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GT World Challenge Europe

Monza Weekend Notebook

Jake Kilshaw’s weekend notebook from the Blancpain GT Europe opener at Monza…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Friday saw the first in-season test as part of this year’s new crackdown on private testing. Two test sessions took place ahead of the Bronze Test, with a total of four hours of running throughout the day.

***AKKA ASP topped the timesheets during the test, with its factory-backed car driven by Raffaele Marciello, Vincent Abril and Michael Meadows posting a best time of 1:48.903. The French team also went quickest in the Silver Cup with its No. 90 Mercedes-AMG GT3 while Sainteloc Racing and Rinaldi Racing led the Pro-Am and Am Cups.

***The morning’s first test session was affected by showers although the track dried in time for the afternoon session, with lap times over ten seconds quicker.

***Further in-season tests will take place ahead of the rounds at Silverstone, Misano, Hungaroring and Barcelona, in addition to the usual test ahead of the 24H Spa, which has been expanded to two days.

***The new ban on in-season private testing prevents teams from running GT3 machinery at any circuit which hosts a round this season after April 3.

***Nina Pfiffner has replaced Max Braams as series manager for the GT4 European Series. She previously served as series manager for the GT4 Central European Cup and team relations assistant for the Blancpain GT Series.

***Thierry Tassin will lead most of WRT’s GT3 programs this year as well as running its DTM campaign. His role includes the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup and most of the Intercontinental GT Challenge while Pierre Dieudonne will take charge for the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, 10 Hours of Suzuka and WTCR. The pair will work together at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

***Pirelli will award free sets of tires to race winners in the Silver Cup this year. Winning teams will receive two sets for a GT World Challenge Europe race win, four sets for three-hour races, eight sets for the Paul Ricard 1000km and 24 sets for the 24H Spa.

***Mechanics are now only allowed to carry one tire at a time during pit stops. The minimum time from pit in to pit out for mandatory stops in Sunday’s race is 74 seconds.

***ROWE Racing received its second Porsche 911 GT3 R just ten days before travelling to Monza. Team principal Hans-Peter Naundorf confirmed to Sportscar365 that it will run both cars for the full Endurance Cup. 

***It initially planned to run a second car only at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, with Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki driving. They won’t be in one of the two full-season ROWE cars, but they could appear in an additional Porsche.

***Denis Bulatov’s switch to Rinaldi Racing came as a result of him doing the FIA GT Nations Cup with the German team late last year, he told Sportscar365. The SMP Racing-backed driver joins Rinat Salikhov and David Perel in Rinaldi’s first ever Silver Cup entry.

***The 20-year-old Russian admitted he’s still getting used to the Ferrari 488 GT3 after becoming accustomed to AKKA ASP’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 in his GT racing debut last season, but says a top-three finish in the Silver Cup in his target.

***Zaid Ashkanani and Dev Gore have been given provisional FIA driver ratings of Silver for this event only, while Philippe Steveny is Bronze. Ashkanani and Steveny were both fined €200 for failing to submit their driver rating application in time.

***Lamborghini is the best-represented manufacturer at Monza, with ten Huracan GT3 Evos in the Blancpain GT grid. A pre-season launch event was held on Friday afternoon in its sponsor Orange1’s hospitality unit. 

***There are already around 40 Huracan GT3 Evos around the world, with a roughly 50/50 split between new cars delivered in the past few months and previous-gen cars running upgrade kits.

***The Silver Cup class, which was first introduced to Endurance events last year, is going from strength to strength with 12 entries this weekend. Some of the series’ leading teams, including Grasser Racing Team, WRT, Black Falcon and AKKA ASP are all running Silver Cup cars alongside their Pro entries.

***The growth of the class, which is reserved for lineups of three Silver-rated drivers, has taken entries away from Pro-Am, which now requires two Bronze drivers. Seven Pro-Am cars are entered this weekend.

***Daiko Lazarus Racing has withdrawn its Lamborghini Huracan GT3 following a crash for Kris Richard during testing on Friday. The car, which was the only Huracan GT3 in the field without an Evo kit, was set to be driven by Richard, Fabrizio Crestani and Nicolas Pohler.

***Matt McMurry will be completing an internship with HPD in California this summer for his degree in aerospace engineering. McMurry makes his Honda NSX GT3 Evo debut this weekend with Jenson Team Rocket RJN.

***The deal for the 21-year-old American came together following the reduction in IMSA’s LMP2 schedule, which initially included Long Beach and Detroit which clash with Monza and Paul Ricard. McMurry is also slated for a full-season LMP2 effort with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

***Mario Farnbacher was on site on Friday for the test session to help McMurry and his co-drivers get up to speed with the Honda.

***Fernando Alonso was in the paddock on Saturday to support his new Formula Renault Eurocup team. FA Racing by Drivex is running cars for Brad Benavides, Callan O’Keeffe and Patrick Schott.

***Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official video game of the Blancpain GT Series, will launch on May 29 at a list price of $44.99 / £34.99.

***Eurosport 2 will provide live coverage of the race, presented by Mark Cole and Tom Gaymor. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. CEST for European viewers and 3:15 p.m. BST for UK viewers. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the race live for North American audiences.

***The race will also be streamed live on the series’ website and GT World YouTube channel. It starts at 3 p.m. local time (2 p.m. BST; 10 a.m. EDT).

***Qualifying is set to get underway as planned at 9:40 a.m. despite weather concerns. Rain arrived in Monza overnight and the track is still wet, with a light shower during the Formula Renault Eurocup race which took place immediately before qualifying.

John Dagys and Laurent Mercier contributed to this report.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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