© Ryan Ratcliffe 2018

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BLANCPAIN SPRINT SERIES - Preview 01-02/11/14

Triple Eight up for the challenge of Baku      

Triple Eight Race Engineering has announced it will make its debut in the Blancpain Sprint Series at the season ending ‘Baku World Challenge’ event in Azerbaijan (November 1-2, 2014).

Despite owning three BMW Z4 GT3s, a busy winter schedule including events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai permits the team to field just one of the venerable German 4.4 litre beasts at the street circuit on the perimeter of the Caspian Sea, which also marks the conclusion to the increasingly popular Blancpain Sprint Series.
Driving duties for the two 60-minute races on the streets of Baku fall to British all-Silver duo Joe Osborne and Ryan Ratcliffe, who will also make their respective debuts in the series, despite both having featured in the Blancpain Endurance Series this season.
The capable pair who last raced together in the Dubai 24 Hours in January are targeting a class victory in the Blancpain Sprint Silver Cup for Silver-ranked drivers aged 25 and under.
Osborne, 25, had a highly successful season in the Sprint Series’ bigger brother, almost taking the PRO-AM Driver’s title at the final round some three weeks ago at the Nürburgring. In the finale he actually raced two cars, a first for the series, when a fellow Aston Martin team’s driver became unwell. The British ace, who competed with BMW in the Formula BMW series earlier in his career, is no stranger to the Z4 GT3 having driven it in the British GT Championship for two seasons alongside Lee Mowle, taking a best finish of third at Norfolk’s Snetterton circuit in June.
Ratcliffe, 21, is the 2013 British GT4 co-champion and the Welshman made the bold step of taking a year out of competitive racing earlier this year, instead focusing on preparation for GT3 action in 2015. This year has seen Ratcliffe undertake an intensive development process with Triple Eight’s Driver Development programme, TEDD. In addition, Ratcliffe’s 2014 programme included appearances in a select few races to gauge development and gain experience. This culminated with two solid GT3 performances with the Triple Eight BMW in British GT at Brands Hatch and Donington Park, taking a top-ten finish at the former.

Joe Osborne
“I can’t wait to go to Baku. I first heard about it after seeing the Eurovision Song Contest two years ago and it looks like it a city full of culture. The circuit itself is wide in some places, narrow in others, and the long straights that are 3-4 lanes wide should allow for plenty of overtaking. The chicane will also provide an opportunity to pass and the two hairpin bends with wide entry will bring further action and chances to attack. I believe it’s an incredible city that is seeking to increase the interest in sport, motorsport in particular, and that can only be a good thing for GT racing to be involved at such an early stage. It’s going to be an interesting challenge!”

Ryan Ratcliffe
“This year just keeps getting better. It started out with my TEDD programme, which has been incredibly helpful for my development into GT3, and then came the opportunity to drive for Triple Eight in the final two races of British GT. To now be able to confirm an entry for Baku partnering Joe, who I can call one of the best Pro's in the game, is fantastic. Together, I am confident that we can go for the win in the Silver Cup. We work well together and Joe’s advice has been really helpful in furthering my understanding of the Z4 this year. I’m really excited to race on a street circuit too; the opportunity doesn’t arise too often, and I’ve always envied drivers who have been able to race on street circuits.”

Race Weekend Information

Action begins with the first of two free practice sessions at 05:00 GMT (09:00 AZT) running for 60-minutes, before the second session at 07:30 GMT (11:30 AZT). Qualifying begins at 12:00 GMT (16:00 AZT) on Saturday afternoon and runs for 55-minutes. Then on the Sunday the qualifying race is the first track activity at 05:15 GMT (09:15 AZT) before the main race some four hours later at 09:55 GMT, just past lunchtime locally, 13:55 AZT.

Coverage of the Baku World Challenge can be viewed in the UK on BT Sport and on Motors TV, please check local listings for specific times.  Live timing and scoring can be followed on www.blancpain-gt-series.com

Blancpain Endurance Series – Azerbaijan

November 1-2, 2014

Round 7:  Baku World Challenge
Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan
2.72 miles (4.379km), 18-turn circuit
Lap Record: 1:42.583 - Rene Rast - Audi (2013)

Follow Triple Eight on Twitter @888official to get the lowdown.