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Marciello Leads Free Practice in Akkodis ASP Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG Team Akkodis ASP sets pace in opening practice session for 3H Imola…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

Raffaele Marciello topped the first Free Practice session of the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season at Imola driving for Mercedes-AMG Team Akkodis ASP.

The Swiss-registered driver posted a time of 1:40.298 on his fifth lap in the early stages of the 90-minute Saturday morning session.

It was enough to lead the way overall, 0. seconds ahead of Maxime Martin in the No. 95 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

Marciello’s co-drivers Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon also got behind the wheel of the No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo during Free Practice. Akkodis ASP is the new name for AKKA-ASP, after a rebrand of the lead backer for race team Auto Sport Promotion.

Luca Stolz ranked third-quickest in the No. 2 Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed entry with a time of 1:40.432.

The German driver edged ahead of Audi factory drivers Patric Niederhauser and Kelvin van der Linde, driving for Sainteloc Junior Team and WRT respectively.

WRT had two of its Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo IIs in the top six as Frederic Vervisch slotted the No. 46 WRT entry one place beneath van der Linde’s No. 32 car in the results.

Dan Harper took seventh in the No. 50 BMW M4 GT3 from ROWE Racing, one place ahead of Silver Cup pacesetter Alex Aka aboard Attempto Racing’s No. 99 Audi.

Lucas Auer topped the new Gold Cup class in 12th overall for Winward Racing, while AF Corse Ferrari driver Andrea Bertolini paced Pro-Am in 30th. 

Free Practice was peppered by nine short Full Course Yellow periods and two brief red flags, the second of which came right at the end of the session.

The FCYs were caused by marshals arriving to bolt down a bollard that cars repeatedly knocked over on the inside curb upon entry to the Variante Alta chicane.

The first red was caused by GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG driver Valdemar Eriksen spinning and stopping on the inside grass at Acque Minerali after 17 minutes of running.

The second red flag occurred due to the bollard coming down again but with not enough time to make repairs, as well as debris elsewhere on track, according to an SRO Motorsports Group spokesperson.

A pair of incidents occurred later in the sessions without full-course neutralizations, both involving the No. 33 WRT Audi.

Driver Arnold Robin first had an altercation with the Akkodis-ASP Mercedes in the pits, before being caught in an incident at the first Rivazza left-hander along with Dinamic Motorsport Porsche driver Matteo Cairoli and Garage 59’s Manuel Maldonado.

The right-side door of Maldonado’s McLaren 720S GT3 was left stranded in the gravel trap while both Robin and Cairoli went off-course, although the origin of the incident is unclear.

Inception Racing’s McLaren turned four laps in Free Practice after missing Thursday’s Bronze test due to repairs from an accident during paid testing on Wednesday.

The next session is Pre-Qualifying practice at 2:05 p.m. (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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