It’s the world’s greatest GT racing series, and for two incredible weekends each year, the UK becomes home to fifty of the finest, hardest and fastest of all gran turismos.

On the wrist, the Blancpain brand is the epitome of luxury and precision, capturing hearts and minds with an alluring combination of craftsmanship and style; and none of this is lost in the synergy with the racing. Blancpain GT is an evolution of the very best that motor sport has to offer: Exceptional cars, world-class drivers, and circuits that draw on each and every skill that drivers, teams and cars can muster.

Operating on the global stage, developed by Stéphane Ratel’s SRO race organisation, Blancpain GT series’ can now be found in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Split into two formats (World Challenge and Endurance Cup), the racing takes place over ten weekends with five of each discipline held (World Challenge races being two-driver sprints whilst the Endurance Cup is for longer, multi-driver events).

For the UK rounds, we were treated to 2 x 1 hour World Challenge Europe races around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, whilst at Silverstone, a capacity field assembled for three hours of blistering, wheel-to-wheel action.

Here are twenty of our favourite images from both races.

    What a difference a circuit makes. The tight, undulating curves of the Kent countryside saw a Mercedes-AMG head every session at Brands Hatch, including a dramatic win for the Black Falcon car of Luca Stolz & Maro Engel. But just one week later and it was the Ferrari 488 GT3 of Miguel Molina, Mikhail Aleshin, & Davide Rigon that held-off the challenge of Phil Keen’s Lamborghini to bring-home the SMP Racing car with just over a 2-second margin.

    The huge investment that both Blancpain and SRO have made in developing their series’ has not only attracted many of the world’s premium car manufacturers to the grid but many of our top drivers too.

    Markus Winkelhock is still only 38 and yet is already one of the finest GT racers of the modern era. A brilliant early career in single seaters soon saw his status rise, and whilst he made just one Grand Prix appearance, he remains the only driver in Formula One history to start last on the grid yet lead the race on his debut. After a stint in DTM, Winkelhock found a welcoming home in GTs and once again proved his worth by racing to the FIA GT1 World Championship title in 2012 (and has also quietly amassed a remarkable tally of four wins at the Nurburgring 24H).

    We saw him in action at both circuits in the Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3. Victory eluded him on each occasion but his passion, grace and speed was clear for all to see and enjoy.

    As always, home drivers were well represented and Phil Keen cemented his status as one of our finest with three exceptional drives, rewarding the Squadra Corse man with a win and a second in Pro-Am at Brands Hatch and second overall at Silverstone.

    Home manufacturers were also present in force. Bentley arrived at Silverstone targeting a win in its centenary year. Sadly, a melee of madness in the opening laps saw prolonged periods of full-course-yellows and the safety car, both of which conspired to demote the #7 car down the order. Aston Martin had also hoped for a string of strong results from its customer teams but the best they could achieve was P2 in class for the TF Sport car of Salih Yoluc, Ahmad Al Harthy & Charlie Eastwood.

    Despite the lack of domestic success, Aston Martin’s work (alongside its teams) to refine the handling of the new Vantage continues to push its flagship V8 ever closer to the front of the grid. At Brands Hatch, Ricky Collard and Marvin Kirchhöfer raced fast and hard to bring the R-Motorsport car home in P7 and then P5. On to Silverstone and Nicki Thiim proved his class with an outstanding qualifying lap to cement his status as the fastest of all.

    Audi have dominated Blancpain GT racing since its inception in 2014; the German manufacturer’s customer racing programme having invested heavily in the R8 and its variants. Yet recently, results have tailed-off and remarkably, a win at Silverstone still remains elusive. Nevertheless, the 2019 car already looks world class, a dominant 1-2 in Dubai proving the potential that saw nearly half the grid at Brands Hatch wear the ‘four-rings’ badge.

    Lamborghini was also well represented. The Huracan EVO displaying all the daring and pace that fans have come to love. Its also a car that lends itself to displaying striking liveries, as seen here with the Barwell car of Adrian Amstutz, Leo Machitski & Miguel Ramos, and the Boutsen Ginion entry of Pierre Feligioni, Claude-Yves Gosselin & Renaud Kuppens.

    In recent years, the might of Ferrari in Europe has been increasingly challenged by both the Squadra Corse and Audi, but the 488 GT3 still remains one of the most dominant GT3 racers on the global stage. Taking its first win in March 2016, its tally is now over 200 and despite a power reduction from the road car, its agility and corner-kick make it a formidable foe in any pack.

    P1! For all the might and majesty of the competition, the only position that truly counts is the one when the flag drops. At Brands Hatch, the weekend belonged to Mercedes-AMG; first in free practice, first in both qualifying sessions and first in each race.

    At Silverstone, it was a battle of endurance. The SMP Ferrari qualified in P10 but all three drivers worked solidly for each of the 76 laps to race through the order and take a remarkable win.

    Two consecutive weekends and five exceptional hours of racing: The stars shone and the crowds cheered. It was GT racing at its very best, at its closest, and just occasionally at its wildest too. There’s praise for many, but for me, it was the utter dominance of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 that will be long remembered . . . until the next time.

Blancpain GT races are streamed live online, with superb commentary and insights from David Addison and John Watson. Catch it on TV, catch it on the web, or even better, buy yourself a ticket and soak-it-up for real.

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Images: Steve Hindle (The Black Stuff).