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Vallelunga Weekend Notebook

Sportscar365’s event notebook from the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games held near Rome…

Photo: Patrick Hecq

***FIA president Jean Todt described the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games at Vallelunga as a “good first step” in establishing the multi-discipline, nation-based competition.

“I think it’s already a nice achievement to bring 50 countries together in such a short time,” Todt told assembled media. “I think it’s a good start. We will be realistic. We will be more ambitious for the future because we have more time to prepare for that.”

***Todt explained that the FIA has a “medium to long-term contract” with SRO Motorsports Group, which is promoting the event this weekend.

***Four of the 50 nations taking part – Italy, France, Kuwait and Russia – are fielding entries in each of the six disciplines. A further four countries are competing in five events: Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Hungary.

***Europe is the most-represented continent in both GT Cup and the overall Games with 12 entries in the former and 30 in the latter. Asia is represented by eight countries in GT and 12 in total, North America by one in GT and three in total, Oceania by one in GT and two in total, and South America by one in total.

***The first medals were determined on Saturday evening. Ukraine won the Drifting Cup courtesy of Dimitriy Ilyuk, ahead of the Czech Republic and Russia. The Digital Cup, which was held on a virtual version of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya using Gran Turismo software, was won by Australia with Costa Rica and Italy earning silver and bronze.

***Recently-crowned World’s Fastest Gamer champion James Baldwin, who won a prize drive in next year’s SRO GT4 European Series, competed in the Digital Cup for the United Kingdom.

***The overall FIA Motorsport Games winner will be determined by gold medal count, with subsequent silver and bronze medals deciding who leads the table in the event of a tie.

***After Thursday’s lavish opening ceremony in central Rome, the event will be closed by a prize-giving event at the Vallelunga circuit this evening.

***Sunday’s main race will decide the medal distribution in GT Cup, while the two qualifying races determined the grid for the finale. This was achieved by each entry scoring points for where it finished in each of the qualifying races.

***Belgium lost its Qualifying Race 1 podium after Louis Machiels “produced a potential dangerous maneuver” on the Kuwait Aston Martin shortly after the start. This moved Poland up to third and the UK to fourth.

***Optimum Motorsport repaired its Kuwait-entered Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in time for Qualifying Race 2, after Khaled Al Mudhaf’s front-end impact with the barriers.

***Saturday’s race, won by Germany, was truncated by a red flag period which caused confusion with some of the teams. Michele Rinaldi, who is running the Russia entry, explained why his car – which led going into the red flag – stayed on wet tires and subsequently faded as the track dried up.

“We heard on the radio that we had to switch to wet tires,” Rinaldi told Sportscar365. “The [marshal] said it was for safety reasons. Then with nine minutes to go, teams started to switch to slick tires. It was four or five laps [on wets], so maybe if we lost one or two positions it would be fine, but as the cars went out and they added 21 minutes.”

***AKKA-ASP team principal Jerome Policand explained the origins of his team’s running of the Chinese entry in GT Cup: “It came about through Mercedes,” he told Sportscar365. “The driver and the team needed a connection in Europe, and Mercedes asked us to help.”

***Chinese driver Yaqi Zhang finished second in the Pro-Am standings of the all-electric Jaguar IPACE eTrophy this year.

***Ex-Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong is in the paddock, supporting the Malaysia team entry in GT Cup. Yoong, who raced for Minardi in the 2002 Grand Prix season, also represented Malaysia in the nation-based A1 GP series.

***The Honda NSX GT3 Evo entered by Hong Kong is the 27th example of the car to be produced. The Hong Kong model is owned by KCMG’s Paul Ip and is being run by the Danish Reno Racing squad this weekend.

***Ip is making his GT3 debut this weekend, sharing the Honda with ex-F1 tester Marchy Lee, and hinted that he could drive the car in a Super Taikyu program next year.

“I really like the car, it’s very easy to drive,” Ip told Sportscar365. “I did a quick shakedown at Paul Ricard roughly a month ago. In this car, the electronics have been the biggest challenge to get used to because it’s much more advanced than other cars I have driven.”

***Ip explained that the hybrid Formula 4 cars KCMG developed for the FIA Motorsport Games will be put into storage after this weekend. The company has a contract to supply the cars for the next three editions of the event.

“We’re still in discussions with the FIA and SRO if they want to do a few more events, but there’s nothing confirmed at the moment,” he said.

***Ferrari has not yet decided whether it will support a Pro-class team in the 2020 SRO GT World Challenge Europe, according to the manufacturer’s director of GT racing Antonello Coletta. SMP Racing was the main Ferrari team this year, in Endurance Cup.

***TF Sport’s Vallelunga staff running the Turkey entry are facing a quick turnaround for the FIA World Endurance Championship race at Shanghai next weekend. “Seven of the lads went on Saturday night, landing today,” team principal Tom Ferrier told Sportscar365. “They get the container on Monday morning, when the rest of us head over there from Heathrow.”

***Sportscar365 understands that Spencer Pumpelly and Rob Ferriol are set to embark on a full-season GT4 program in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge next year. The team USA pair drove an Audi R8 LMS GT4 in three races at the end of 2019, and are expected to field a similar package in 2020.

***The race management and stewards team for the GT Cup is made up entirely of FIA officials this weekend, rather than SRO.

***SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel revealed that the seeds of the FIA Motorsport Games (and its GT Nations Cup forebear) were first sown 15 years ago:

“I made the first little presentation in 2004, one of my own dreams, not to the FIA, when we were supposed to run at the Dubai Autodrome,” he said. “The little presentation I wanted to pass on through some intermediary to the Crown Prince of Dubai, it would probably never go through to his desk, but that was a dream.”

***Live coverage of the GT Cup medal race will be available on MotorTrend in the United States, while CBS Sports will carry a highlights package. The entire event is also being live-streamed on the GT World YouTube channel. For full broadcast details, click here.

***The race is set to start at 3:15 p.m. CET (9:15 a.m. ET).

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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