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Baku World Challenge - Free Practice 1

23 November 2013

The first track action of the 2013 Baku World Challenge saw action aplenty this afternoon in the crucial Free Practice sessions for the final rounds of the FIA GT Series.

Teams and drivers set about discovering the challenging 4.38kms circuit on the streets of the Azerbaijani capital in the first of two 60-minute sessions. With some safety amendments implemented on the track the running got underway at 12.40 local time under clear, sunny but cool conditions. The large Azeri crowd were wowed as the diverse grid of GT3 cars blasted on to the circuit to explore the hairpins, chicanes and fast swooping curves of the specially created track.

Roaring past iconic landmarks of the capital city such as the National Flag Square and within site of the Crystal Hall and magnificent Flame Towers, the three-class contingent of supercars was a spectacular sight to behold.

Topping the times in first Free Practice session were current Pro-Am points leaders HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3, with Andreas Simonsen (SWE) setting a best lap of 1m47.686s. He shares the Mercedes with Sergei Afanasiev (RUS) as usual this weekend.

In second position and the fastest Pro categorised entry was the #13 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra of Frank Stippler (DEU) and Edward Sandström (SWE). However, their session ended dramatically when a collision with the #102 Callaway Corvette driven by Daniel Keilwitz (DEU) brought out the red flags and ensured both cars will need emergency repairs for the second Free Practice session.

Claiming third place was the #27 Hexis Racing McLaren MP4-12C driven by Kevin Estre (FRA) and Rob Bell (GBR). Estre, who had previously just had one test in the Hexis McLaren impressed mightily to set the time of 1m47.792s. The French team’s early form could indicate another win on the streets of Baku after their 2012 success on the original smaller circuit in the Azerbaijani capital city.

With incidents aplenty in the first session several teams were busy repairing their cars in the pits. These include the #1 HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 which crashed just after the first hairpin with Alon Day (ISR) hitting the wall and causing the second of three red flags.

Also in the wars at Baku was the #18 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra of Gregoire Demoustier who suffered a suspected suspension breakage. Adding to a large job list for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT squad was the #12 car of Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT) who went off, along with Frederic Vervisch in the Boutsen Ginion McLaren MP4-12C, suffering suspension damage as a result.

The second Free Practice session begins at 14.50 local time. For live coverage from the session please click here –