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Growth in GTC at Imola
Now seven in class

The introduction of a GTC class for GT3 cars in European ACO racing had shown some potential in the opening round of the series at Silverstone.  Only three cars had committed then but those ranks had swelled to seven for Round 2.

SMP Racing were to thank for three-quarters of those new entries.  A trio of immaculately prepared Ferrari F458 Italia GT3s differentiated only by neon coloured wing mirrors, present a unified front under the control of the experienced Benjamin Durand.

Serguey Zlobin, sharing the #72 car with Maurizio Mediani and Boris Rotenberg, was also put forward as the spokesperson for the team (albeit through a translator).

“We’re here for two reasons. The team is very new and we have a plan for next year and that is Le Mans.  This year our main plan is Blancpain, but our view is that being at any race is better than being at a private test.  Also, doing a race under the “Le Mans” banner like the European Le Mans Series is a step closer to the 24 hours.  Hopefully by doing this race we will get some coverage back in the Russian media to get the SMP Racing, Ferrari and Le Mans word out.

“We do not only have these three cars here, we have a big world programme.  We have two Formula Renault 3.5s racing in the world series, two Formula Abarths in Italy, three cars in the Renault 2 litres and four cars in the Blancpain series.  We also took part in the GT Open.  All of our programmes are intended to allow drivers to start from karting and go on to the higher levels.

“SMP bank has supported racing from 2004 when they sponsored the Minardi team in F1 then through to 2005 and into GT1 with the JMB Maserati MC12.  We must also thank the Russian Automobile Federation, which has been very supportive of what we are trying to do.  This is not just about the car, the team and the equipment, this is about trying to improve Russian drivers and bring more Russian spectators, get more people back home interested in motor racing.

“We see this as a totally Russian team.  [Laughing] Even Maurizio Mediani (#72) is a two time Russian F3 champion and Fabio Babini (#69) raced for three seasons in Russian F3 so they are all Russian too!

“As for the rest of the ELMS season, we will have to see.  Our focus is Blancpain but it depends on the condition of the cars and seeing if we have the time to do any re-building and preparation that might be needed between races.”

The other addition is the intriguingly named Kox Racing team with their very shiny Gallardo LP600 GT3.  The explanation came from Peter Kox: “The idea is to have our customers at Reiter race under our names.  This is because there will be more collaboration between Reiter and the Lamborghini factory going forward, more of a partnership.  We do not want to be seen as racing against our customers.  In the Blancpain series for example we run under the Blancpain name, in ADAC under Leipert, a long-term customer.  We want it to be clear as to what will be the factory input and what will be the customer programmes.  In the FIA GT, with two professional drivers, that will be under the Reiter name and will be fully supported.

“The team structures are a bit different but the name does not mean that I have set up my own base.  If you like, the teams are all under the umbrella of Reiter, who still build the cars and provide an excellent product that is competitive in every championship it has raced in.  The Gallardo is the most successful GT3 car in that respect and 98 have been sold now.  Number 100 is already in build.

“This car is a 2012 car which was raced a few times in the GT Open with me and Nico Pronk.  We had a red coloured car before, but it was a wrap rather than a full paint job like this, this looks great.  We have had a good meeting so far at Imola with it and have changed the car a little bit overnight and during qualifying too and it is looking good for the race on what is, to me, one of the most beautiful tracks.”

Paul Slinger