The 2020 GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season gets underway at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola on July 25 – 26.
The series start was delayed by the global pandemic, as were all major global sporting events, and huge credit is due to organisers, the SRO Motorsports Group, that the premier global GT championship will still see nine weekends of racing before the season finale at Circuit Paul Ricard in November.
46 cars are due to take to the grid at Imola – 23 in the Pro class, 10 in the Silver Cup category, 11 in the Pro-Am Cup and two in the Am Cup category.
In the Pro category, seven manufacturers (Bentley, Mercedes-AMG, Porsche, Lamborghini, Audi, McLaren mand Ferrari) are represented with the Ingolstadt marque fielding the highest number of entries. Five examples of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 will be competing in the Pro class at Imola with two each from Team WRT and Attempto Racing while Sainteloc Junior Team has a single Pro entry.
The #25 Sainteloc Junior team entry will be piloted by Markus Winkelhock, Dorian Boccolacci and Christopher Haase. Christopher Mies and Dries Vanthoor return with team WRT accompanied by Charles Weerts while Attempto Racing has Mattia Drudi partnered with Frederick Vervisch in the #55 car.
Defending champions Orange 1 FFF Racing return with the team’s #63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo being driven by Andrea Caldarelli, Marco Mapelli and Dennis Lind.
Emil Frey Racing has entered a pair of Lamborghini Huracan HT3 Evos; the #14 entry to be driven by Norbert Siedler, Mikael Grenier and Riccardo Feller while the sister #163 entry will see Albert Costa, Franck Perera and Giacomo Altoe sharing the driving duties,
Mirandola, Modena-based Imperiale Racing makes its debut in GT World Challenge Europe at Imola. Driving the team’s #23 Lamborghini will be Italian GT teammates Kikko Galbiati and Giovannio Venturini who will be joined by Lucas-Ayrton Mauron.
Porsche will be represented in the Pro class by four of its 911 GT3-R (991.11)s. Dinamic Motorsport, winner in the opening round of the 2019 season, returns with the highly competitive driver line-up of Sven Muller, Matteo Cairoli and Christian Englehart. GPX Racing will have two Porsche 911 GT3-Rs on the grid. The #12 entry will have Patrick Pilet, Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell behind the wheel while the sister #40 entry will be piloted Romain Dumas, Louis Delétraz and Thomas Preining.
The fourth entry from the Stuttgart marque comes courtesy of ROWE Racing with its #99 car; Julien Andlauer, Klaus Bachler and Dirk Werner sharing the driving duties.
Three examples of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 will be on the grid at Imola. Newly formed for 2020 and with two NLS victories already in the bag, Haupt Racing Team will campaign its #4 entry with Vincent Abril, Luca Stolz and Maro Engel driving. Team AKKA ASP returns with a driving trio of 2018 champion Raffaele Marciello, Timur Bogislavskiy and Felipe Fraga while GetSpeed Performance’s drivers are Fabian Schiller, Maxi Buhk and Alessio Lorandi.
Bentley supports two customer teams at Imola. California-based Flying Lizard Motorsports has entered two Bentley Continental GT3s with the #3 driven by Rodrigo Baptista, Maxime Soulet and Jules Gounon while the sister #9 is piloted by Andy Soucek, Jordan Pepper and Alvaro Parente.
CMR (Classic and Modern Racing) announced its intention to campaign a Bentley Continental GT3 in all ten rounds of 2020 GT World Challenge Series. Pierre-Alexandre Jean, who has previous experience in the French GT4 Cup and the GT4 European Series, makes the move to GT3 racing and will be joined by Seb Morris at the Endurance rounds and Jules Gounon at the sprint events.
Two McLaren 720S GT3s will be on the grid in Italy. 50 Racing has entered its #60 car with the driving line-up of Ben Barnicoat, Lewis Williamson and Martin Kodric while Optimum Motorsports #69 entry will see driving duties shared by Ollie Wilkinson, Rob Bell and Joe Osborne.
AF Corse and SMP Racing have entered one Ferrari F488 GT3 apiece for Imola. Both have experienced driver line-ups with Alessando Pier Guidi, Nicklas Nielsen and James Calado sharing the #51 AF Corse entry while Sergey Sirotkin, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina pilot the #72 Ferrari.
10 entries in the Silver Cup class are shared between three Mercedes, two Lamborghinis and a Bentley, Lexus, Audi and Porsche. Haupt Racing Team’s #5 Mercedes-AMG driven by team owner Hubert Haupt, Sergey Afanasiev and Finlay Hutchison will be a car to watch, the new team taken two victories on the Nordschleife since racing resumed.
The six entries in the Pro-Am Cup class are spread across six manufacturers with the #19 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team a car to watch, driven by Phil keen and Hiroshi Hamaguchi. The pair will be looking to build on their third-place finish in the class drivers standings in 2019.
The grid is concluded with two Am Cup entries, including the second CMR Bentley, and the SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG of Christian Hook, Manuel Lauck and Florian Scholze.
In a world where many fields have been depleted due to the pandemic, to assemble a grid of 46 cars for the opening endurance round of the championship is a massive achievement and the organiser, manufacturers, teams and drivers should be congratulated.
Track action for the first round of the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS begins at 17:40 local time on Friday July 24 with the 60-minute Bronze test. Free Practice opens Saturday July 25th’s activities followed by Pre-Qualifying at 13:10 local time (12:10 BST).
The three 15-minute qualifying sessions get underway at 17:30 local time (16:30 BST) on the evening of July 25 with the lights going out for the three-hour race at 13:30 local time (12:20 BST on Sunday July 26.