Blancpain GT Endurance Series: Meet the Drivers (Part Two)

Part two of our introduction to the Blancpain Endurance Brits, who are all in action this weekend at Silverstone. This follows the first part, which was published yesterday and can be found here.

Michael Meadows
#35 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 (G)
Vitaly Petrov, Denis Bulatov

30-year-old Meadows has been on the BES scene since 2014 as part of Stuart Leonard-led Leonard Racing team. This followed two Carerra Cup titles. A 2016 campaign with the crack WRT Audi squad yielded few returns but since moving to AKKA ASP and their Mercedes-AMG GT3s in 2017, success has been closer. Four sprint championship podiums signify some burgeoning speed, while a pairing with – amongst others – former Formula 1 driver Vitaly Petrov in the SMP-backed car suggests potential for results in this series.

Chris Buncombe
#42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (B – Pro-Am Cup)
Nick Leventis, Lewis Williamson

39-year-old Buncombe – the older of the two brothers – has been on and off the sportscar/GT scene for a number of years and has tried his hand at a number of series. His most recent drives of note prior to 2018 were RJN Nissan GT Academy team his brother Alex races for now, way back in 2013. This was a one-off Spa 24 drive where the car did not finish.

Nick Leventis
#42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (B – Pro-Am Cup)
Chris Buncombe, Lewis Williamson

The man behind Strakka Racing, Leventis has overseen his team moving from McLaren to Mercedes GT3 machines for 2018 and already the results are looking promising. Leventis endured a big smash at Monza last year in this series but has certainly bounced back and will be hoping for a strong home finish this weekend.

Lewis Williamson
#42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (G – Pro-Am Cup)
Chris Buncombe, Nick Leventis

At 28 – and with Red Bull backing and BRDC Autosport Award success now some years behind him, you would be forgiven if you thought Williamson’s career has ground to a halt. Far from it. He has shown remarkable pace in GT machinery over the past two years and is gradually proving to be one of the quickest drivers on the BES scene. A best finish of 8th will soon improve for sure and with Strakka backing behind him, who knows how far this career turn will take him.

Oliver Rowland
#44 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (P)
Adrien Tambay, Thomas Jager

What a month for GP2 race winner Rowland. It began with the 25-year-old kicking his heels at the WEC opener at Spa due to a shortage of money for his Manor team. Since then, the Barnsley-born man has tested for Williams Formula 1 and did not look out of place amongst exalted company, despite being in the troublesome Grove car. This will mark Rowland’s first appearance in sportscar machinery, as he replaces the poorly Christian Vietoris in, what is for now, a one-race deal.

Darren Burke
#49 Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (B – Pro-Am Cup)
Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey

Bronze-rated Burke has a background in Radicals as well as a strong 2016/17 campaign in the Asian LMS series, where he finished second in a strong LMP3 category. This race marks his Blancpain debut and the strength of his line-up suggest they should be able to challenge for Pro-Am Cup honours.

Euan Hankey
#49 Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (G – Pro-Am Cup)
Salih Yoluc, Darren Burke

Hankey has remarkable sportscar experience for someone who is just 31. As well as racing Aston Martins in the GTE Am category of the WEC, he has also been spotted in the GT Open and ELMS series. 2018 sees him participate in the BES programme in a RAM Racing Mercedes and, judging by the pace of the car in practice and pre-qualifying, he will be hoping to surpass his best finish in the series, which was a 15th recorded at Spa last year.

Duncan Cameron
#51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 (B – Pro-Am Cup)
Matt Griffin

2015 Pro-Am champion Cameron is back with his Ferrari, alongside his Irish partner-in-crime Matt Griffin. The 46-year-old likes to keep himself busy, what with a parallel ELMS campaign too. The Bronze driver is a consistently able performer in Blancpain races and will be hoping to repeat his success of three years ago.

Ben Barnicoat
#58 Garage 59 McLaren 650 S GT3 (G)
Come Ledogar, Andrew Watson

It’s hard to believe that Barnicoat is still only 21, suggesting he has started what, in theory, should be a long and productive career in GT racing. Having won karting and Formula Renault titles as a teenager, the Chesterfield-born racer made the switch to GTs back towards the end of a disappointing Formula 3 campaign in 2016, with a one-race show for WRT. 2017 saw a tie-up with McLaren and Williamson showed his speed with one fastest lap in both the Spring and Endurance series. 2018 sees a continuation with the McLaren programme, with Barnicoat hoping to beat a previous best finish of 10th.

Andrew Watson
#58 Garage 59 McLaren 650 S GT3 (S)
Ben Barnicoat, Come Ledogar

He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere. Watson is running a dual Blancpain campaign in 2018, racing in a 3Y Technology BMW in the Sprint Series as well as with Garage 59 in their McLaren entry. The Northern Irish racer and BRDC Rising Star is no slouch behind the wheel, even if results do not necessarily reflect that.

Phil Keen
#82 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (G)
Rolf Ineichen, Franck Perera

Phil Keen
2018 marks the first season Keen has turned out for the Grasser team, those doyens of GT3 Lamborghini racing. It is just reward for some consistent driving in the British GT3 in a Huracan over recent years, as well as strong performances in the GT Open Series too. In his first BES race with the team at Monza, Keen and his co-drivers finished 20th. No doubt the Reading-born man will be wanting to do better than this on his home track.

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