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Gounon Leads Mercedes One-Two in Nürburgring Free Practice

Jules Gounon sets early practice pace at Nürburgring as five AMGs rank in top seven..

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

AKKA-ASP driver Jules Gounon led a one-two for Mercedes-AMG in Free Practice for tomorrow’s three-hour Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup race at the Nürburgring.

The French driver steered his No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo to a time of 1:54.789 to lead the 90-minute session held in dry and sunny conditions on Saturday morning.

Gounon is teamed up with Raffaele Marciello and Felipe Fraga, who is replacing the DTM-bound Daniel Juncadella for round four of the Endurance Cup season this weekend.

Nico Bastian backed up Gounon’s leading effort for fellow AMG operator Haupt Racing Team, with the German driver’s 1:54.908 putting him 0.119 seconds off the top spot.

Bastian, who is subbing for DTM driver Vincent Abril, and Gounon were the only two drivers in the 44-car field to break the 1m 55s barrier around the 3.19-mile circuit.

Klaus Bachler ended up third-quickest behind the wheel of last year’s Nürburgring-winning No. 54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Bachler, whose co-drivers Christian Engelhart and Matteo Cairoli won the six-hour 2020 edition alongside Sven Mueller, posted a 1:55.021 during the session’s early stages.

Mathieu Jaminet ranked fourth in GPX Racing’s Porsche, while Mercedes-AMGs occupied the next three positions in the leaderboard.

Jim Pla, who is standing in for Bastian at GetSpeed Performance this weekend, registered a 1:55.230 to end up fifth overall and top of the Pro-Am category.

A series of improvements from Dominik Baumann in the second half of practice saw the No. 20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG climb to sixth outright.

Baumann’s best time of 1:55.292 ensured that the SPS team’s Pro-Am car beat its seventh-placed sister No. 40 machine, although Miklas Born was still classified as the Silver Cup class leader.

Walkenhorst Motorsport’s two BMW M6 GT3s occupied the outer reaches of the top ten, with 2020 Nürburgring 24 winners Nicky Catsburg and Nick Yelloly sandwiching the ninth-placed JOTA McLaren 720S GT3 driven by Rob Bell.

Free Practice ran without any major incidents, except for a few isolated spins and off-track moments including a wide run through the gravel for Emil Frey Racing’s Rolf Ineichen at the Turn 12 right-hander.

One of the Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghinis then lost its rear wing at Turn 5 late in the session but was able to continue back to the pits, while the detached wing ended up away from the racing line.

Pre-Qualifying practice gets underway at 12:55 p.m. CEST (6:55 a.m. EST).

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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