Jim Pla in the #87 Silver Cup AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 went quickest in the opening practice session for the two Sprint Cup rounds comprising Round Seven of the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS. Pla lapped the 2.433 miles of the Brands Hatch GP circuit in 1:24.454 in the car he shares with Konstantin Tereschenko.
Second quickest was the sister #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes driven by Timur Boguslavskiy and Raffaele Marciello, the Italian drive lapping in 1:24.690.
Completing the top three was the championship-leading #32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor, Weerts putting in a 1:24.774.
Quickest of the Pro-Am category was the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan in which Henrique Chaves lapped in 1:25.153.
23 cars took to the circuit in cool and overcast conditions as Sprint Cup standings leader Charles Weerts, teammate of Dries Vanthoor in the #32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3, set the early pace with a 1:25.642 followed by Jim Pla in the #87 Silver Cup AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 who set a 1:25.742.
Times started to fall and after 20 minutes Henrique Chaves, driving the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and currently second in the Pro-Am drivers standings with teammate Miguel Ramos, put in a 1:25.153 with Benjamin Goethe in the #30 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS second quickest with a 1:25.158.
The 60-minute session was red flagged with 35 minutes remaining after Goethe had went off at Westfield. The #30 Audi had to be recovered back to the garage for repair with what looked like minimal damage but failed to return for the remainder of the session.
Goethe explained that, given the pace he knew he had in the car, he was pushing to improve when the incident occurred.
“I was going for a quick lap,” said Benjamin Goethe. “Our pace was really good and I was trying to improve the lap a bit and I lost it on the entry into turn 6 and the car just went straight. It was quite a stupid mistake for me to make early on but, other than that, I think our pace was really good. We are P2 at the moment so hopefully we can get the car repaired quickly.”
Significant damage to the barriers at Westfield meant that a lengthy delay was inevitable and the session was resumed at 10:30 with 30 minutes on the clock.
Almost immediately after the re-start, there was drama for the #114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan with Konsta Lappalainen at the wheel which stopped at on the climb up to Druids, brining out yellow flags in the first sector.
JOTA, whose #38 McLaren 720S GT3 was unable to get on track in the opening 30 minutes, was immediately on the pace, Ben Barnicoat putting in a 1:25.519 to sixth quickest overall with less than 25 minutes remaining.
Charles Weerts was the first driver to go below 1:25 with a 1:24.774 on his first flying lap after the stoppage.
Raffaele Marciello took over the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes from Timur Bogulavskiy and went second quickest with a 1:24.690
The session was red-flagged for the second time with just over five minutes remaining after the #159 Garage 59 Aston Martin driven by Tuomas Tujula was attempting to pass the JOTA McLaren on the entry to Paddock Hill Bend. Slight contact meant both cars began to spin with Ollie Wilkinson recovering and Tuoman Tujula going off into the gravel.
Jim Pla was pleased to have topped the time sheets in practice.
“The track was really dirty so it was easy to make a mistake,” said Pla. “It was a good start but now we have to continue like that in FP2 and qualy. I think we have a good car so let’s keep pushing.”
The session was not re-started. Pre-qualifying is scheduled to get underway at 12:10 with the two qualifying sessions for Sunday’s sprint races beginning at 15:20.