The new Baku street circuit, scene of this weekend’s FIA GT Series finale, has been given the thumbs-up by the drivers. The 2.72-mile track in the Azerbaijani capital was described as a “great circuit” by Porsche factory driver Nick Tandy.
“It has got a nice mix of fast and slow corners, and it is pretty difficult,” said the Briton, who is sharing a Trackspeed Porsche 911 GT3-R with Marco Holzer in the two one-hour races tomorrow.
Tandy’s comments were echoed by other drivers competing in the event. McLaren driver Oliver Turvey, who is racing for the MRS team this weekend, added: “It’s got a good flow and is really challenging, especially the chicanes. It is narrow in places, but that’s like any street circuit.”
Free practice, which was reduced in duration by 40 minutes after delays completing the circuit, was headed by the WRT Audi driven by Rene Rast. The German’s time of 1m43.228s in the Audi R8 LMS ultra he shares with Niki Mayr-Melnhof put him just over a tenth ahead of Markus Winkelhock in the Phoenix Audi.
Mike Parisy was third fastest a further three tenths down in the best of the Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren MP4-12Cs, with Allam Khodair fourth in the Team BMW Brazil Z4. Tandy was fifth in the fastest of the two Trackspeed Porsches.
The delay in finishing construction of the circuit has also resulted in a shortening of qualifying. The Superpole session, in which the fastest 10 cars each complete two laps to set the first five rows of the grid has been abandoned. The grid will be set on the basis of two 20-minutes qualifying, each undertaken by one driver in each entry.
The WRT Audi shared by Edward Sandstrom and Frank Stippler, who lie second in the points behind team-mates Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor, have been awarded a five-place for the Qualifying Race on Sunday morning.
Swede Sandstrom received the penalty for avoidable contact in an incident at the penultimate corner that seriously damaged the Callaway Competition Chevrolet Corvette Z06 driven by Daniel Kielwitz.