A tight and competitive FIA GT Series Superpole session at Slovakia Ring today saw René Rast (DEU) seal pole position for the #12 Team WRT entry that he shares with Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT). It was the first pole position for an Audi R8 LMS Ultra since the season opening event at Nogaro, in March.
Mirroring the hot and sunny conditions Rast set a scorching time of 2m01.717s to take the top position for tomorrow morning’s qualifying race, the result of which will set the grid for the all-important 4th round of the 2013 FIA GT Series, scheduled for 14.15cet.
Just 0.4 seconds initially covered the first five cars at the end of the Superpole session pointing towards a mouth-watering encounter in the qualifying race. Joining Rast on the front row of the grid will be the #24 Lamborghini Blancpain by Reiter Engineering GT3 car. Local hero - Stefan Rosina (SVK) will be sure to add more fans to the already expected large crowd at Slovakia Ring tomorrow.
Known locally as ‘Stofi’, Rosina is Slovakia’s best known driver and will be fired up for a stellar performance on home turf. He shares the Blancpain Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo FLII with Peter Kox (NDL) and will be hoping to draw upon the winning form that reaped success in Round 2 at Zolder, in April.
Heading the second row of the grid and the fastest Pro-Am category car is the #2 HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. Claiming a third consecutive pole position for the team was Simonsen (SWE) who set a best time of 2m02.623s. This eclipsed Dominik Baumann (DEU) in the GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini by four-tenths of a second. Baumann’s team mate Hari Proczyk (AUT) will start the car from 2nd place in the keenly fought Pro-Am category.
Joining HTP Gravity Charouz on the fourth row of the grid is the BMW Sports Trophy Team Brazil BMW Z4 shared by Allam Khodair (BRA) and ‘Caca’ Bueno (BRA). The all-South American team took their best qualifying position of the season thanks to a neat lap of 2m04.061s from Bueno.
The Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren MP4-12C of Mike Parisy (FRA) and Andreas Zuber (AUT) had initially qualified in second place but were penalised and demoted to 10th position due to not starting their Superpole session at the correct time. During the session, Parisy was just two-tenths of a second behind the pole sitting Team WRT Audi of Rast, which despite the disappointment for the French team shows they can still be a major factor for points tomorrow.
Sebastien Loeb sharing the #9 McLaren MP4-12C with team mate Alvaro Parente (PRT) will start in 8th position after suffering the same penalty to the sister car and being demoted five grid places. Loeb took part in the first qualifying session before Parente went on to set the best Q2 time. However, Parente was just unable to challenge the front row and was a miniscule 0.063s behind the sister Sebastien Loeb McLaren before the penalty was handed out after the session finished.
Initially completing the second row of the grid in 4th place was the series point’s leaders Stephane Ortelli (MCO) and Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) but another penalty decision ensured that they too were demoted five places and they will now start in 9th position. Like both Sebastien Loeb Racing cars, the Audi R8 LMS ultra was penalised for leaving the pitlane during Superpole more than 5 seconds after the target time.
Ortelli had earlier topped the times in the first session and Vanthoor looked as if he was about to continue his dominant Free Practice form but just fell short. However, the #11 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry will still hope to score some good points in the quest to increase their advantage at the top of the table.
Just missing out on Superpole but still starting a useful 3rd in the Pro-Am class will be the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN pairing of Alex Buncombe (GBR) and Wolfgang Reip (BEL). Reip was mightily impressive once again during his stint at the wheel and set the 3rd best Pro-Am class time.
The Gentlemen Trophy category was dominated by the AF Corse entered Ferrari 458 Italia of FIA GT Series newcomer Michele Rugolo (ITA). The experienced Italian was clearly the fastest in class with the familiar Italian GT3 supercar which he will race with fellow newcomer, Claudio Sdanewitsch (DEU).
The action will come thick and fast at Slovakia Ring tomorrow with the qualifying race scheduled to start at 10.15cet. Points are awarded 8-6-4-3-2-1 for this race and the result is used as the basis for the main race grid, which is scheduled to blast away at 14.15cet.
René Rast (DEU) Team WRT, Audi R8 LMS ultra (Pro): “This is my first time in Slovakia Ring so I needed some time to adjust to the track this morning. But then we improved the car from session to session and although I personally struggle a bit with the chicane, we worked a lot on that and it seemed to work out as we are the fastest car! My lap was very good, no mistakes, and the team did a great job on the car. I did not expect to be that quick, so it is great.”
Andreas Simonsen (SWE), HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 (Pro-Am): “I have never been to this track before. We struggled a bit with the car compared to the Audi but for sure we did a good job, and we are looking forward to the race. We need to get a lot of points this weekend because we will not be able to come to the next race at Navarra.”
Michele Rugolo (ITA), AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (Gentlemen Trophy): “It was a bit scary for me at the beginning because it was my first time in the FIA GT Series and it was my first time on the Slovakia Ring too, so it was a bit tough. We are beginning in the Gentlemen Trophy and it looks like it is working properly for us. This morning I was quicker than in qualifying because there was a bit more traffic so it might have taken away for me the chance to go in Superpole. Anyway, this is a good experience and I think we can just keep improving.”