The first track action of the 2019 Blancpain GT Series took place at Monza today (12 April), with four hours of running kicking off the new campaign.
While the weekend begins in earnest tomorrow, Friday saw two official testing sessions, each lasting 90 minutes, followed by a one-hour Bronze Test.
The official tests were open to Blancpain GT Series competitors and Blancpain GT Sports Club entrants, with 50 cars on-track for the morning run and 56 during the afternoon. Rain had fallen on the Monza circuit overnight, but the day improved considerably and by the second session the track surface had dried out.
The opening test was topped by the #108 Bentley Team M-Sport crew of Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet and Alex Buncombe. The Continental GT3 lapped in 1m57.762s, placing it 0.781s clear of the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3, though their efforts were slowed by the tricky conditions.
The afternoon session kicked off at 15.30 and, with the circuit rapidly drying out, the times tumbled dramatically. Reigning overall teams' champion AKKA ASP emerged fastest with its #88 Mercedes-AMG, with 1m48.093s proving to be the benchmark. The French squad locked out the top two positions, with the #90 Mercedes-AMG circulating within two tenths of its sister machine.
The Bronze Test concluded the day under sunny skies, allowing pace-setter Chris Buncombe (#93 Tempesta Racing Ferrari 488 GT3) to get within a second of the AKKA squad's best effort. A trio of Ferrari's emerged at the top of the times, with the #333 Rinaldi Racing crew in second spot and the #52 AF Corse machine taking third.
Tomorrow will see preparations for Sunday's opening race move up a gear. A 90-minute free practice session will take place at 11.35, followed by pre-qualifying at 17.20.
49 cars are entered for this weekend's race, which begins the ninth season of Blancpain GT Series competition. Qualifying (09.45) and the race (15.00) will take place on Sunday, with both sessions streamed live on the series' official website.