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GPX, FFF to Miss Pre-Season Test Due to NLS Overlap

Several GTWC Europe teams affected by NLS date clash; two Pro teams confirm absence…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

GPX Racing and FFF Racing Team will skip this week’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS pre-season test at Paul Ricard due to a clash with the NLS season-opener which is set to affect several other teams.

The official GTWC Europe test is due to take place on Thursday and Friday, while Saturday’s four-hour NLS race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife will be preceded by pre-season running on Friday after the series’ original test was canceled due to cold weather.

Despite not having an NLS entry, GPX is one of several teams impacted by the scheduling overlap which arose after GTWC Europe postponed its pre-season test by two weeks.

GPX team principal Pierre-Brice Mena explained that the team couldn’t attend the test without key members including Endurance Cup drivers Matt Campbell, Earl Bamber and Mathieu Jaminet, who are due to share a Frikadelli Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R in the NLS.

“Unfortunately, they put the test on the same date as the VLN,” Brice-Mena told Sportscar365.

“Also, two of our engineers were unavailable for these days, so unfortunately we cannot go to Paul Ricard. We get support from Manthey and we have our own engineers inside. The race engineers are doing the VLN.

“It’s a shame not to be there, because we like to [ahead of] the first race and we usually do it.

“At the beginning we planned to do the Paul Ricard test before they changed the date. It makes things really complicated with us being without the drivers.

“It’s a busy time for us with the change of organization. We planned at the beginning to do Pail Ricard and Monza, but the change of date makes Paul Ricard impossible for us.”

The “change of organization” refers to GPX Racing’s switch to a new French base as part of its recently announced technical partnership with ART Grand Prix.

Brice-Mena said that GPX is due to receive a container from its core Dubai headquarters next week, adding a further layer of complexity to its plans for the coming days.

The 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa-winning outfit has instead pitched up at Monza for a two-day test on Tuesday and Wednesday, before its drivers leave for the Nürburgring.

Other GTWC Europe teams that have been testing at Monza include Team WRT, Attempto Racing and Dinamic Motorsport, all of which are expected to be at Paul Ricard.

“Apparently the [Monza] race will take place and it is ideal for us to test here because we didn’t go there last year with the new tire,” said Brice-Mena.

“So it’s good to do some testing here, particularly because we know Monza is not really a Porsche track. To be on point and ready for the first race, it’s always good to test at the right track.”

FFF Racing Team has joined GPX in skipping the GTWC Europe test as it launches its first full season of competing in the NLS with a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

The 2019 GTWC Europe overall champion’s Nürburgring squad contains all three of its current Endurance Cup drivers in Andrea Cardarelli, Marco Mapelli and Mirko Bortolotti.

Giacomo Altoe is also driving for FFF in the NLS and will therefore be absent from Emil Frey Racing’s GTWC Europe testing lineup.

FFF will have staff on the ground at Paul Ricard operating its Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe entry.

Factory drivers from Mercedes-AMG are also set to be affected by the NLS overlap.

AKKA-ASP’s Pro trio of Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon will be engaged in the NLS driving for Mercedes-AMG squad GetSpeed Performance.

A similar situation can be found at Haupt Racing Team where Endurance Cup competitors Maro Engel, Luca Stolz, Hubert Haupt and Patrick Assenheimer form part of a two-car NLS setup for the Nürburgring-based Mercedes squad.

However, HRT has made plans to take a single Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo to Paul Ricard, with local Pro driver Vincent Abril not engaged in the NLS and therefore available to captain a reduced testing program. HRT is running two cars in Endurance Cup this year.

Audi’s lineups for the NLS race have yet to be announced, although the clash is also expected to impact drivers representing the Ingolstadt marque in both championships.

A full entry list for the GTWC Europe pre-season test, which involves teams competing in Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup, is due to be released on Thursday morning. Sportscar365 understands that more than 30 cars are set to take part in the two-day event.

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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