Blancpain GT Series competitors have completed a busy day of running at Circuit Paul Ricard ahead of tomorrow’s Endurance Cup contest.
With the 1000km race set to take place on Saturday evening, Friday took on greater importance than usual. Crucially, it provided the chance for teams and drivers to fine-tune their equipment before what promises to be a very busy race day at the French venue.
Three sessions were completed, beginning with the bronze test at 09.00. A total of 17 drivers took part, with the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari topping the times ahead of the #49 Ram Racing Mercedes. These two crews took Pro-Am victory at Monza and Silverstone respectively and clearly remain among the favourites for another class triumph come Saturday night.
Following the one-hour bronze run, the full field came out to play during free practice at 10.50. This saw all 51 cars on-track, with some opting for outright pace and others not yet showing their hand.
The session was topped by a Pro-Am entry, with the #27 Daiko Lazarus Racing Lamborghini emerging quickest from 90 minutes of running. Fabrizio Crestani was in the car at the time, with the Italian driver lapping in 1m55.300s.
Second fastest was the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari piloted by Davide Rigon, who was a shade under two tenths of a second shy of fellow countryman Crestani’s time.
The day concluded with the 90-minute pre-qualifying session. Having shown strong pace at both Monza and Silverstone, it was no surprise to see the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG machine on top. Maro Engel set the time late in the session, edging out the #76 R-Motorsport entry with a 1m54.875s.
Following their dominant win last time out at Silverstone, the #76 Aston Martin was another strong contender showing well in pre-qualifying. Jake Dennis lapped in 1m54.914s aboard the Aston, suggesting that the Swiss squad will once again be competitive this weekend.
Third overall – and the quickest Pro-Am entry – was the #49 Ram-Mercedes, with Euan Hankey setting the time for the British outfit.
Saturday will see the the usual Endurance Cup qualifying programme take place at 09.40, with each driver setting a time and grid positions set using the three-driver average.
The main event is scheduled to begin at 17.45 and will run for 1000km, or a maximum of six hours should that distance not be completed in time. Live streaming of the weekend's proceedings will be available on the Blancpain GT Series website.