***Four hours of paid testing took place from 2-6 p.m. on Friday afternoon, giving the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup field some time to set up for the championship’s first-ever meeting at Valencia. A selection of teams had already visited the 2.488-mile circuit during their pre-season testing programs.
***Raffaele Marciello set the best lap of the test, in which all 27 cars hit the track. The Italian led a one-two for AKKA-ASP with Jules Gounon charging to second late on, while SPS Automotive Performance driver Dominik Baumann made it a one-two-three for Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos. Marciello’s time of 1:31.931 in the No. 88 ASP Mercedes beat Gounon’s best effort by three-tenths.
***Mercedes-AMGs led all three classes as Baumann topped Pro-Am and AKKA-ASP’s Jim Pla paced Silver Cup in fifth place overall. The latter part of Friday’s running was impacted by light rain, ensuring that most of the fastest laps were banked during the opening two hours with the main exception of Gounon’s 1:32.227 which occurred during a final dry spell.
***Incidents in testing included a trip into the gravel for the No. 31 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo which caused a short red flag, plus stoppages for the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R and the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
***Results from the paid test session can be found here.
***Circuit Ricardo Tormo is located just over 13 miles west of Valencia city center. The MotoGP and Formula E venue is the first anticlockwise track on the Sprint Cup calendar since Moscow Raceway in 2015. The circuit was recently confirmed as a stop on the 2022 schedule.
***There have been no changes to the Balance of Performance since the previous round at Brands Hatch, which like Valencia is defined as a ‘Category D’ circuit by SRO.
***The minimum pit stop time for the Pro-Am class has been set at 61 seconds, from pit-in to pit-out.
***Cars are being allowed to overstep track limits at Turn 4, but they must remain within the green area in the run-off. “No part of the car further than the green” is permitted, according to the race director’s event notes.
***Markus Winkelhock has replaced Frederic Vervisch in the No. 26 Sainteloc Racing Audi due to the Belgian driver quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19. Winkelhock has already raced at two Sprint rounds this year, subbing for WRT’s Kelvin van der Linde at Zandvoort and teaming up with Finlay Hutchison in an additional Sainteloc entry for Misano.
***Jack Aitken is making progress with his recovery from injuries sustained in a major four-car accident at Spa on July 31. In an update on his 26th birthday, the Emil Frey Racing driver said: “Rehab is going well, my collarbone especially has recovered pretty rapidly since getting out of the sling. I have some scans coming up to check on my back, but generally happy!”
***Dries Vanthoor says Team WRT can approach this weekend “a little bit more relaxed” than usual after he and Charles Weerts secured the Sprint Cup title ahead of time at Brands Hatch. “It will be a good opportunity to enjoy what we do with less pressure, together with the entire team,” said the Audi factory driver.
***Rinaldi Racing is prioritizing the International GT Open round this weekend, resulting in its Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020’s absence from the Sprint Cup grid.
***Some leading GTWC Europe teams are set to compete in the Indianapolis 8 Hour next month, as part of an anticipated bumper entry for round two of the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli. Sportscar365 understands that Sprint Cup front-runners WRT and AKKA-ASP are among the European outfits preparing to head stateside.
***The Indianapolis 8 Hour entry list is expected to be published next week.
***CMR is interested in entering the IGTC season-ending Kyalami 9 Hour with a Bentley Continental GT3. The French squad’s GTWC Europe Endurance Cup lineup includes a South African driver in Stuart White. “Having a South African driver in the CMR family makes you want to go,” team boss Charly Bourachot told Endurance-Info. “Going to Kyalami would be a great end to the season.”
***The GT World Challenge America Esports Endurance Cup launches this weekend with the Bathurst 12 Hour. Saturday’s race will mark the first leg of a three-round season.
***Both practice sessions are taking place on Saturday. Free Practice gets underway at 9:30 a.m. CEST (3:30 a.m. EST) while Pre-Qualifying kicks off at 11:45 a.m. local (5:45 a.m. EST).
***Both 20-minute qualifying sessions are also being held on Saturday, with the first due to begin at 3:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EST). Race 1 starts at 10 a.m. CEST on Sunday.
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report