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GT World Challenge Europe

Boutsen Audi Paces Wet Hockenheim Free Practice

Gold Cup competitor rises to the top of GTWC Europe Endurance Cup field in tricky conditions…

Image: SRO

Boutsen Racing Audi driver Adam Eteki set the pace in a soaking wet Free Practice session for this weekend’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup round at Hockenheim.

Eteki was a surprise name at the top of the leaderboard, with the Frenchman setting a time of 1:53.626 in his Gold Cup Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II to beat the Pro competitors.

The Boutsen driver led the way by almost half a second from Pro-Am pacesetter Henrique Chaves, who posted a 1:54.124 to go second overall in Garage 59’s No. 188 McLaren 720S GT3.

Emil Frey Racing’s Jack Aitken ranked third on a 1:54.385 and stood as the fastest driver in Pro at the end of the 90-minute Saturday morning session.

The reduced traction from the slippery track resulted in numerous spins throughout the field with Raffaele Marciello, Nico Mueller and Valentino Rossi among those caught out.

Despite the high number of rotations, most drivers avoided the barriers and gravel traps until Arnold Robin beached his No. 33 WRT Audi on the right-hand side of the Turn 1 exit with five minutes to go. This caused a red flag that triggered the end of the session.

Free Practice started with some teams taking a cautious approach due to the rain, with the event’s condensed two-day format augmenting the potential cost of an accident.

Less than half of the 49-car field had taken to the track after 20 minutes of running, while a total of 42 cars were registered at the end.

Joel Sturm set the early pace in Allied-Racing’s No. 22 Porsche 911 GT3 R from Silver Cup, and the Swiss driver’s 1:56.003 remained the benchmark for around half an hour until Dries Vanthoor planted his No. 32 WRT Audi on top with a 1:55.548.

Vanthoor went on to shave a second off his fastest before Aitken briefly went quickest with just over 40 minutes remaining in the No. 63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

Aitken’s stay in first position lasted less than two minutes as his 1:54.385 marker, which ended up being good enough for third, was beaten by Chaves and then Eteki.

Nicky Catsburg was fourth overall in the No. 98 ROWE Racing BMW M4 GT3, one place ahead of Dinamic Motorsport Porsche driver Alessio Picariello.

TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa winner Daniel Juncadella took sixth in the points-leading No. 88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo as Vanthoor settled for seventh.

Pre-Qualifying for Sunday’s three-hour race at Hockenheim starts at 2:05 p.m. CEST (8:05 a.m. ET).

RESULTS: Free Practice

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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