Blancpain GT Sports: Pons wins Misano Qualifying Race

Anthony Pons © DR

AKKA ASP’s Anthony Pons resisted race-long pressure from Autovitesse Garage R.Affolter’s Cedric Leimer to extend his perfect 2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club season-opening weekend with a hard-fought win in Saturday evening’s Qualifying Race at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.

Starting from pole position in the #72 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Pons, who had also topped both free practice sessions, got away cleanly to lead into the first corner.

Meanwhile, fellow front row starter Leimer and third-placed Pierre Hirschi were caught out by the fast-starting Daniele Perfetti in the second AKKA ASP entry.

Skirmishes in the pack, including one involving reigning double Iron Cup champion Martin Lanting and last year’s Overall runner-up Nico Vandierendonck triggered an early Safety Car period, which also saw Marco Galassi’s Team Malucelli-run Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 park into retirement.

Racing action resumed with 14 minutes left on the clock in the 25-minute contest and it did not take long before Leimer’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 started hounding Perfetti’s Mercedes-AMG GT3. Leimer made quick work of his fellow Swiss before immediately setting about chasing the race leader.

Thus began a thrilling battle between Pons and Leimer, with the Lamborghini ferociously looking for a way past, but to no avail. The Frenchman managed to hold off the charging Huracan to maintain his perfect record at Misano.

Team-mate Perfetti rounded up the podium positions in a very strong showing for AKKA ASP. Oliver Baumann made it three Mercedes in the top four with his DB-Motorsport-entered SLS AMG GT3, while Hirschi eventually had to settle for P5 at the flag.

Klaus Dieter Frers was the best Iron Cup challenger by crossing the line in sixth position for the #3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3. HTP Motorsport’s Willem Paulys de Pundert and Kessel Racing’s Stephen Earle completed the Iron Cup podium.

Anthony Pons: « Cedric pushed me really hard! I had a good start but the re-start after the Safety Car period was quite tricky and it took a couple of laps before the grip came back. Still, I had the Lamborghini hot on my heels and he was really shadowing me. I played the long game and eventually managed to open a little gap in the closing stages and get some breathing space. That’d be great to secure a grand slam this weekend but the guys behind are very competitive so it’s shaping up to be another great fight on Sunday.