Having topped both of Friday’s test sessions, Raffaele Marciello and RAM Racing continued their march to the top of the times by leading the GT3 order in opening practice at the Autodromo do Algarve.
Seb Hopkins also shone during the GT4 session, with his best securing top spot for R Racing’s Aston Martin.
Having dialled himself into the circuit during Friday, Marciello wasted little time in laying down a marker for the rest to chase. He took the wheel of the #15 Mercedes-AMG for the start and quickly usurped Marvin Kirchhöfer’s best in the Garage 59 McLaren before improving to what would stand as the session’s best effort on his third tour. From there, the Swiss ace handed over to John Ferguson to rack up the laps.
Sandy Mitchell came the closest to Marciello’s time, but his and Shaun Balfe’s Barwell Lamborghini wound up second, almost 0.3s shy. Darren Leung and Dan Harper were third fastest in Century’s BMW M4 GT3, with Ian Loggie and Phil Keen [in for Jules Gounon this weekend] fourth for 2 Seas Motorsport.
Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha were fifth quickest in the second Barwell Huracan, with Kirchhöfer and new team-mate Miguel Ramos rounding out the top six in Garage 59’s McLaren.
GT4 was also a slow-burner, with many teams playing themselves into the track and the slightly cooler track conditions of Saturday morning. But R Racing picked up where it left off on Friday by topping the order after a fine effort from Hopkins.
Josh Rowledge led the way early on in the DTO McLaren Artura he shares with Aston Millar, but then Hopkins put the Aston out front before he and team-mate Josh Miller parked up to let the others chase them.
DTO would likely have been a late challenger, but the car lost the second half of the session after stopping out on track and causing the session’s only stoppage. Regardless, Millar and Rowledge finished second fastest, some 0.6s down.
Mike Simpson helped the Toro Verde Ginetta he shares with James Townsend to third, with Dan Vaughan and Zac Meakin fourth in the new joint effort from Team Parker Racing and Elite Motorsport, which includes the team switching from its usual Porsche to a yellow McLaren for this event.
Runaway championship leaders Charles Clark and Jack Brown were fifth in their Optimum Motorsport Artura, with Pro-Am championship leaders Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato completing the top six in the #22 Century Motorsport BMW M4.
Second practice gets underway at 11:50.