http://www.planetlemans.com/2009/07/22/total-24-hours-of-spa-2009-gt1-preview/ In a few days the blue riband event of the FIA GT Championship will be taking place for the 61st time in history: the 24 Hours of Spa. Globally the race is regarded as one of the best races in the sports car racing world, on one of the most historic racing circuits that still exists. Unfortunately the current entry list makes the 2009 edition one of the weakest races in recent history. At the moment of this writing thirty-nine entries were still on the list, with just over a handful of (current spec) GT1 cars. The hopes of many to see the ultimate fight over 24 hours between Corvette, Aston Martin, Maserati, Saleen and Lamborghini were dashed when it became clear that no Aston Martins or Lamborghinis would be entered. But it got worseâ¦ With July 14th (the date of the publication of the entry list) getting closer rumours about teams pulling out or not entering started to increase and when the list finally arrived it turned out that out of nine full-season entries only six had entered. That number dropped to five a few days later. Luc Alphand Aventures was the first of the full season regulars to make a shock announcement that they will not run in Belgium and will instead focus on their title defence in the Le Mans Series. Full Speed Racing and KplusK Motorsport had already confirmed they would only run one car, rather than the double entry in the season. But a few days after the entry list was revealed KplusK Motorsport decided to withdraw their second entry as well, leaving the Full Speed Racing team as the sole Saleen team in Spa. The reasons given for their withdrawal are understandable, but not at such a late moment. It is not that the teams only recently knew what regulations were in place for Spa. All in all there will be nine GT1 cars on the grid, two of them in the 2010-specification. Despite the rumours about several teams Vitaphone Racing never doubted racing at Spa, their favourite hunting ground. In fact the German squad is (again) doing everything to win. Three cars are entered and some top drivers are signed for the twice-around-the-clock race. Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini in the #1 Maserati MC12 will be joined again by StÃ©phane Sarrazin, part of the winning squad in 2008, and Alexandre NegrÃ£o, who finished second in 2008. The second car will have regular drivers Alex MÃ¼ller and Miguel Ramos teamed up with 5x Spa 24 winner Eric van de Poele and Portuguese ace Pedro Lamy. The third car will have Vincent Vosse, StÃ©phane LÃ©meret, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Carl Rosenblad sharing the driving duties. All in all it is a highly experienced group of drivers in the best car available for the Spa 24 Hours. Unless weather conditions, accidents or driver errors rue their chances one of the Vitaphone cars should end up at the top spot. First among the non-Maserati crews is the PK Carsport Corvette C6.R #4 of Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen. A disastrous year for the Corvettes in 2008 should be forgotten, PK is at Spa to win. The Dutch-Belgian pair is joined by another Dutch-Belgian duo, Jos Menten and Kurt Mollekens. A win at Oschersleben last month meant the team is ready for its attack on the Vitaphone team, but it remains to be seen if the #4 can beat the lead Maserati entries. Selleslagh Racing Team is likely to be the second best of the Corvette teams. Bert Longin and James Ruffier will be joined by Maxime Soulet, his fourth Spa 24 Hours in an SRT Corvette. SRT will have Pratt&Miller support for their race car at Spa and will also have Briton Oliver Gavin racing for them. For Gavin it is a return to Spa after his race with Luc Alphand Aventures back in 2007. Gavinâs experience in the C6.R will hopefully make up for the flaws in the rest of the line-up. The final Corvette C6.R is the Sangari Team Brazil entry, the rebranded DKR Engineering car. Enrique Bernoldi is the leading man in this team, though his lack of sports car experience is worrying. V8 Brasil is about the only thing he has done. A similar thing can be said about his team mate Roberto Streit, who only raced single-seaters as well and only once raced in the Japanese Super GT Series. For the Total 24 Hours of Spa 2009 the two Brazilians are joined by Dutchman Xavier Maassen, who was without a seat after the late withdrawal by his regular team Luc Alphand Aventures. Maassen finished second at the Le Mans 24 Hours and therefore knows what it is to do such a race. If there will be a fourth driver is not yet known at the moment. The only current spec GT1 car left is the Full Speed Racing Saleen S7R. The #11 car will have Ferdinando Monfardini behind the wheel as usual this season, but the arrival of Dutch brothers Arjan and Rob van der Zwaan as well as reigning Japanese F3 champion Carlo van Dam came as a surprise. Drivers like Luke Hines, Johnny Mowlem, Michael Orts, Emerson Newton-John were expected (or at least linked) to the seat, but in the end it will be the Van der Zwaan brothers making their return to the FIA GT Championship for the first time since 2005, when they raced a JMB Racing Maserati MC12. Completing the GT1 category are two brand new GT1 cars; the Nissan GT-R and the Ford GT. Nissan Motorsports will be bringing the brand new Nissan GT-R to Belgium after its final test at the Oschersleben circuit gave the team enough confidence to enter it in a 24 hours race. Darren Turner and Michael Krumm will be joined by Anthony Davidson at Spa-Francorchamps, making it a top line-up. Nissan will see the Spa race as a big test for its new car ahead of the 2010 World Championship, but of course they would like to finish as high as possible. Marc VDS Racing is the only Ford GT team in GT1, as Matech GT Racing Team decided to enter their GT3 cars at Spa. After running the Gillet Vertigo in recent years Bas Leinders and Renaud Kuppens finally have a real car to race around the Spa circuit. Joining them is reigning GT4 European Cup champion Eric de Doncker. As is the case with the Nissan GT-R the main focus is to finish. So that is it. No Jetalliance Racing Aston Martin DBR9, no Gigawave Aston Martin DBR9, no Larbre Competition or Reiter Engineering, no KplusK Motorsport Saleen and no Luc Alphand Aventures. Conclusion: quantity isnât there, but at least there is some quality among the driver lineups, even though it is mainly found at Vitaphone Racing.