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Reigning Champion Vanthoor Tops Magny-Cours Free Practice

New Sprint Cup season opens with 2020 champion Dries Vanthoor topping Free Practice…

Photo: Jules Benichou/21 Creation

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup champion Dries Vanthoor set the pace during Free Practice for the 2021 season-opener at Magny-Cours.

Vanthoor, who shared turns in the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo with his fellow reigning champion Charles Weerts, registered a 1:35.849 to lead the 80-minute session.

The Belgian driver ended up 0.132 seconds ahead of Raffaele Marciello in the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

AKKA-ASP saw all three of its cars, including its Silver Cup-class AMG driven by Jim Pla, finish in the overall top-six during Free Practice.

Marciello’s GTWC Europe Endurance Cup co-driver Jules Gounon ran third in the French outfit’s No. 89 machine with a time of 1:36.160, to beat Kelvin van der Linde in the other Pro-class Audi from Team WRT.

Maro Engel completed the overall top five in the Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG as Jim Pla set the Silver category pace for AKKA-ASP in sixth on a 1:36.408.

Pierre-Alexandre Jean came through in seventh behind the wheel of the CMR team’s Silver Cup Bentley Continental GT3, from class rival Frank Bird in a WRT Audi.

Sainteloc Racing’s Christopher Haase, driving the No. 25 Audi, and Pro-Am pace-setter Andrea Bertolini in the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 rounded out the top ten.

All 27 of the cars entered into this weekend’s Sprint Cup meeting took to the track during Free Practice.

The session included three brief red flag stoppages, with the first occurring after the No. 114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo of Konsta Lappalainen and Jack Aitken which went off at Estoril.

The other red flags were caused by the Rinaldi Racing Silver Cup Ferrari and the No. 66 Attempto Racing Audi.

A Pre-Qualifying practice session is due to take place this evening at 9:50 p.m. CEST (3:50 p.m. EST) in preparation for Saturday’s 60-minute night race.

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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