This weekend nine years ago the Blancpain Endurance Series was born. The championship that would transform into the most important GT championship in the world and gave rise to countless upcoming drivers and teams made its debut on 17 April 2011 at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, taking over the traditional April race date of the 1000 km of Monza with a ‘mere’ three-hour endurance race for GT3 machinery.
Modesty was the name of the game, with the Blancpain Endurance Series showcasing cars that were a technological far cry from their much more advanced GT1 and GT2 contemporaries and a starting field at a nowadays lowly 32 cars – completed by seven GT4s. It was everything the SRO had intended it to be: a more affordable, gentleman-focused but still high-level alternative to the FIA GT1 World Championship that the Blancpain Endurance Series had split off from.
On that sunny day in April, Lombard team AutOrlando Sport became the winner of the first-ever Blancpain Endurance Series race as drivers Gianluca Roda, Raffaele Giammaria and Paolo Ruberti raced the Porsche 997 GT3R to a homerace victory.
Amongst the teams on the grid was WRT Belgian Audi Club, a young and inexperienced team up for its first international season of racing. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 squad had hired Bert Longin, Stéphane Ortelli and Filipe Albuquerque for its #32 car, alongside Gregory Franchi, Andrea Piccini and Marcel Fässler in the #33 sister car with the former scoring second place on debut.
Finishing third was a more familiar name from the FIA GT1 World Championship: Marc VDS Racing. The Ford GT3 was piloted to the podium by a young Maxime Martin, late bloomer Markus Palttala and veteran Bas Leinders.
Photos by Daniele Paglino.