Franck Perera gave the #74 ISR Audi pole position for the final qualifying race of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series season at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this afternoon. The French driver pipped Mirko Bortolotti in the #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini to pole, with Robin Frijns – team-mate of Sprint Cup points leader Enzo Ide – claiming third in the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. Blancpain GT Series overall leader Maxi Buhk will start from eighth, two positions behind his main competitor Rob Bell.
In the 10-minute-long final part of the qualifying session the 17 drivers effectively had only two or three flying laps to try and claim pole position for tomorrow morning’s qualifying race. At a certain point the top-four was covered by just 0.05s, but then Franck Perera crossed the line to lower the provisional pole time by more than a tenth. That was enough to claim his second pole position of the season, after also being top of the timing sheets at Brands Hatch.
Mirko Bortolotti got closest to Perera by just beating Robin Frijns. By claiming third the Dutchman gives Sprint Cup leader Enzo Ide the best grid position of all the title contenders, much to the joy of the Belgian who was watching nervously from the garage.
Jules Szymkowiak, together with Bernd Schneider in third in the Sprint Cup standings, put the #86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG fourth on the grid, with his team-mate Maxi Buhk claiming eighth in the #84 car.
Buhk, who together with Dominik Baumann is not only second in the Sprint Cup standings but also the overall Blancpain GT Series leader, has some work to do in tomorrow’s races, for his main competitor in the overall standings, Rob Bell aboard the #58 Garage 59 McLaren, qualified two places higher up the grid.
Worse off is Laurens Vanthoor. The Belgian – and his co-driver Fred Vervisch – failed to reach Q3, probably as a consequence of missing the second free practice session due to gremlins in the engine department. The #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT-run R8 starts from 18th, leaving Vanthoor – who must make up 29 points on Buhk and Baumann in the overall standings – with an enormous mountain to climb.
In the Pro-Am division of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup, championship leader Giacomo Piccini and Michal Broniszewski extended their lead by claiming the point for pole position and now enjoy a 27-point lead. Victory in tomorrow’s qualifying race would give the Italian-Polish duo the title.
In the Am Cup Claudio Sdanewitsch is certain of the 2016 crown, by teaming up with sole remaining opponent Stéphane Lemeret. The Belgian emphasised the pairing’s domination of the category by claiming pole position.
But Silver Cup championship leaders Luca Stolz and Michele Beretta did not have such a good session. They must be satisfied with 27th overall and third in the Silver Cup. With co-driver Alessio Picariello taking pole position Nikolaj Möller Madsen edges one point closer to the leaders, but the Dane still has to make up 30 points. Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows, 22 points behind Stolz/Beretta, qualified in second in the Silver Cup.
Tomorrow’s qualifying race starts at 09.15, with the season decider getting underway at 14.10. Both races will be streamed live on the series’ official website: www.blancpain-gt-series.com.
Franck Perera (#74 ISR Audi): “It is not so easy to have a perfect lap here in Barcelona. The car moves around a lot, but that is the same for everybody. But we did a really good job today, especially since we focused on the race during the preparation. My aim was to be in the top-four, but since the beginning of the year we have known that if everything works out fine this team can put the car at the front.