Blancpain GT Series Europe in Monza
Full recap of an amazing day, hosted by Blancpain, at the GT Series in Italy
On Saturday, 21st April, Blancpain hosted me at their Blancpain GT Series at the Monza racing circuit - an event that has taken place for several years, but that has seen Blancpain as the main sponsor only since 2014. It was a really incredible day that allowed me to understand both the quality of the Blancpain watches and how much technology and passion this brand from Villeret puts in the management of endurance races.
Blancpain and the Motorsport world
Blancpain's link with the world of motor sport is very tight and, for the past 10 years, it focused on GT cars. The competitions that bear the Blancpain name are numerous, but only two of these competitions take place during the Monza weekend - the Blancpain Endurance Series and the Blancpain GT Sports Club.
The first was created in 2011 together with the SRO Motorsport Group and, today, is the most-followed and most-recognized competition for GT cars in the world, where three categories of drivers (Pro, Pro-Am and Amateurs) compete on different tracks across Europe for several hours; a real show for the audience. The second competition, which has been bearing the name of Blancpain since 2016, is a sprint championship reserved for gentlemen drivers divided by age groups.
The "fil rouge" that links the world of watch-making to that of motoring is chronometry and this is a fundamental aspect for every race. It is a tool that allows the race management to monitor the race, decree winners and losers, make sure that the rules are abode by and also guarantee the safety of all the competing drivers. The various racing tracks only provide sensors placed along the track, such as photocells for intermediate timing, but the whole system of data acquisition and monitoring of the performance of the various drivers is entirely managed by the manufacturing company. Eight people work inside the chronometry room and six of them are exclusively devoted to the acquisition and validation of times and the updating of the graphics for the different television channels.
The main devices used are the transponders with different selections for each car given the need to change drivers during the race, auxiliary cameras, such as those for photo-finish, and, as from this year, a GPS system that allows you to monitor the speed, the accelerations and the position of each car racing on the track. The systems used can be compared to the technologies used by Rolex in F1 races; actually they also monitor the changing of drivers during the race. I was very impressed by the technology adopted and required by this competition, but we must not forget that Blancpain belongs to the Swatch Group which also includes Omega - a reference brand for Olympic sports that has been the reference point for timing disciplines like swimming for many years.
The day was really intense and dotted with interesting activities; on top of things I was free to access all areas of the racing circuit, including the exclusive VIP areas, from where you can see the finish line and everything that happens in the pits, allowing me to fully appreciate the movements of cars and various drivers from different angles. It was a full immersion in the world of tourism cars. The main activities were the visit to the chronometry room, the pit stop at the Ferrari-Kessel team and the lap along the racing track at the end of the day on board a Lamborghini Huracàn Performante driven by an Academy driver.
The chronometry room is what contributes to the success of every race. People are rarely given the chance to visit this room during the race weekends, but Thierry, the person responsible for the whole system, was very kind to welcome us and explain to us the main tasks performed by the eight technicians working there and how much technology is necessary to guarantee the quality standards required by this type of race.
It was really a wonderful experience that allowed me to understand how much know-how is necessary, how much responsibility and what level of accuracy are required during a professional race. Now I can understand perfectly well why the watch industry groups are so interested in timing different sports disciplines, as they are a fertile territory to develop their technology!
Visiting the pits and seeing the mechanics working on cars was an incredible experience – pressure levels to the top and no error permitted, maximum efficiency is the main characteristic of every technician working inside the pit during a professional race. As you could guess, the most adrenaline-filled and exciting part was the ride along the track. I had never been on-board a super car that gets squeezed up to its last power horse and it was a really beautiful experience.
The lateral accelerations make you jump off your seat and driving along the full parabolic bend gives you an exceptional adrenaline rush. The driver steered the wheel by half-inches to keep the car on the ideal path; great skills are needed to tame cars with over 600HP. I already consider the driver that took me for a ride a hero, and he wasn’t even expressing his potential at 100%, so what could we consider F1 drivers?
What about the watches?
Roberto Castagna, Blancpain’s brand manager for Italy, allowed me to try on three watches - two chronographs of the L-Evolution series and the glorious Fifty Fathoms.
The Blancpain L-Evolution R Chronographe Flyback Grande Date and the Blancpain L-Evolution-R Chronographe Flyback a Rattrapante Grande Date
These are two chronographs with Flyback function and big date; the second is even a rattrapante. The first features a titanium and steel case with carbon fiber inserts and dial, while the second sports a white gold case and a carbon fiber bezel.
They are really wonderful and well-crafted - a very accurate making, an extremely precise feed of the chrono buttons and a perfect processing of carbon with fibers arranged at 90° are among the beautiful feelings that I collected. I would say that these are the perfect watches to wear on occasions like the Blancpain GT Series, where details, especially made of carbon, can really make the difference.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
It is the flagship model of the brand as well as its most famous, it is a diver’s watch and, for years, there have been disputes about who came first between it and the Rolex Submariner. It is a truly wonderful timepiece, with a great crafting quality that can be felt immediately. Here is an interesting detail that Roberto pointed out to me – originally, watch glasses were made of plastic and were slightly convex, if you tilted the watch and looked through the convexity, you could not see the dial on the bottom.
To recreate this "vintage" effect using a sapphire crystal (which, unlike plastic, cannot be convex, because of its different structure), a whole slab of thicker sapphire glass is processed and then placed on top of the case. The attention to detail is really high and the results obtained are excellent, I was really impressed by the Fifty Fathoms that most of you will either know already or even own, but, for me, it was the first time that I had seen it with my very own eyes.
The Blancpain GT Series is a really well-made event that is suitable for both motor enthusiasts and their families. The atmosphere that you can feel in the paddock is genuine and you can easily meet mechanics and professionals who are ready to tell you about their experience and passion for the world of Motorsport.
It was a really exciting experience that allowed me to understand the quality of the work and the technology existing within the Blancpain brand, both in terms of watches and time-keeping. Finally, I would like to thank Chantal Guidi (PR manager for Italy) and Roberto Castagna (Brand Manager for Italy) for their kindness and for organizing this event to perfection - it was a truly unforgettable experience.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Blancpain)
Andrea Frigerio @Horbiter-R by Horbiter®