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GT World Challenge Europe

Imola Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Saturday notebook from the GTWC Europe Endurance Cup paddock…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Neil Verhagen won the opening round of the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series with a dominant performance in Saturday’s 60-minute race, which was held at the Fanatec Arena located in the paddock. The ROWE Racing BMW junior finished 26 seconds clear of Nicki Thiim, who was in turn 14 seconds ahead of Juuso Puhakka in third. Results

***Verhagen’s win added five points to ROWE Racing’s tally in the GTWC Europe teams’ championship, giving the German squad an early series lead. The American won despite not having a simulator of his own to practice on: he prepared for Saturday’s race using a BMW M Motorsport rig and received coaching from esports professional Nils Naujoks.

***Four points for the GTWC Europe overall teams’ standings went to Beechdean AMR, three to Tresor by Car Collection, two to Team WRT and one to Iron Lynx.

***Silver Cup class honors, meanwhile, went to Alex Aka who steered his Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II to fourth place overall. Aka earned five points for Attempto’s Silver Cup teams’ championship haul. Ezequiel Companc was second for Madpanda Motorsport and Yuki Nemoto third for Garage 59. Fourth and fifth went to Brendon Leitch and Konsta Lappalainen who earned two points and one point respectively for Lamborghini teams Leipert Motorsport and Emil Frey Racing.

***Manuel Maldonado was given a reprimand for causing a collision in the latter stages of Free Practice. The Venezuelan locked up on cold tires and made contact with the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Matteo Cairoli, who went in search of Maldonado after the session to state his case. A stewards’ report noted that Maldonado accepted responsibility. He was handed one behavior warning point.

***Team WRT was fined €1,000 ($1,104 USD) for unsafely releasing its No. 33 Audi into the path of the No. 88 Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo during Free Practice. The Mercedes was trundling down to its pit box when Arnold Robin exited WRT’s pit area and struck the AMG’s right rear with the front of his Audi, resulting in bodywork damage to the former.

***Boutsen Ginion driver Adam Eteki exceeded the weekend’s previous-largest fine for exceeding the pit lane speed limit with his sanction of €1,400 ($1546 USD) for going 27.5 km/h (17 mph) overboard in the Boutsen Ginion Audi.

***Coinciding with its home event, Lamborghini has brought a new paddock hospitality unit for VIPs, guests and Super Trofeo teams. Head of Motorsport Giorgio Sanna told Sportscar365: “We are continuing to invest heavily in our Super Trofeo platform, and in GT3. We are here with a new hospitality and 36 cars competing with the new EVO2. In a short time we will present the GT3 EVO2. We will continue to invest in the GT platform heavily and we have a medium-long term commitment that is really solid.”

***Sanna confirmed that Lamborghini’s second evolution Huracan GT3 car, which is due to be launched soon, has run at Imola as part of its testing program. “Imola is one of the tracks that we use quite often, along with Vallelunga, because it has some characteristics that are very good for developing the cars,” he said.

***The BMW M4 GT3 is running at Imola for the first time, with the circuit not forming part of that car’s development. BMW M Motorsport boss Andreas Roos feels the event has gone well so far: “We had the test on Wednesday and then Free Practice, which was quite good,” he told Sportscar365. “We tested some options in Pre-Qualifying which did not work out completely, but the drivers are quite happy in general. There are so many competitive cars; you have to be spot on and get everything together to be there.”

***Development of the new BMW M4 GT4 is continuing at pace, with a pair of test cars now engaged in an intensive track program. One of them accrued mileage Paul Ricard last week.

***A crowd of fans assembled outside the Team WRT pit area for much of Saturday, hoping to catch a glimpse of Valentino Rossi or an autograph. The Italian has his own blue and green truck adjacent to the main WRT hospitality unit, in what amounts to a team compound in the center of the paddock. WRT is the best-represented team on the grid with five Audis.

***Germany is the best-represented driver nationality in GTWC Europe this season, with its 22 competitors beating the UK’s contingent by one. Italy has 16 drivers, Belgium 13 and Denmark 10. A total of 34 nationalities are present across Endurance and Sprint.

***Audi, meanwhile, has the most GT3 cars in the overall GTWC Europe with a dozen examples of the updated Evo II taking part. Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini are next with 11 and nine.

***Some drivers and teams with mid-engine cars have expressed difficulty in warming up the new Pirelli P Zero DHF front tire to its optimal point under the cold track conditions at Imola. Front-engine cars such as the pace-setting Mercedes-AMGs and the Aston Martins are understood to be dialing in better during the early stages of each stint.

***Two of the three drivers in JP Motorsport’s No. 112 McLaren are fixed for the season, while the seat currently held by Christopher Bruck is set for this race only. Joel Mesch was originally slated to team up with Patryk Krupinski and Maciej Blazek but withdrew due to financial reasons, according to team advisor Christian Klien.

***Audi factory driver Mattia Drudi is optimistic about the chances of Tresor Car Collection, one of the new full-time entrants in GTWC Europe. “All the equipment and cars are new,” he told Sportscar365. “I think we have everything to fight for. WRT is always the reference point within Audi.  To be with them is always difficult, but I think we can be really competitive.”

***Six-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner Riccardo Patrese is at Imola, supporting his 16-year-old son Lorenzo who is making his GT3 debut with Tresor by Car Collection. Patrese won the 1990 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola driving for Williams.

***Dani Pedrosa and Antonin Borga have been moved into the Pro-Am class for the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe support races following a revision of Pedrosa’s driver rating. The MotoGP race winner is now a Bronze, after arriving at the event as a Silver.

***Qualifying takes place tomorrow morning. The system is the same as last year, consisting of three single-driver sessions lasting 15 minutes each. The averages across the three drivers will be calculated and ordered to create the grid for the three-hour race.

***The first qualifying session is due to take place at 9 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET). Lights out for the 3 Hours of Imola is scheduled for 3 p.m. (9 a.m. ET).

***Live streaming, including English language commentary from David Addison and John Watson, can be found on the GT World YouTube channel. Sky Sports is broadcasting the full race live in the UK, Germany and Italy.

***There will also be a live onboard YouTube feed from the Sky-Tempesta Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo. In-race data will be available in the Race Vision section of the GTWC Europe website.

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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