***Friday’s track action started at 9 a.m. with a one-hour Bronze driver test. Sky-Tempesta Racing Ferrari driver Jonathan Hui led by almost half a second from Martin Konrad in the second-placed SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo. 18 cars took part in the session.
***Reigning Michelin Le Mans Cup champion Rino Mastronardi has joined Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron in the No. 53 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020. Full-season drivers Griffin and Cameron are making their first Endurance Cup appearance of the year, having skipped Monza due to a clash with their European Le Mans Series program.
***CMR’s Bentley Continental GT3 is now racing in Silver Cup, rather than Pro. Nelson Panciatici’s driver ranking has been brought down from Gold to Silver*. CMR’s crew of Panciatici, Stuart White and Bronze-rated Gilles Vannelet were in Pro-Am at Monza, but switched to Pro for Ricard based on the speed of now-Silver White, who was a Bronze* in Italy, and after calls from other teams. Its re-adjustment to Silver Cup (with a Silver*, Silver, Bronze combination) means CMR has been in three different classes in two events.
***A total of seven driver rating derogations have been made for this race. Some of them have incurred 20 kg weight penalties. The drivers are: Nelson Panciatici (Silver*), Olivier Grotz (Bronze*), Clemens Schmid (Silver*), Sam de Haan (Bronze*), Doriane Pin (Bronze*), Chris Froggatt (Bronze*), and Julien Apotheloz (Bronze*). The latter four have received 20 kg of ballast for their cars.
***The teams in Garage 12 (Emil Frey Racing) and Garage 18 (JOTA and Dinamic Motorsport) have been allowed to introduce an additional team member to help push their cars back into the garages due to a slope in that section of the pit lane. The extra staff must wear an orange armband and cannot serve any other pit lane function.
***Orange 1 FFF Racing Team has yet to decide on its additional Bronze and Pro drivers to complete a four-person Pro-Am lineup for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, according to team principal Andrea Caldarelli. “During the two days of official tests we’re going to bring some options and we’re going to see from there,” he said.
***Caldarelli added that FFF is looking to contest the Nürburgring and Barcelona rounds with Phil Keen and Hiroshi Hamaguchi as a pairing in Pro-Am. Asked if the team looked at signing a second Bronze for Ricard, Caldarelli said: “Speaking with Hiroshi, he was very confident to do the four hours [in six] himself. We asked him many times, but he is super fit and motivated, which is impressive. We’re really happy that he’s so committed.”
***JP Motorsport’s McLaren 720s GT3 will not enter the Total 24 Hours of Spa despite its appearance in the preceding round this weekend, according to Christian Klien. No other GTWC Europe Endurance Cup rounds are on the cards at this stage.
***Klien explained: “It’s very expensive, and just to take part and be there it’s not worth it. We discussed it and said there’s no point to go there if we’re not ready. You can do three Endurance Cup races for that money. You definitely want to be there as a team, but you have to be ready and it has to make sense.”
***The JP Motorsport name derives from the first names of driver and team boss Patryk Krupinski and his wife, Joanna.
***Mercedes-AMG teams have been working to ensure they don’t encounter left-front tire issues. The high loads into Signes corner at the end of the Mistral straight have caused punctures on previous visits. “You have to mitigate against it, which is having a slightly slower car,” said HRT team principal Sean Paul Breslin. “It’s better to have a slower car and finishing than leading for the first hour and then having a puncture.”
***Despite that consideration, Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos led Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying, with HRT topping the latter session. The last Paul Ricard 1000km pole for a Mercedes-AMG team went to Black Falcon in 2017.
***A pair of €500 fines were handed out during Pre-Qualifying for infractions on pit lane. One sanction went to JOTA for an unsafe release, while WRT Audi driver Benjamin Goethe picked up the other for crossing the white line at the pit exit.
***The new Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo EVO2 was physically unveiled this morning after a virtual launch on Wednesday. The 620-horsepower single-make racer is sitting alongside Lamborghini road models on a roundabout at the paddock entrance.
***A second-gen Porsche 935 is on display at the entrance of the Fanatec Esports Arena. Drivers entered into tomorrow’s Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series round could practice for up to two hours today, to prepare for the race on Assetto Corsa Competizione.
***As part of the 2020 end-of-season commemorations, Karim Ojjeh was awarded the Philippe Charriol Trophy which is presented to a chosen high-performing amateur driver. Andrea Bertolini was the previous recipient. Additionally, the 2020 Pit Stop Challenge prize was collected by Alexandre Riquier and Gil Botelho from Team WRT.
***The top three drivers per category in the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series Monza round have been given success ballast for tomorrow’s Paul Ricard race. The penalties apply to Arthur Rougier (30 kg), Daniel Juncadella (15 kg), Nicklas Nielsen (10 kg), Ryuichiro Tomita (30 kg), Ezequiel Companc (15 kg) and Benjamin Hites (10 kg).
***Three of Ferrari’s top official sim racing drivers are on-site supporting Nielsen’s entry into the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series race. David Tonizza, Brendon Leigh and Ferrari Esport Series winner Giovanni di Salvo have been working on virtual setup and also got to experience a garage tour of a real Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 courtesy of Callum Ilott.
***Rinaldi Racing has switched drivers for the esports contest. Hites has pulled out after experiencing muscle contractions and will be replaced by British F3 iRacing champion Nicolas Varrone. Hites still drove Rinaldi’s real-world Ferrari in Pre-Qualifying.
***Katherine Legge today turned her first laps of Paul Ricard since a major accident in a European Le Mans Series LMP2 testing session last July that left her with a broken left leg and right ankle. Legge is making her debut in both the GT3 Ferrari and GTWC Europe.
***Check out the official GTWC Europe Endurance Cup spotter guide for Paul Ricard here.
***Tri-session, average-based qualifying for the Paul Ricard 1000km gets underway at 10:45 a.m. CEST (4:45 a.m. EST). The six-hour race is due to start at 6 p.m. CEST (12 p.m. EST) with live coverage on the GTWC Europe website and GT World on YouTube.