***Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup is at Magny-Cours for the second time, after last year’s inaugural visit when the former French Grand Prix venue hosted round two in September. It is the first time that a French circuit has staged the Sprint Cup opener since Nogaro in 2015. Misano, Brands Hatch and Zolder have taken turns since then.
***Sprint Cup forms only the tip of the iceberg in terms of championships racing at Magny-Cours this weekend. Eight support series are on the bill: FFSA French GT, FFSA TC France, Porsche Carrera Cup France, French Formula 4, Alpine Elf Europa Cup, Renault Clio Cup Europe, Sprint Cup by Funyo and Trophee Mitjet.
***The busy schedule includes a total of 22 races, while almost 250 cars are due on-site across the different competitions. There is some crossover between GTWC Europe and French GT with Sainteloc Racing, AKKA-ASP and CMR running cars in both series.
***Of note, Jim Pla is competing in both GTWC Europe and French GT this weekend. The AKKA-ASP driver was the fastest Silver Cup competitor in both Sprint Cup practice sessions on Friday. Both championships are qualifying back-to-back this afternoon.
***The French GT field includes several familiar names including former LMP1 and Formula E driver Nicolas Prost, ex-Audi DTM driver Adrien Tambay and 24 Hours of Le Mans class podium finisher Soheil Ayari.
***Christopher Mies is driving the No. 66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo in place of fellow factory driver Dennis Marschall, who is representing Audi Sport Team Phoenix in Sunday’s Nürburgring 24 qualifying race. Marschall and Alex Aka were due to race in Silver Cup, but the introduction of double Nürburgring 24 winner Mies has required conversion to Pro status.
***For all of his GT racing experience, Audi factory driver Mies has never raced at Magny-Cours before.
***Emil Frey Racing is repairing its No. 163 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo after a crash that brought out the red flags during Pre-Qualifying on Friday night. It’s unclear what caused the accident and how extensive the damage is, however a team spokesperson said the Swiss outfit is working to be ready for qualifying later today.
***Three pit lane speeding penalties were handed out during Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying, most notably a €450 fine for WRT’s Benjamin Goethe who was found to have exceeded the 50 km/h limit by just over 9 km/h.
***The minimum pit stop time for the Pro-Am category, from pit-in to pit-out, has been retained at 53 seconds from last year. Only four Pro-Am cars are entered, replicating the number that contested the 2020 season. British teams Barwell Motorsport and Garage 59 are new to the fold, while SPS Automotive Performance and AF Corse were on last season’s grid.
***After a Silver Cup car ranked third overall in Pre-Qualifying, eyes will be on the category to see if anyone can repeat Simon Gachet and Steven Palette’s surprise overall victory from last year. Gachet also took an outright pole in a Sainteloc Racing Audi. Neither driver is on the grid this weekend, with Gachet focusing on Endurance Cup with his new team AKKA-ASP and Palette racing in TC France.
***Despite being shown on the full-season entry list, RAM Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo is not doing Sprint Cup this year. The British team is running the Endurance Cup and plans to be back for round two at Paul Ricard after a crash at Monza. Allied-Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 R was also on the provisional season entry but is not at Magny-Cours.
***Somewhat remarkably, this ninth GTWC Europe Sprint Cup season marks the first to involve a full-time Porsche entry, courtesy of Dinamic Motorsport. The closest to that in the past was a three-round program for German squad Team a-workx in 2016.
***Felipe Fraga is set to drive for AKKA-ASP in the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by AWS. The Brazilian was a member of ASP’s full-time Endurance Cup squad last year but has not featured in the French organization’s GTWC Europe setup in 2021.
***The Fanatec GT Rebellion Series is unlikely to go ahead this year. Endurance-info reports that a lack of entries has forced SRO to remove its new three-hour GT3 series for Bronze-rated drivers from next weekend’s GT Sports Club meeting at Hockenheim.
***Live coverage of the Magny-Cours qualifying sessions and races will be available on the GTWC Europe website and the GT World YouTube channel. The latter also includes streaming of the French GT and TC France action.
***Qualifying for the first Sprint Cup race of the season gets underway at 5:05 p.m. CEST (11:05 p.m. EST) followed by the race start at 10:25 p.m. (4:25 p.m. EST). Race two qualifying takes place at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. EST) for the race at 2:40 p.m. (8:40 a.m. EST).
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report.