The deciding round of the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season is officially underway following a busy day of running at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
A pair of official test sessions brought the full field out for one-hour runs at 09:00 and 13:10, while the traditional pre-event Bronze Test concluded proceedings at 17:00. Friday's activity kicked off the closing weekend of the campaign, which will culminate on Sunday afternoon with the title-deciding three-hour race.
Two of the four squads chasing the overall Endurance Cup crown were in particularly strong form during official testing. Winners last time out at the Nürburgring, Orange1 FFF Racing topped the first session thanks to a 1m45.221s from Marco Mapelli in the #63 Lamborghini. This put the Chinese squad 0.822s clear of Raffaele Marciello in the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG, but positions were reversed in the second run when Jules Gounon posted a 1m46.709s. This was just 0.058s quicker than the #63 Lamborghini driven by Mirko Bortolotti, while the #71 Iron Lynx Ferrari was 0.060s back in third.
There was more good news for Mercedes-AMG as AKKA ASP topped the Silver Cup in both sessions with its #87 machine, while SPS Automotive Performance swept the Pro-Am class with the #20. The latter nearly made it three from three in the Bronze Test, but Martin Konrad was pipped to top spot by Miguel Ramos (#77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini). The Portuguese driver posted a 1m47.804s, 0.022s clear of the #20 Mercedes-AMG.
The #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari was third in the hands of Rino Mastronardi. All of the 13 cars eligible to contest the session were on-track during the hour, which was interrupted by a brief red flag caused by the #97 Aston Martin.
There have been a handful of changes to the entry list since it was first released last week. Notably, Jack Aitken is back at the wheel of the #114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini for the first time since his accident at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. Berkay Besler replaces Paul Petit in the #7 Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG, while Dennis Lind has joined the #26 Saintéloc Racing Audi crew. The full entry list can be viewed here.
The #26 Saintéloc entry will run the Audi R8 LMS Evo II ahead of the car's full-season debut in 2022, while BMW Motorsport will give the new M4 GT3 its Endurance Cup debut this weekend. Both cars will compete as invitational entries and will therefore be considered invisible from the results.
Track activity steps up a notch tomorrow, with Free Practice (09:00) and Pre-Qualifying (13:40) both running for 90 minutes. There’s virtual competition too as the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series stages its final race of 2021 at 18:20. Sunday kicks off at 09:00 with Qualifying, followed by the deciding three-hour Endurance Cup race at 15:00. All of the action will be streamed live on the official series website and social media platforms, as well as the GTWorld and GTWorld Français YouTube channels.