GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup returned to action for the first time in just over four months on Friday with a series of test sessions ahead of the season-opener at Imola.
Two paid testing sessions and a separate test for Bronze drivers took place on Friday, in preparation for Sunday’s three-hour race which is being held without public access.
While teams have undertaken private testing in recent weeks, Friday marked the first collective running for Endurance Cup since the official pre-season test that took place at Paul Ricard on March 12-13 in the early stages of European coronavirus restrictions.
Team WRT driver Mirko Bortolotti set the fastest lap in both Imola paid sessions aboard the No. 31 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo that the former Lamborghini ace will share with Kelvin van der Linde and Matthieu Vaxiviere this weekend.
Bortolotti’s best time of the day was a 1:41.723 set during the first session in the morning, while the Italian produced a 1:42.497 to lead in the afternoon as well.
The second-quickest time overall was a 1:41.996 set by Christopher Mies in the No. 32 Audi, while Patrick Pilet was third in the No. 12 GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The first session was red-flagged half an hour before its intended finish when a heavy storm enveloped the circuit.
There was also a fire for the Pro-Am AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo which resulted in “irreparable damages” according to a stewards’ report, while the Italian squad was granted permission to source a replacement chassis to continue in the weekend.
Session two started under wet conditions following the earlier rainfall but a dry line emerged over the hour and a half of running, enabling the lap times to come down.
The Silver Cup pace was set in session two by Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini driver Frederik Schandorff, whose 1:42.701 flyer was the third-best time of the afternoon behind Bortolotti’s Audi and the Pro-class Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
Pro-Am was led by Sky Tempesta Racing’s Eddie Cheever III, who also set his time of 1:42.884 in the team’s Ferrari during the latter session.
Quickest in the Bronze driver test was Remon Vos in the Mercedes-AMG prepared by Ram Racing.
This weekend’s official track action kicks off tomorrow with Free Practice starting at 9 a.m. CEST (3 a.m. EST) while Pre-Qualifying is due to begin at 13:10 p.m. (7 a.m. EST).