli, officially marked the beginning of Kessel Racing's competitive season with the first round of the Blancpain GT Series and GT Sports Club. Following on from excellent results in 2016, it is now time to once again compete in the various series, which the team from Grancia will also compete in this year.
Blancpain GT Sprint.
There were two Ferraris 488 GT3s in the Sprint Series race: one with Michael Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini, 2016 PRO-AM champions, who will try to set the mark once again as champions in their class and, in this same class, Kessel Racing lined up Piti Bhirombhakdi and Carlo Van Dam, both of them on their debut in this championship.
GT Sport Club.
Two confirmations and two new faces in the GT Sport Club: alongside Stephen Earle and Alexis De Bernardi, who have for many years been on the starting lines with our cars, were Deborah Mayer and Claudio Schiavoni, who raced and won the Abu Dhabi Gulf 12 Hours last December. With their 458 GT3, they were ready to compete with highly competitive rivals.
The GT Sprint Qualifying Race took place on Saturday night and saw Kessel Racing victorious with the success of Broniszewski-Piccini, with Bhirombhakdi and Van Dam crossing the finish line in second position. In the Main Race Bhirombhakdi and Van Dam achieved second place in the PRO-AM class, whereas the 2016 champions Broniszewski and Piccini finished their race in fourth position in the PRO-AM class after contact with an Audi. In the GT Sports Club races, Stephen Earle crossed the checkered flag in third position in the IRON class during the first race on Saturday. The other drivers put on a good show too with De Bernardi finishing in seventh place, Schiavoni in sixteenth and Deborah Mayer in nineteenth position. Stephen Earle won in the IRON class during the race on Sunday and De Bernardi came tenth. Fifteenth position for Schiavoni and seventeenth for Deborah Mayer.
RONNIE KESSEL (Team Principal): The first race of the year is always the most difficult because you need to find confidence once again in the track, the car and the team. In the GT Sprint Qualifying Race we did really well and achieved first and second places. We could have repeated this today, in race two, if only we hadnít had a puncture. It was also a great weekend in the GT Sports Club, with Earle winning in race two and stepping onto the podium in race one. The other drivers did well too, by demonstrating great determination once again. I am also very happy to have a ìladyî in the team for the first time in Kessel Racing history.
The next Blancpain GT Series race will take place on 22nd and 23rd of April at Monza.