12 April, 2012
With just days to go before the opening round of the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series in Monza, Italy, the anticipation is building amongst the huge entry list of teams campaigning the best GT3 cars offered by the world's luxury motor manufacturers. Lining up for the series for the first time will be Gulf Racing UK.
The UK-based GT racing team, currently located in Bookham, Surrey, will be entering two McLaren MP4-12C GT3 cars, both of which will be running in the iconic Gulf Oil International colours. The team's driver line-up will be spearheaded by McLaren GT works driver and double Le Mans Series GT Champion, Rob Bell, who will be driving the No. 9 entry with one of the team's co-owners, Swiss-based Michael Wainwright. The No. 69 team entry will be led by young, Surrey-based driver Stuart Hall together with team co-owner, Roald Goethe. The German driver, when not travelling on business, or racing, is based in Dubai, UAE.
One of the first teams to reveal last August that it had been selected by McLaren GT to champion its exciting new-generation GT3 cars, Gulf Racing UK will be continuing with the same race management team as 2011 under the direction of David Price.
With potentially 60 cars taking the start of the three-hour race on Sunday, McLaren GT Works Driver Rob Bell is enthusiastic about being part of such a buoyant championship: "The Blancpain Endurance Series is still quite new in terms of GT championships, and everyone's keen to do it. The organisers seem to have got their formula right so far and it's attracted good teams and manufacturers who all want to win. With the level of driver entries too, I'd say it's second to none in terms of GT series around the world.
"To succeed with that many cars and against some top level drivers will be very hard work which is exactly why we all do it and why we want to be there. It's too early to tell who might be dominant, and our Pro-Am class is also a balance-performance reliant category so we may not know who's quick or not until after the first race."
With Bell having done pre-season testing for McLaren GT, he is well placed to recognise the potential within the McLaren MP4-12C GT3. "The car feels fantastic to drive but it's still early days in its racing life and we are all keen to help push the programme forward. I think we'll certainly be in the mix and could be a dark horse for some good results; I've seen enough in Mike to know he's pretty good and I'm looking forward to pushing him on through the season."
Mike Wainwright, who combines a busy business life with his passion for racing, sees the Blancpain Endurance Series as the perfect arena in which to compete in 2012. "I'm certainly looking forward to it! On the competition side, for Roald and I there are new names and teams with which to familiarise ourselves and it's very different to what we did last year. Ignoring the fact that the traffic will be a big factor, the races promise to be very exciting and we hope will attract a good deal of media and attention. From a team point of view, everything is going well and we are organised and are having fun which is very important for Roald and I."
"I believe the Blancpain Series is a great outlet in terms of presenting who we are as a team, and we just hope for no problems with the cars. Going into Monza, we are blind to the ability of others in terms of the 'Am' drivers but, if you look at the other McLaren teams entered, I think we are going to be competitive. As far as comparing ourselves to other marques, we'll all be waiting to see what the Balance of Performance is."
Former Aston Martin Racing driver, Stuart Hall, fully appreciates the opportunity to compete in the flourishing GT3 series: "We haven't been able to do the running we'd hoped for pre-season, but we'll get our heads down and get on with it, as always. Being teamed alongside Rob gives me a great opportunity to learn from him, and I'm fully prepared to step up to the mark. The most important thing will be for Roald to have lots of seat time, and having just two drivers instead of three will be an advantage here. He's doing this for enjoyment and because he loves racing, and this is a great environment for that. It won't be easy but we're all looking forward to the experience and we're hoping for a trouble-free weekend at Monza."
Stuart and Roald recently competed in the team's Aston Martin Vantage in the ELMS 6-hour race at Paul Ricard, southern France, and Stuart believes this was invaluable in terms of preparation for this weekend. "Roald did really well at Ricard and it got him back into race mode. We were in the hunt for a great result in our category until we unfortunately got t-boned by someone, but I can't fault Roald's or the team's performance."
He has a business life every bit as busy and full as his friend and team co-owner Mike, but Roald Goethe relishes every opportunity to get on track and is very much looking forward to the start of the 2012 Blancpain series.
"Looking at the series last year, it produced some of the best racing in the world and I think this year is shaping up to be even better, and very exciting for participants and spectators alike. There are some very well-known names on the entry list, both on the driver side and the cars, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's great that Stuart and I have already got to drive with each other in the Dubai 24 hours and in the ELMS race – we're getting on very well and there's a fun, and professional, atmosphere within the whole team."
Gulf Racing is an evolution of the Gulf AMR Middle East team which ran in the ILMC, is wholly owned by Mike Wainwright and Roald Goethe and, as previously stated, will be managed by David Price in the UK. Gulf Racing Middle East is a separate team based out of Dubai, and there is no cross-over between the two.