Marciello fastest in opening practice at Brands Hatch as 2023 Sprint Cup season gets underway

Marciello fastest in opening practice at Brands Hatch as 2023 Sprint Cup season gets underway

Raffaele Marciello led the way in the opening practice session of the 2023 Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup campaign at Brands Hatch.

The Mercedes-AMG factory ace put the #88 Akkodis ASP entry on top with a time of 1m22.511s, almost seven tenths faster than Chris Mies in the #27 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi. Marciello is no stranger to success at the British track: he bagged pole position 12 months ago, then combined with teammate Timur Boguslavskiy to secure race 2 victory. 

Alex Aka was third overall and the quickest Silver Cup runner at the wheel of the #99 Tresor Attempto Audi. The impressive youngster lapped in 1m23.347s, 0.150s shy of fellow Audi man Mies and 0.090s ahead of class rival Frank Bird in the #77 HRT Mercedes-AMG.

Next came the best Gold Cup runner, the #9 Boutsen VDS Audi driven by Aurélien Panis, who set a 1m23.488s. With all three classes represented in the overall top-five, a remarkably close contest is in store this weekend. 

There was a notable absentee from the leading pack, with reigning champions Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts only managing 12th in the #32 Team WRT BMW. This was the best of the Belgian squad's four-strong fleet, with Weerts lapping more than a second shy of Marciello. 

The 60-minute session was punctuated by a pair of red flags during the final 20 minutes. The first was required when the #90 Madpanda Motorsport Mercedes-AMG driven by Jesse Salmenautio became beached in the gravel after contact with Yuki Nemoto (#163 VSR Lamborghini) at Paddock Hill Bend. The second followed a spin for the #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Nicola Marinangeli.  

Cars will be back on-track at 12:45 BST for pre-qualifying. The main qualifying session takes place this afternoon (15:55), while the weekend's races run tomorrow at 11:05 and 16:10. All sessions will be streamed live on the GT World YouTube channel and the Fanatec GT Europe Facebook page.

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