Following Thursday evening’s spectacular opening ceremony in Rome, the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games began in earnest earlier today when 192 drivers representing 49 National Sporting Authorities (ASNs) turned their first laps at Vallelunga Circuit.
Friday offered those contesting the GT Cup, Touring Car Cup, Formula 4 Cup, Digital Cup, Karting Slalom Cup and Drifting Cup an opportunity to practice (and in the latter’s case, qualify) for Saturday and Sunday’s medal races, which will ultimately determine the ASN crowned FIA Motorsport Games champions this weekend.
The road to GT Cup glory began with a pair of free practice sessions that saw France and Switzerland emerge as the early pace-setters. The French-liveried Mercedes-AMG led the way in the morning run courtesy of Jim Pla, who beat the Team Switzerland Lamborghini driven by Patric Niederhauser into second spot. The Swiss ace then went fastest overall for the day with a 1m32.304s as the positions were reversed in FP2, suggesting that both nations are well-placed to compete for GT Cup gold.
Germany showed strongly with its Porsche, finishing the morning session in third spot before taking fourth in the afternoon, while Team Russia's Ferrari was fourth and fifth respectively. Thailand started slowly, ending FP1 in 16th position, but made a big impression during the second run by vaulting up the order to P3.
TOURING CAR CUP
Mato Homola set the fastest time across Friday’s two 30-minute practice sessions after Luca Engstler topped FP1 this morning. The Slovak’s Hyundai lapped in 1m40.692s to end the day two tenths quicker than WTCR star Tom Coronel (Team Netherlands).
Engstler’s morning benchmark remained good enough for third quickest overall, while Germany’s two-time TCR Asia champion was also one of only four drivers to post a sub-1m41s lap. The other was Team Belgium’s Gilles Magnus who twice finished third.
Unlike the other five categories, tomorrow’s opening Touring Car Cup race will have a direct impact on this year’s medal winners. Gold will be awarded to the driver who scores the most number of points across both races, the second of which takes place on Sunday afternoon.
FORMULA 4 CUP
Andrea Rosso harnessed the power of home advantage to lead both Formula 4 Cup practice sessions.
KCMG’s brand-new, hybrid-powered 01 chassis provided a fresh challenge for even the most experienced of F4 drivers, so it was no surprise to see a local with recent Italian championship knowledge of Vallelunga topping the times.
Rosso ended FP2 with a 0.2s advantage over fellow Italian F4 drivers Ido Cohen (Team Israel) and Laszlo Toth (Team Hungary) after topping the first session by more than four tenths.
Expect the likes of Luis Leeds (Australia), Reshad de Gerus (France), Niklas Kruetten (Germany) and Malthe Jakobsen (Denmark) to have also closed the gap in time for this weekend’s first race tomorrow.
Diogo Manuel Dias Correia topped Drifting Cup qualifying for Portugal to lead 16 nations into tomorrow's deciding contest, while seven teams have been eliminated from the competition.
Driving a BMW M3 E92 decked out in his nation's flag – not to mention an unmissable set of fluorescent green rims – Correia delivered a breathtaking performance to rack up 89 points. He was awarded 32 for his line, 30 for angle and 27 for style.
The following positions were filled by Benediktas Čirba (Lithuania), Juha Pöytälaakso (Finland) and Ilia Fedorov (Russia), all of whom delivered excellent showings in tonight's qualifying to advance to Saturday's showdown.
There was disappointment for seven teams as they were eliminated from this year's FIA Motorsport Games. This group consists of Romania, Sweden, France, Denmark, Slovakia and Malta. The Top 16 contest will get underway tomorrow at 17.30, culminating in the gold medal being decided by a final battle.
KARTING SLALOM CUP
Team Georgia led the way in this afternoon's Karting Slalom Cup practice session, which saw Elizaveta Bagramovi and Nika Kobosnidze post a combined time of 1m52.333s.
This put them 2.634s clear of Latvia, whose duo of Emīlija Bertāne and younger brother Nikolass tackled the course in a combined 1m54.967s. The top-three was completed by Sara Sandra Kałuzińska and Krzysztof Gardziel of Team Poland.
The arrival of heavy rain at Vallelunga meant that four nations – Denmark, Hungary, Germany and Serbia – were limited to just one run today. This quartet will be allowed to complete their allotted Friday practice tomorrow.
Saturday will see a further opportunity for the full field to practice the slalom course before qualifying is run over two sessions. The medal positions will be decided on Sunday.
The Digital Cup competitors turned their first laps in anger this afternoon during a practice session held at the Congress Centre towering above Vallelunga Circuit.
30 racers, divided into groups of 10, were each given an hour of track time to test the Red Bull X2019 prototype at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Mikail Hizal of Germany set the fastest time of all - 1m29.312s. Australia’s Cody Nikola Latkovski was second best (1m20.569) ahead of newly-crowned World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin (United Kingdom).
Tomorrow begins with qualifying for the semi-finals, repechage race and Grand Final, which will determine the first-ever Digital Cup gold, silver and bronze medallists.
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Action from all six categories counting towards the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games will be streamed live on the event’s website and Facebook page, as well as fia.com, this Saturday and Sunday.