> Ohtsuka’s GruppeM Mercedes-AMG leads GT4 title contenders
> Result: FP1
Raffaele Marciello’s GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG topped the times in opening practice for this weekend’s Blancpain GT Series Asia season finale at Ningbo earlier today, while the team’s #666 entry driven by GT4 championship leader Reinhold Renger also led its respective class.
Tim Slade’s Ferrari was quickest after 15 of the session’s 45 minutes but was overhauled by Marciello – one of seven overall title contenders this weekend – before a red flag briefly interrupted FP1 with a third of the session remaining. The Italian’s best of 1m43.512s would remain unchallenged thereafter, as well as 0.158s faster than HubAuto Corsa’s #28 Ferrari, and another three tenths clear of the Absolute Racing Audi shared by Martin Rump and Franky Cheng.
FFF Racing’s championship leaders were right behind in fourth after the Lamborghini shared by Martin Kodric and Dennis Lind lapped just 0.010s faster than Nick Foster, who is also targeting the title this weekend. The Australian and his HubAuto Corsa co-driver Jono Lester were half-a-tenth and 0.1s quicker than KCMG’s #18 Nissan and Indigo Racing-run Mercedes-AMG, respectively, while Alessio Picariello’s Audi rounded out the top-eight.
The remaining championship contenders were spread far and wide: Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Marco Mapelli (FFF Racing) finished 10th, Edoardo Liberati and Florian Strauss (KCMG) were 13th, and a technical issue ended Patric Niederhauser’s session without his Mercedes-AMG completing a timed lap.
In GT4, all three title challengers finished line astern at the top of the standings, although none of the individual championship protagonists set the benchmark time. That accolade went to Ryuichirou Ohtsuka whose best of 1m55.132s ended up 0.4s faster than BMW Team Studie’s M4 driven by Takayuki Kinoshita and Sunako Jukuchou.
Ringo Chong and his Team iRace.Win co-driver Alex Au were another four tenths further back, while the all-female Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG shared by Diana Rosario and Naomi Zhang finished fourth.
Friday’s second practice session begins at 15:25 local time.