***GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS returns this weekend after a long break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic. The 3 Hours of Imola is the first round of Endurance Cup, which is operating to a reduced four-event schedule this year.
***Imola is the ninth different circuit to host Endurance Cup, while the Italian venue is also the first track with an anticlockwise configuration to appear on the calendar.
***While Imola is new to GTWC Europe, it has hosted SRO Motorsports Group competition in the past. The FIA GT Championship visited in 2004 and 2005, and two drivers on the entry list took part in those races. Andrea Bertolini drove in both 500km events, while Chris Goodwin contested the 2004 edition.
***There have been a few driver lineup changes since the original version of the entry list was published last week. The new list retains 46 cars but shows several revisions.
***New Bentley customer CMR has altered both of its driver lineups. Romania’s Razvan Petru Umbrarescu has replaced ex-Formula 2 racer Arjun Maini in the French squad’s Pro-class Continental GT3 alongside Seb Morris and Pierre-Alexandre Jean.
***Additionally, Bernard Delhez joins CMR’s Am lineup in place of former FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 competitor Erwin Creed. Hugo Chevalier is set to replace Creed in the team’s GTWC Europe Sprint Cup pairing with Alexandre-Jean.
***The No. 108 CMR Bentley is now the only car entered into Am Cup after SPS Automotive Performance signed Nico Bastian to its Mercedes-AMG lineup which brought that car up to Pro-Am.
***Alex Fontana has joined AKKA-ASP’s Silver Cup squad and will share the No. 89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo with Lucas Legeret and Benjamin Hites this weekend.
***Sainteloc Racing has completed its Pro-Am lineup with the signing of Arthur Rougier to join Michael Blanchemnain and Clement Seyler in the team’s No. 26 Audi.
***Ferrari tested its Pro-class cars at Misano last week in preparation for the Italian manufacturer’s increased presence in the top category. Both the new AF Corse machine and the returning SMP Racing entry are sporting fresh liveries for the new season.
***AF Corse’s replacement Pro-Am Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo hit the track in Saturday morning’s Free Practice session after the team needed to mobilize a spare chassis to replace one damaged in a fire during testing on Friday.
***This weekend marks the European race debut of Pirelli’s new P Zero DHE tire, which is replacing the DHD2 in GT World Challenge powered by AWS.
***Pirelli’s circuit activity manager, Matteo Braga, commented: “The new range of tires we’ve developed for GT3 point the way forwards to the design direction we will pursue over the next few years, fulfilling the demands from our customers for performance, reliability, consistency and adaptability.”
***Nick Yelloly has replaced Jens Klingmann in the Boutsen Ginion Racing BMW M6 GT3 this weekend after Klingmann broke both his wrists in a biking accident. BMW GT regular Yelloly is contesting the Pro-Am class with Karim Ojjeh and Gilles Vannelet.
***While most teams made their ways to Imola from within Europe, U.S-based Bentley squad K-PAX Racing had to overcome transatlantic travel hurdles to make it over.
***K-PAX is one of seven teams making its Endurance Cup season debut this year. The others are Imperiale Racing, Ema/59 Racing, GetSpeed Performance, Optimum Motorsport, Madpanda Motorsport and Haupt Racing Team, which has effectively replaced Mercedes stalwart Black Falcon.
***The 3 Hours of Imola is being held under Phase 1 of SRO’s protocol for returning to racing. The protocol and phase level will be assessed for each GTWC Europe race.
***Phase 1 means that spectator attendance is not allowed this weekend, but SRO has confirmed that fans will be allowed trackside for round two of GTWC Europe Sprint Cup at Magny-Cours on Sep. 11-13.
***Magny-Cours looks set to be the first GTWC Europe event to grant public access this year. The other Italian round Misano is set to go ahead behind closed doors, while the second round of Endurance Cup at the Nürburgring is likely to be affected by Germany’s recently updated restriction on large events until the end of October.
***Teams are restricted to a maximum of 15 people on-site (including drivers) and will be required to operate in isolated ‘cells’ to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Furthermore, no more than 1500 people are allowed in the paddock and circuit buildings at any time. Face coverings are mandatory throughout the facility.
***Hygiene measures will be taken into account during pit stops, with two-meter social distancing in practice where possible. As previously stated in SRO’s sanitation protocol, car cockpits will need to be disinfected regularly with sanitary wipes or spray.
***All cars must adhere to a minimum pit stop time during their two mandatory full-service pit stops. The minimum time from pit entry to pit exit is 80 seconds or 1-minute 20s with a one-second tolerance that can be used only once.
***This reflects a bulletin issued at the start of the event stating that not all cars have fuel sensors, meaning not everyone can accurately follow the 37-second minimum refuel time during the two full-service stops. Instead, a minimum pit time has been introduced, although the bulletin suggested that all cars will have fuel sensors available at the six-hour Nürburgring race in September.
***The race is set to start on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. CEST (7:30 a.m. EST). Broadcast options can be found here. As usual, streaming will be available on the GT World YouTube channel, while SRO has also prepared a spotter’s guide.