• AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG quickest in three of four sessions
• HTP-Winward Mercedes-AMG tops Friday afternoon run
GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS officially launched its 2020 season this week with two days of testing at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Staged over Thursday and Friday, the annual event in the south of France saw more than 30 teams making preparations for the season ahead. They were greeted on Wednesday morning by clear skies and sunshine, which prevailed for the majority of the test and allowed extensive running to take place.
Raffaele Marciello emerged as the ultimate pacesetter with a best effort of 1m53.417s in his AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG. The Italian driver made a near-perfect start to the season, topping three of the four sessions across Thursday and Friday.
The #88 car was among the few to break into the 1m53s on the first day of running, but several others joined him on the second. The #84 HTP-Winward Mercedes-AMG was fastest on Friday afternoon, the only occasion on which the AKKA ASP entry was not P1. The #130 Honda NSX GT3 was fast with Marco Bonanomi at the wheel, while the GPX squad was consistently quick with its pair of Porsches.
Series returnees CMR (Bentley) and Emil Frey Racing (Lamborghini) also showed well, as did newcomer Madpanda (Mercedes-AMG). Each of the 11 brands that will compete this season was represented at the test. Along with those mentioned, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari and McLaren were also on-track at Circuit Paul Ricard as their teams prepared for the 2020 campaign.
The full entry list for the upcoming GT World Challenge Europe season was revealed on Thursday, with 53 cars set to contest the Endurance Cup and 33 committed to the Sprint Cup. Both grids have expanded this year. The season is scheduled to begin with a Sprint Cup contest at Brands Hatch on 2/3 May, followed one week later by the opening Endurance Cup round at Silverstone (9/10 May).