> RESULT: FP1
Alessio Picariello wasted no time stamping his authority on Blancpain GT Series Asia’s opening 60-minute practice session at Zhejiang this morning by lapping half-a-second faster than his nearest GT3 rivals. Meanwhile, class championship leader Jean-Marc Merlin topped the GT4 times for Craft-Bamboo Racing after a similarly dominant display.
KCMG by Champion Racing’s Martin Rump has endured incredibly tough luck this year but the Estonian maintained his knack of being quick in practice by leading the times at the halfway mark. Picariello had other ideas, though, and promptly claimed top-spot with his first flying lap after taking over the J-Fly by Absolute Racing Audi he shares with Jeffrey Lee.
The Belgian’s best of 1m26.273s was ultimately 0.571s faster than Rump, who remained second despite handing his Audi over to Rick Yoon for the final 30 minutes.
Audi Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong was best of the championship contenders in third, albeit almost a second down on Picariello’s time, while Franky Cheng’s early lap left his Milestone Racing Audi fourth.
GruppeM Racing’s Jules Szymkowiak was first of the non-Audi drivers in fifth, his Mercedes-AMG just edging out Alberto Di Folco’s FFF Racing Team Lamborghini by 0.012s and the Audi R8 LMS Cup entry of Au/Yoong by another 0.003s.
The other two championship contenders featured in the overall top-10 with Hunter Abbott’s Mercedes-AMG eighth - 0.8s down on points leader Thong’s time - and the Mitch Gilbert/Aditya Patel-driven OD Racing Audi 10th.
The GT4 championship leaders also started well thanks to Jean-Marc Merlin whose 1m37.310s was an incredible 2.8s faster than Ringo Chong could manage aboard his HubAuto Racing Porsche Cayman. Championship contenders Jeremy Wang and Byron Tong/Eric Lo were third and fourth, respectively.
The day’s second 60-minute session begins at 11:25 local time before qualifying takes place later this afternoon.