AKKA ASP Team led the way in this morning's opening GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS free practice session at Imola.
Raffaele Marciello put the #88 Mercedes-AMG on top with a lap of 1m41.655s, hitting the front early in the 90-minute run and remaining in control throughout. His closest challenger was Jules Gounon, who gave American squad K-Pax Racing a perfect start to its European adventure aboard the #3 Bentley.
Gounon was 0.141s shy of Marciello in a typically competitive session. Indeed, the top-20 cars were covered by just 1.1s around the 4.9km circuit. All 46 contenders ventured out, though reigning champions Orange1 FFF Racing did not show their hand, leaving the #63 Lamborghini at the bottom of the order.
Third overall was Jim Pla, who led the Pro-Am runners with another excellent effort in his #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG. The French ace was followed by fellow countryman Patrick Pilet (#12 GPX Porsche) and Christopher Haase (#25 Sainteloc Audi). Barwell Motorsport led the Silver Cup class with its #78 Lamborghini thanks to Flying Finn Patrick Kujala, while the lone Am Cup car – CMR's #108 Bentley – was 44th fastest overall.
The session was punctuated by three red flags, the first due to a displaced advertising hoarding at turn 19. Shortly after the restart the #44 SPS Mercedes-AMG made heavy contact with the #69 Optimum McLaren, sending the Oliver Wilkinson-driven car into the gravel. In the closing minutes, the #23 Imperiale Lamborghini tagged the #108 CMR Bentley, causing a stoppage that concluded the session.
The next on-track action begins at 13.10 CET when drivers will tackle a 90-minute pre-qualifying run. This will set the stage for qualifying proper, which kicks off at 17.30. Both sessions, as well as tomorrow's three-hour race, will be streamed live on the GT World Challenge Europe website and Facebook page, as well as the GT World YouTube channel.
Full session results can be viewed via the link below.