Marciello leads Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG sweep in opening Brands Hatch practice

Marciello leads Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG sweep in opening Brands Hatch practice

Raffaele Marciello paced the opening Sprint Cup session of the season at Brands Hatch, posting a 1m22.037s in free practice to lead a trio of Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG entries at the top of the order.  

Marciello, who shares the #89 machine with Timur Boguslavskiy, was 0.198s clear of fellow factory driver Jules Gounon in the #88 Mercedes-AMG. Thomas Drouet was third in the #87 car, which also led the Silver Cup classification with a 1m22.319s.

Chris Mies was best of the rest at the wheel of the #33 Team WRT Audi, followed by the #53 AF Corse Ferrari shared by Ulysse de Pauw and Pierre-Alexandre Jean. The young duo were among the front-runners throughout, with De Pauw ultimately posting the lap that elevated the #53 to fifth overall and second in the Silver Cup.

Reigning two-time Sprint Cup champion Dries Vanthoor was sixth for Team WRT, leading a train of eight consecutive Audi runners. The last of these was the #46 Team WRT entry of Valentino Rossi and Fred Vervisch, the former putting in a considerable number of laps on his very first visit to Brands Hatch. 

The #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini topped the Pro-Am class. Pro driver Ben Barker handled the session solo, with crew-mate Alex Malykhin skipping free practice due to illness. Barker edged the #188 Garage 59 McLaren by 0.070s, placing a competitive 14th overall. 

The session ran largely without incident, though there were off-track moments for several drivers as they found their marks at the challenging British track. Rossi was among them, going well wide at Graham Hill Bend, while Miguel Ramos lightly kissed the barriers at Paddock Hill after misjudging his braking.

Cars will be back on-track at 12:25 BST for pre-qualifying, while the main qualifying session begins at 15:50.