We’re now into April, and for the International GT Open teams and drivers, that means that the opening round of the season at Paul Ricard is just weeks away.
In preparation for the curtain-raiser in the south of France, teams have been out testing in their droves since DSC last reported on the winter running at Paul Ricard last month.
The biggest collective turned laps at Barcelona, where a bunch of teams and drivers managed to spend invaluable track time in the second Official GT Open Winter Test.
On the first day of the two-day meeting, 15 cars turned laps, and Antonelli Motorsport’s Mercedes AMG GT3 of GT Open 2014 champion and 2019 returnee Daniel Zampieri posted a best time of 1.43.853 in the third session, beating another Mercedes and a quartet of Lambo Huracans. It continued the form seen in Ricard, where Mercedes teams also set the pace.
The second of the Mercedes ended up just eight tenths off. It was the Drivex example of Kang Ling, with the VSR Lambo of Nordic duo Tuomas Tujula and Frederik Schandorff just behind, ahead of and the Target car of Giammaria and Liang, that finished up just over a second off.
Emil Frey Racing’s brand new Lamborghini Huracans, in what was their first outing, with Norbert Siedler and Mikaël Grenier and Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoè, were next on the road. Also on track at Barcelona was the new Porsche 911 GT3 GPX Racing, on its first shakedown.
Elsewhere, it was a difficult day for Olimp Racing, which had a strong outing in Paul Ricard, where its Audis ran fast and logged a lot of milage. Unfortunately though, on Day 1 in Spain, one of its Audis hit the barriers in the morning and burst into flames. The other car had contact with the 360 Gentleman Racing Mercedes, thankfully both cars escaped without any major damage.
Then, on the second day of testing at Circuit de Barcelona, the gaps closed, with the top nine cars finishing the day within a second.
A Mercedes AMG once topped again the time sheets. This time it was the HTP Motorsport car of Martin Konrad and Alex Hrachowina, posting a time of 1.44.118, which did not beat Day 1’s best time (1.43.853) by Zampieri in the Antonelli Motorsport AMG GT3.
The HTP Mercedes beat the Lambos of Giammaria and Liang (Target Racing) by 0s124 and by 0s332 the VSR example of Tuomas Tujula and Frederik Schandorff. The young Nordic duo performed well throughout the day, eventually beating Mateusz Lisowski (Olimp Audi), Miguel Ramos (Sports&You Mercedes) and Kang Ling (Drivex Mercedes).
Both Lisowski and Ramos topped one session each, a good reward in the case of the Pole after Olimp’s misfortunes on the opening day.
No big issues were reported on Day 2, though the Lazarus Lambo had to withdraw after breaking its skid plate, while Antonelli’s Mercedes #9 encountered engine problems in the afternoon.
Since the official test, multiple teams have been spotted running elsewhere, at Monza and Spa.
In Italy, Emil Frey Racing, Ombra Racing and Target Racing’s evo-spec Lamborghini Huracans were out in force, as well as Antonelli’s Mercedes and a Tempesta Racing-run Ferrari 488 GT3.
Then at Spa, Emil Frey was again present, joined by a brand new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 from Optimum Motorsport.
Now though, the focus is firmly on the season opener, and the grid is shaping up nicely for the races at Paul Ricard. And there’s been a slew of announcements recently, from some high profile teams that are joining the grid.
One of those was the return of Duncan Cameron to the paddock, the ELMS and Blancpain regular set to race with AF Corse driver Matt Griffin in a Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 this season.
SunEnergy1 is another big team with plans to race in GT Open this year. Australian Kenny Habul, (the reigning IGTC Am champion) who recently had a strong run in the Australian GT opener in Melbourne, will bring his stunning Mercedes AMG GT3 to the series, and race with Thomas Jager.