The Vita4One BMW squad has withdrawn from the opening round of the FIA GT Series at Nogaro this weekend.
The withdrawal of the team that finished third in last year's FIA GT1 World Championship was confirmed by series boss Stephane Ratel after its solo entry failed to show up at the circuit today ahead of first free practice on Friday.
"It was a big shock when Michael [Bartels] phoned me to say he was not coming," related Ratel. "It was completely unexpected and very disappointing. He said to me that he'd had an engine failure in testing and he was worried about his supply of engines for the opening Blancpain Endurance Series round [at Monza on April 14]."
The participation of Vita4One, which as Vitaphone Racing won five FIA GT and FIA GT1 World Championship titles with Maserati, in the remainder of the series is unclear at the moment. No statement was available from team owner Michael Bartels.
Vita4One initially placed two entries for FIA GTs, but subsequently slimmed down to one BMW Z4 for Frank Kechele and Greg Franchi when Nikolas Mayr-Melnhof switched the the WRT Audi team. The team will be involved in the FIA GT opener at Nogaro. It has leased one of its BMWs to the Spanish SUNRED team to run under the BMW Sports Trophy Team India banner and will also provide engineering and technical support for the car.
Former Le Mans Series champion Julien Jousse has joined Indian Armaan Ebrahim in the SUNRED BMW in place of Matteo Cressoni, who was pencilled in on the original entry.