Lamy puts Larbre Saleen on Spa 24H pole

In a thrilling down-to-the-wire duel at Spa-Francorchamps, Pedro Lamy scored the overall pole position for Saturday's Total 24 Hours of Spa. The Portuguese driving ace, steering the No. 7 Larbre Competition Saleen S7-R, was caught in a...

In a thrilling down-to-the-wire duel at Spa-Francorchamps, Pedro Lamy scored the overall pole position for Saturday's Total 24 Hours of Spa. The Portuguese driving ace, steering the No. 7 Larbre Competition Saleen S7-R, was caught in a late-session battle with the No. 6 Phoenix Carsport Racing Corvette C6.R of Marcel Fassler. The two American GT1 machines fought right down to the wire, with Lamy turning a best lap time of 2:13.923 - good enough to take the top spot with less than a minute on the clock remaining.

Both Lamy and Fassler were able to improve on their times set Thursday night, knocking provisional pole sitter Karl Wendlinger and his No. 33 Jetalliance Racing Aston Martin DBR9 to the third starting position. Only two others in GT1, the No. 2 Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC12 and the No. 6 Phoenix Carsport Corvette, made improvements on their times from last night.

"I am very pleased to have enabled Larbre Comptition to start Saturday's race from pole position here at Spa," Lamy said. "[This] is such a fantastic circuit, even though changeable weather can make it very difficult. Happily, Larbre Comptition benefits from a partnership with Michelin and that, I have to say, makes life much easier for us. Our tires are competitive and the advice of Michelin's technical staff is always extremely valuable."

Lamy, who is regularly seen behind the wheel of a Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP in the Le Mans Series, is making a one-off appearance in FIA GT, helping complete the Jack Leconte-owned team's driver lineup. Full-season drivers Vincent Vosse and Greg Franchi also welcome team regular Steve Zacchia to the driving strength for Saturday's start. Larbre has enjoyed past success in the 24 Hours of Spa, with two victories to its credit. With experience on their side, the blue and white Saleen could indeed be a dark horse for the win tomorrow.

"I am delighted that we will be starting from pole position here at Spa thanks to Pedro's lap!" Leconte said. "It's been a real team effort and the fruit of the excellent working relationship we enjoy between the drivers and all those who work out of the limelight to prepare such a competitive car."

Fassler's lap time of 2:14.246 was 0.323 seconds slower than the Saleen, but good enough to leapfrog past the Jetalliance Aston Martin to start on the front row. Fassler and co-drivers Mike Hezemans, Jean-Denis Deletraz and Fabrizio Gollin and the Phoenix Carsport team are the defending winners of this race and no doubt will be very strong tomorrow.

Wendlinger's lap time of 2:14.581 set during Thursday's first qualifying session held as third quickest, ahead of the No. 3 Selleslagh Racing Corvette of Christophe Bouchut, Xavier Maassen, Maxime Soulet and Christophe Pillon, in fourth. However, the Belgian-entered car did not go out today because of last night's nasty crash by Bouchut. The rapid Frenchman spent the night in a local hospital for precautionary measures, but has now been given the all clear to race.

"I didn't want to stay [in the hospital], my place was with the boys," he explained. "My first thoughts after the crash went out to them, as they worked so hard for the last couple of weeks. We now have to perform strongly in the race, that's the only correct way to thank them."

Indeed, the car was heavily damaged for the second time in as many weeks. The team recovered following a testing crash but that left them with little or no spares. Luckily, other teams as well as Pratt & Miller came to the rescue and have helped put the black and white beast back together. Team owner Patrick Selleslagh says the car will be ready for the morning warm-up.

The GT2 category remained unchanged from Thursday, with Thomas Biagi retaining the pole position. The AF Corse Ferrari driver set a 2:21.504 during yesterday's dusk session. Biagi and co-drivers Christian Montanari, Dominik Farnbacher and Matias Russo didn't even turn a lap on Friday, but its sister F430 GT did following its overnight engine change. Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander, Mika Salo and Jamie Melo will start eighth in the No. 50 Ferrari, the quickest of Friday's improvements in GT2.

While the McDonald's Racing Porsche 996 Bi-Turbo held its class pole in the G2 category, the Belgian team faced a setback on Friday. The Porsche suffered a broken rear suspension in an accident, but the entry is expected to make the start. In G3, the No. 123 Muhlner Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 Cup S retained the category pole, but the Team Eurotech Ascari KZ1R improved to second quickest in class.

The Total 24 Hours of Spa gets underway at 4:00 p.m. CET Saturday, and Motorsport.com will provide updates throughout the twice-around-the-clock Belgian marathon.

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Karl Wendlinger , Mika Salo , Pedro Lamy , Marcel Fassler , Jean-Denis Deletraz , Mike Hezemans , Christophe Bouchut , Christian Montanari , Thomas Biagi , Steve Zacchia , Dominik Farnbacher , Maxime Soulet , Xavier Maassen , Jack Leconte , Toni Vilander , Matias Russo , Greg Franchi
Teams AF Corse , Larbre Competition