***The seventh season of GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup kicks off this weekend with three races at Misano.
***This is the first time that Sprint Cup has held a triple-header event. The extra race compensates for there being four events in 2020 rather than five, following a calendar shakeup influenced by the coronavirus pandemic. The Barcelona finale will also be a triple-header, while Magny-Cours and Zandvoort retain the traditional two-race format.
***Misano has hosted Sprint Cup on five previous occasions, while this sixth visit marks the first time since 2017 that the venue on Italy’s Adriatic Coast has opened the season.
***The field is down to 22 cars after the withdrawal of the No. 2 Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo on Friday. The Oscar Tunjo/Juuso Puhakka-driven Silver Cup machine suffered a fire during Free Practice 1 and did not return to the track for FP2.
***Madpanda Motorsport’s Mercedes is expected to be repaired and ready for Pre-Qualifying tomorrow morning after Ezequiel Companc’s FP2 crash at the Turn 6 left-hander. Companc was unhurt, while the incident brought out the red flags for a short period.
***The weekend started with a four-hour paid testing session for GTWC Europe teams on Thursday afternoon. Raffaele Marciello set the pace with a time of 1:32.213 aboard the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes, while Dries Vanthoor was second quickest for the Team WRT Audi squad. Results here.
***The test included runners from Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe, which is also staging its season opener as part of a support bill that includes the GT4 European Series and TCR DSG Europe.
***Haupt Racing Team’s No. 4 Mercedes incurred “irreparable engine damages” during the Thursday test, leading to the Maro Engel and Luca Stolz-driven car having a new engine fitted before the official sessions. The car ran smoothly in Free Practice.
***Engel and Stolz arrived at Misano fresh off the back of winning Race 1 of the ADAC GT Masters season-opener at the Lausitzring last weekend, driving for Toksport WRT. The pairing that won the second GT Masters race – WRT’s Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts – is also on the grid.
***Eight teams are debuting in Sprint Cup this weekend: Toksport WRT, Haupt Racing Team, ERC Sport, Madpanda Motorsport, SPS Automotive Performance, Sky Tempesta Racing and CMR. All except Toksport and ERC contested the recent Endurance Cup opener at Imola.
***WRT driver Ryuichiro Tomita successfully made it to Misano from Japan to compete in his first GTWC Europe event. Tomita had an exemption from Italy’s 14-day quarantine for arrivals from Japan, but he needs to observe a stay limit of five days.
***SRO Motorsports Group has announced plans for a dedicated GT2 Sports Club Europe series next year with a five-round, 10-race calendar. Drivers can compete in pairs of Pro-Am or Am-Am, while Am competitors can run solo. Each event will have two 60-minute races with classes for the best overall, Titanium (over 50 years of age) and Iron (over 60) finishers.
***GT2 cars are eligible to compete in Sports Club this year, with the series absorbed into the GTWC Europe Sprint Cup grid after initial plans to have a standalone championship were scrapped. No GT2s are present at Misano, but the cars will be eligible for other Sprint Cup weekends, while SRO has outlined other 2020 track opportunities for customers.
***GT2s can run in SRO’s Clubsport Curbstone Challenge non-competitive events, while Porsche is organizing a ‘GT2 Supersportscar’ race for Porsche 911 GT2 RS and 935 machinery on Oct. 2-4.
***Misano is operating to Phase 1 of SRO’s three-stage COVID-19 protocol. This means the strictest hygiene measures are in place and no public access is allowed. The 3 Hours of Imola Endurance Cup round also operated under this phase of the system.
***Teams are allowed up to 12 members on-site per car entered, including drivers, while crews and other working groups will be required to keep within their own ‘cells’ to limit interactions and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
***This weekend’s minimum pit stop time is 77 seconds, with a one-second tolerance. Drive-through penalties will be at least 42 seconds.
***Emil Frey Racing technical director Juerg Flach explained some of the challenges teams will need to overcome at Misano. Emil Frey is returning to GTWC Europe Sprint Cup as the flagship Lamborghini entrant, following a title-winning 2019 spent in GT Open.
“Grip is usually not as strong which means that we’ll have to get the most out of our tires,” said Flach. “With the many low-speed corners, it’s important to minimize understeering, lest we lose too much time. The layout is challenging for the brakes as well with its rather short straights and the reduced time for brake cooling.”
***Saturday’s timetable has Pre-Qualifying booked for 9 a.m. CEST (6 a.m. EST) while qualifying to determine the first two grids will start at 1:20 p.m. (7:20 a.m. EST).
***Race 1 is scheduled for Saturday at 7:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m. EST) while Races 2 and 3 will take place on Sunday at 11:20 a.m. (5:20 a.m. EST) and 3 p.m. (9 a.m. EST) respectively. Qualifying for Race 3 is set for Sunday morning at 9 a.m. local time.
***Live streaming of qualifying and all 60-minute races will be available on the GT World YouTube channel, while timing is available on the GTWC Europe website.