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GT World Challenge Europe

Imola Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from the GTWC Europe opener at Imola…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

***Team WRT’s victory in the 3 Hours of Imola marked its sixth overall triumph in GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup. It also gave Audi its eighth win in the competition.

***Mirko Bortolotti earned his first GT win for Audi, while Kelvin van der Linde became a first-time outright winner in Endurance Cup. Bortolotti’s victory was his fourth in the series, building on prior wins with Lamborghini, and Vaxiviere became a double winner following his Silverstone 2018 triumph with the R-Motorsport Aston Martin squad.

***With conventional podium ceremonies scrapped due to COVID-19 protocols, the top three finishers overall and in each class were presented with their trophies in parc fermé.

***The podium-contending AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 was hampered by what James Calado called a “communication problem” that led to him and seven other competitors receiving drive-through penalties for speeding under Full Course Yellows in the first hour.

***Calado’s co-driver Alessandro Pier Guidi felt the penalty was peculiar, considering its timing: “The drive-through decision raises many doubts both because the race director’s call was odd and because any possible gain would have then been zeroed by the safety car that re-compacted the group,” remarked the Italian.

***Both factory-backed Ferraris featured highly at the start before dropping out of podium contention. SMP Racing’s Sergey Sirotkin inherited second when the AF Corse car took its penalty, but a botched final pit stop resulted in the Russian squad sliding out of the top 20.

***Patrick Pilet relished the start of his new full-season venture with Porsche coming off a long spell in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM class. “I was coming in as a bit of a rookie,” said the GPX Racing driver, who finished second. “It’s a really high level, and it’s one of the only championships that Porsche hasn’t won, so it’s something I want to add to my career digest.”

***The No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 that started on row four of the grid experienced an issue with one of its intercoolers, resulting in an early trip to the garage for Rodrigo Baptista. This car finished two laps down, while K-PAX’s No. 9 Bentley was 18th.

***K-PAX Racing’s U.S-based crew will stay in Europe and head to the team’s facility in Germany for the rest of this week before returning home, according to program manager Darren Law. They will then be back in Europe around a week in advance of the next race.

***Haupt Racing Team endured a trying GTWC Europe debut, as both of the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos encountered setbacks during the race. The Pro-class car of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Vincent Abril lost places after being forced through the gravel during the squeeze into turn one, while it later received a drive-through for contact with a McLaren before recovering to 16th.

***The HRT Mercedes competing in Silver Cup retired after picking up floor damage that likely stemmed from contact with the corner curbs. This damage compromised the exhaust which resulted in a fire that forced Finlay Hutchison to pull over in the final hour.

***ROWE Racing team principal Hans-Peter Naundorf was pleased with his team’s showing to finish sixth with its sole Porsche 911 GT3 R: “Moving up twelve positions in this unbelievably competitive field is an immense achievement for the entire team, from the drivers in the cockpit to the pit stop crew, who moved us up by a number of places.”

***McLaren’s return to Endurance Cup came with an eighth-place finish for Optimum Motorsport on its season debut. “Today underlined how important it is to be consistent and to keep out of trouble and a lot of people in the field seemed a bit rusty,” said team principal Shaun Goff. “There’s a few issues we need to iron out but overall, it’s been positive and promising for the season ahead.”

***Frederic Vervisch set the fastest lap of the race in the pole-sitting Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo. The reigning Nürburgring 24 winner led the way with a 1:42.420 on lap 14.

***Vervisch also came away with the quickest lap time of the weekend, courtesy of his 1:41.213 in Saturday’s third qualifying session. Audis topped five of the six sessions, including the race, while a Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo led Free Practice.

***Three drivers took part in ‘double duty’ at Imola between the headlining Europe Endurance Cup and the supporting GT4 European Series. Timothe Buret (Tech 1 Racing), Gilles Vannelet (Boutsen Ginion) and Valentin Hasse-Clot (Garage 59) all had busier weekends than most, while CMR was the only team to contest both series.

***Several drivers and teams that competed at Imola will be back in action this weekend, in round four of the Nürburgring Langstrecken Serie and round one of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Oulton Park.

***Next up for GTWC Europe is the first Sprint Cup round of the season at Misano on Aug. 7-9. The weekend will feature three races, to make up for the reduced number of events this season. The Endurance Cup next meets at the Nürburgring for a six-hour race on Sept. 5-6.

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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