- Teams complete extensive running in perfect weather conditions at French venue
- Schiller fastest overall for Al Manar Racing by HRT as Mercedes-AMG shows strong pace
- Entry lists revealed during traditional pre-season event
Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS is ready to go racing after wrapping up a successful two-day test at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Taking place on Monday and Tuesday (7/8 March), the annual event brought 43 cars representing nine brands to the south of France, where perfect spring weather allowed them to undertake significant running ahead of next month's season-opening trip to Imola.
With 14 hours of almost uninterrupted green flag conditions teams were able to gather data, work on qualifying and race simulations, and adapt to the new Pirelli P Zero DHF slick tyre that will be used in 2022.
Several drivers made their official series debuts at Circuit Paul Ricard, including nine-time motorcycle grand prix world champion Valentino Rossi. The Italian also revealed the livery for his #46 Team WRT Audi on Monday afternoon, while several other cars arrived at the test carrying fresh colours.
There were new and returning teams in the paddock, too. Lamborghini squads Vincenzo Sospiri Racing, AGS Events, Leipert Motorsport and GSM Novamarine were all part of a renewed line-up for the Italian marque, while Beechdean AMR was on-track with Aston Martin machinery. JP Motorsport ran extensively with its pair of McLarens, the all-female Iron Dames squad gained significant mileage with its Ferrari, and Tresor by Car Collection showed excellent pace with its new Audi.
The fastest lap of the test was posted by the #777 Al Manar Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG. Fabian Schiller was at the wheel, setting an unbeatable 1m52.533s on Tuesday morning. This was emblematic of the impressive pace shown by the Mercedes-AMG runners, with GetSpeed topping Monday's opening session before AKKA ASP led the way in the afternoon.
Indeed, the only time that the brand did not finish on top was Tuesday afternoon, when Saintéloc Racing led the way with its #25 Audi. Porsche, Bentley and BMW were also present at the test, the latter represented by its new M4 GT3 model in the hands of ROWE Racing.
There were developments away from the track, too, with the full entry list for the upcoming Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS campaign revealed on Tuesday afternoon. An expanded field of 52 cars will tackle this season's Endurance Cup, while the Sprint Cup grid is set at 25. Several teams also took the opportunity to confirm their driver line-ups, with Saintéloc Racing, Iron Lynx and Tresor by Car Collection among those to name crews during the test days.
The 2022 season will launch with a three-hour Endurance Cup contest at Imola on 1-3 April, while the opening Sprint Cup event will take the series to Brands Hatch on 30 April/1 May. With a packed grids confirmed for both, yet another exciting season is in prospect for Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS.