FP1: Marciello and Ohtsuka help GruppeM pace both classes at Suzuka

FP1: Marciello and Ohtsuka help GruppeM pace both classes at Suzuka

> Result: FP1

GruppeM Racing’s Mercedes-AMGs topped both the GT3 and GT4 classes in opening practice for this weekend’s Blancpain GT Series Asia round at Suzuka earlier today.

Raffaele Marciello set fastest time overall aboard the #888 GT he shares with Alexander Mattschull, while debutant Ryuichirou Ohtsuka looked immediately at home in the #666 entry alongside GT4 championship leader Reinhold Renger.

Marciello’s table-topping 2m02.484s effort, set on Pirelli’s newly introduced GT3-spec P Zero DHD2 tyre, was more than a second under last season’s GT3 race lap record and 0.415s faster than Tim Slade’s HubAuto Corsa Ferrari, which in turn finished just 0.058s clear of the team’s sister 488 shared by the session’s leading Silver Cup crew of Leo Ye Hongli and Nick Foster.

Championship debutant Alex Imperatori impressed on his first outing aboard KCMG’s #18 Nissan to claim fourth after lapping less than a tenth shy of Slade, while the second of GruppeM’s Mercedes-AMGs driven by Markus Pommer and Patric Niederhauser finished fifth.

Absolute Racing’s #3 Audi was best of the R8 LMS GT3s in sixth.

GT4 also featured a Mercedes-AMG at the front of the field thanks to Ohtsuka, who’s best of 2m15.656s was almost four seconds quicker than the fastest time from 2017’s races. The Mercedes-AMG was also a second quicker than BMW Team Studie’s leading M4 shared by Sunako Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinoshita, and another 0.5s clear of Ringo Chong and Gilles Vannelet’s Team iRace.Win Mercedes-AMG.

The first Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR was next up, TTR Team SARD’s #11 car shared by Tony Fong and Brian Lee lapping another two seconds slower than their rivals in third.

The day’s second 45-minute practice session begins at 17:05 this afternoon.