Taking place at the Hungaroring this weekend (August 26-27), round five of the 2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club campaign could well crown a first champion this year in SRO Motorsports Group's Bronze-only drivers series.
Indeed, as the Blancpain GT Sports Club heads to the famed Hungarian Grand Prix venue for the very first time in its young history, Overall points leader Anthony Pons holds a 46-point advantage over second-placed Karim Ojjeh.
Should the Frenchman, who has three race wins and another four top-three results to his name so far, leave Budapest with more than 33 points in hand, this would prove enough to seal this year's title before the season finale in Barcelona.
Ojjeh will naturally be keen to prevent any early celebrations for the AKKA ASP driver and his #72 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The Boutsen Ginion racer will once again rely on his faithful #2 BMW M6 GT3 to challenge Pons and add to the three podium finishes he has already collected in 2017.
Both rivals have proved extremely consistent so far this year, a key feature that has been missing from Cédric Leimer's championship bid. The Swiss ace's speed does not suffer any doubt though, as hinted by the many podium finishes he has claimed aboard the #963 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 in 2017.
Four manufacturers will be represented in the fifth instalment of the 2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club, with Ferrari set to bring the biggest contingent to Hungary's tight and twisty 4.381km F1 track. Seven cars will indeed fly the Prancing Horse banner on the outskirts of Budapest, including Patrick van Glabeke’s podium-finishing #488 Ferrari 488 GT3.
AF Corse team-mate Christoph Ulrich (#51 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3), for his part, will look to keep his points-scoring form on the upward path, having secured seventh, sixth, and fourth respectively across the past three Main Races.
Driving the same model are German racer Christian Hook, who is coming off a season-best result of fifth in the #33 Rinaldi Racing-entered machine, and Luxemburg’s Alexis de Bernardi aboard the #65 Kessel Racing-run challenger.
Elsewhere, two Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso R-EXs can be found at Boutsen Ginion, where Frenchmen Claude-Yves Gosselin and Pierre Feligioni are once again competing with the trusty #4 and #6 entries.
DB-Motorsport’s Oliver Baumann ensures further diversity on the Blancpain GT Sports Club grid with the #68 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3.
ALL TO PLAY FOR IN THRILLING IRON CUP BATTLE
While positions atop the Overall category appear fairly settled, the Iron Cup championship situation remains wide open. With two rounds left in this year's six-event campaign, Artega Rennsport's Klaus Dieter Frers and Kessel Racing's Stephen Earle are only two points apart (107 against 105).
Driving the #3 Ferrari 488 GT3, the German racer edged past his US rival and the #111 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 following a strong weekend last time out at Spa-Francorchamps. But having lost out to the 2016 crown by a single point means Earle is no stranger to nail-biting duels in the category reserved for drivers aged 60 and more.
With another 33-point haul up for grabs in Budapest, the penultimate race weekend could well prove a turning point in the Iron Cup. Frers and Earle will not be vying for class honours on their own though, as Louis-Philippe Soenen (#50 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3) seeks to add more silverware to his 2017 podium trophy cabinet.
Blancpain GT Sports Club riders and runners will once again star on an exciting Blancpain GT Series weekend, as Budapest plays host to the fourth Sprint Cup event of the season, the eighth meeting overall in SRO's flagship championship.
The Hungaroring is also one of five F1 tracks visited by the Blancpain GT Sports Club in 2017, thus further strengthening the credential of the series as an ideal stepping stone and proving ground between club competition and professional-level racing in Europe and beyond.
Saturday’s Blancpain GT Sports Club action in Hungary begins with two 30-minute practice sessions followed by a 20-minute Qualifying run. The 25-minute Qualifying Race takes place on Saturday evening before drivers come back on Sunday morning for their 40-minute Main Race. Both races will be streamed live with English and French commentary on our official website and Facebook page, as well as on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel.
Blancpain GT Sports Club Schedule: Budapest*
Saturday 26 August
10:45 - 11:15: Free Practice 1
12:05 - 12:45: Free Practice 2
14:45 - 15:05: Qualifying
18:15 - 18:40: Qualifying Race
Sunday 27 August
10:45 - 11:25: Main Race
*All times are local