Raffaele Marciello kicked off the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe era just as he finished the Sprint Cup era by topping opening practice at Brands Hatch.
The Italian, who clinched the Sprint Cup title last year aboard the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG, launched his assault on the newly-named championship in ideal style thanks to a lap of 1.23.310s around the undularing Kent circuit. Marciello will share the #88 Mercedes-AMG with Vincent Abril this season, forming a line-up that is hotly tipped to take the title.
Second spot belonged to the #55 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS driven by Nick Foster and Steijn Schothorst, ahead of the leading Silver Cup runner, the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG of Nico Bastian and Thomas Neubauer. The top-three were separated by less than two tenths of a second in a typically close-fought session.
The leading Pro-Am effort came from David Perel in the #333 Rinaldi Ferrari 488, followed by Phil Keen in the #519 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracan. 25 of the 26 entrants set a representative lap, with only the #25 Sainteloc Audi failing to do so.
Today's second free practice session takes place at 12.30 this afternoon, followed by qualifying at 15.55.