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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Gounon Leads Rain-Affected Free Practice with Late Flyer

Gounon quickest for Mercedes-AMG in rain-affected Free Practice session at Indy…

Photo: Brian Cleary/SRO

Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo driver Jules Gounon set the pace in a delayed and rain-affected Free Practice session for the Indianapolis 8 Hour presented by AWS.

The Frenchman topped the times in the No. 99 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo with a lap time of 1:44.245 that came right at the end of Friday’s only full-field Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli track outing.

Gounon and several other drivers made improvements courtesy of a break in the weather during the latter stages of Free Practice.

Most of the session was impacted by rainfall, limiting the amount of running that teams could bank.

The adverse conditions added a half-hour delay to the start of Free Practice, which was due to begin at 11:20 a.m. EST but didn’t get underway until 11:51 a.m. due to barrier repairs from a previous session.

Although the session ran a few minutes past the original 12:50 p.m. finish time, it did not meet its intended 90-minute duration.

The early pacesetter was Patric Niederhauser in the No. 25 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo from Audi Sport Team Sainteloc.

Niederhauser’s effort with just seven minutes on the clock looked set to hold the top spot for the remaining time until the rain eased with around 20 minutes to go.

Gounon’s co-driver Maro Engel initially went quickest on a 1:45.796 but was overtaken a few minutes later by fellow Mercedes-AMG factory driver Raffaele Marciello.

The Italian posted a 1:45.416 aboard AKKA-ASP’s on-loan DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG which has been brought in due to freight delays for the French squad’s original car.

Marciello was then beaten by Gounon and WRT Audi driver Dries Vanthoor right at the checkered flag, leaving him third in the final Free Practice classification.

Vanthoor registered a time of 1:44.446 in the No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, leaving Gounon two-tenths clear at the top of the leaderboard.

Nicklas Nielsen slotted into fourth for the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari crew, ahead of Ben Barnicoat in the Crucial Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3.

Niederhauser’s Audi Sport Team Sainteloc car ended up in ninth position.

Winward Racing’s eighth-placed Mercedes-AMG led the Silver Cup class in the hands of Marvin Dienst, while Ollie Millroy paced Pro-Am for McLaren squad Inception Racing.

Black Swan Racing’s Jeroen Bleekemolen set the pace in GT4 with a time of 1:53.680.

RESULTS: Free Practice

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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