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Drivex Mercedes Fastest In First GT Open Winter Test

DSC wraps up all the action in Barcelona

With the opening round of the season at Estoril fast approaching, many of the International GT Open teams headed to Spain for the annual winter test at the Circuit de Catalunya, which featured eight hour-long sessions.

After both days of running, the fastest car on-track of the 17 that took part was the Drivex School Mercedes AMG GT3 (featured) of Allam Khodair and Marcelo Hahn, after a 1:43.585 on the second day. The time was an improvement on the team’s 1:44.466 from the opening session of the test which topped the Day 1 combined times.

It was a perfect start to the year for the team, which is based out of Madrid, and recently confirmed that it will contest the full GT Open season again.

Italian team Krypton Motorsport ended up second in the cold, foggy conditions trackside, making it an AMG GT3 1-2 with a 1:43.585 from Stefano Pezzucchi in the second hour during Day 2.

Completing the top three was the sole Teo Martin BMW M6 GT3 present in Barcelona, the car driven by Fran Rueda, Lourenço Beirão, Márcio Basso and Nonô Figueiredo, the outfit fresh from a private test at Valencia in January as part of its pre-season preparations.

The best time after the eight hours of running was a 1:44.345, the team using the track time to get to grips with the 2018 evo-spec M6 ahead of the opening round. It was also a chance for Basso, Beirao and Rueda to drive the M6 with the team for the first time.

In particular, it was a key two days for Basso, ahead of his recently announced Am class assault with the team in 2018 with Berto Leite, in which he’s looking to win the category after finishing runner-up in his debut season last year.

And just outside the top four was GT Open debutant Vincenzo Sospiri Racing, Nicolas Costa, Giulio Borlenghi and Kang Ling driving its Huracan GT3 during the test and setting a time just 0.820 off the lead Drivex Mercedes.

It was a positive start to the team’s new beginnings racing in Jesus Pereja’s series, after a season and a half of racing in Asia. The Italian team brings added spice to this year’s grid due to its extensive experience racing against top teams, winning back-to-back Super GT titles in the 2016 and 2017.

Elsewhere in the field, Rinaldi Racing brought a grand total of four 488 GT3s to the test, the German team out in full force following the announcement of its dual Blancpain-GT Open programme for 2018.

This year Rinaldi Racing will compete full-time in the series, following its one-off outing at Barcelona last year. 2018 will not be Rinaldi’s first full GT Open campaign however, after the Mendig-based team competed in the series back in 2013-14.

The team will race two Ferraris, one entered in the Am category for Christian Hook and Steve Parrow, and the other for Vadim Kogay (who drove in the test) and an unannounced second driver. The best time from the team came from its #33 488 driven by Rinat Salikhov and Dominik Schwager, a 1:44.636.

The rest of the field was made up of GT3 entries from Olimp Racing and Porteiro Motorsport and guest-entered Ferrari Challenge 488s from FF Corse, MP Motorsport and Spirit of Race.

Away from the track action, there was a key announcement for the series during the test, Michelin extending its deal as the sole tyre supplier for GT Open for three more years (2018-20). The agreement was signed by Jesús Pareja, CEO of GT Sport, and Pascal Couasnon, Director of Michelin Motorsport, in presence also of Greig Coull, Director of the Customer Racing programme for the French manufacturer.

In 2018, along the new Pilot Sport GT M tyre range, Michelin will introduce the RFID system that allows the technicians on-site to monitor tyres electronically, similar to Dunlop’s system, used in the European Le Mans Series.

Notably absent from the test was reigning champion Imperiale Racing. However, prior to the meeting in Catalunya, the team did announce its intentions to defend its Driver’s and Team’s titles in 2018. The Italian team, led by Ivano Pignatti and based in Mirandola is working on a three-car campaign, with the support of Lamborghini Squadra Corse.

For its effort, it appears that that reigning champion Giovanni Venturini will defend his crown, with the test of the line-up set to include drivers from the Lamborghini GT3 Junior Programme.

Thankfully there were no notable incidents in Barcelona, leaving no teams with major repair work to complete ahead of the second winter test for the GT Open runners and riders, which will take place in two weeks time, from 2-3 March, at Circuit Paul Ricard.

FRIDAY COMBINED TIMES >>

SATURDAY COMBINED TIMES >>

Photos courtesy of GT Open