An incident packed pair of Blancpain Endurance Series qualifying sessions took place last night, and it was the Pro-Am Cup entry of SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia and Italian driver, Alessandro Pier Guidi, that took pole with a 2:20.383 lap of the incredible 7km Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Clinching the Pro Cup class pole-position was the Manthey Racing Team's Marc Lieb, his #150 Porsche 997 GT3 R producing a 2:20.782 and Gentlemen Trophy pole went to Stéphane Lemeret in the #52 Sport Garage prepared Ferrari 458 Italia.
Qualifying began with near perfect conditions at the sun-drenched Spa-Francorchamps, but the ambient and track temperatures dropped suddenly, halting the teams’ ability to chase a quicker time to enter tomorrow's exciting Superpole competition. SMP Racing's quickest lap was produced on the second lap of the first session, but two cars, the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra of Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) and the #911 ProSpeed Competition Porsche of Nick Tandy (GBR) were able to produce a top 20, Superpole worthy lap in the later Night Qualifying session.
A surprising debutant in tomorrow's Superpole will be Porsche factory driver, Marc Lieb. The German racer's lap of 2:20.782 was more than enough to ensure qualification.
HTP Motorsport posted the fifth quickest time, making them the fastest Mercedes in qualifying. At the helm was Maximilian Götz (DEU) who narrowly beat the #18 Black Falcon SLS of Thomas Jäger (DEU).
Top Italian Ferrari team, AF Corse, will have two cars in the Superpole session tomorrow, the #59 458 of Duncan Cameron (GBR), Matt Griffin (IRE), Alex Mortimer (GBR) and Toni Vilander (FIN), which was seventh quickest and the #50 entry of Niek Hommerson (NDL), Louis Machiels (BEL), Andrea Bertolini (ITA) and Marco Cioci (ITA) which was ninth quickest.
Alex Buncombe ensured at least one of the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3's made it into Superpole, his 2:21.624 ensured he finished 0.29s ahead of Russian star Mikhail Aleshin's #73 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia.
Local hero, Laurens Vanthoor made sure Belgian Audi Club Team WRT had a place in the Superpole, the young Belgian driver narrowly going quicker than the Belgian ProSpeed Competition team. British Porsche star, Nick Tandy's 2:22.118 made certain of a strong presence for the German marque in Superpole.
The final competitors in Superpole will be Bertrand Baguette (BEL) in the GPR AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, Ludovic Badey's TDS Racing BMW Z4 and the #34 Pro GT by Almeras Porsche of Franck Perera.
Tomorrow’s 20-minute Superpole session begins at 18:15 CET and will determine the final order of the top twenty qualifiers for Saturday’s endurance epic, the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Marc Lieb, Porsche 997 GT3 R #150, Manthey Racing: “Qualifying was ok. We basically worked the whole day on race set up and we had only one shot with new tyres. It was the right time to get out, it was the quickest time of the circuit at the beginning of the first session. It’s going to be my first ever superpole! We can be first or 20th, it’s a big gamble on one lap. We are happy with our performance, we did not expect to be that quick. We are confident but I would not say that we are favourites as the Porsche is not the quickest car on track. It’s nice for me to have a chance to fight for the win again as I won here 10 years ago with Romain Dumas and Stéphane Ortelli and I’m looking forward to the race.”
Alessandro Pier Guidi, Ferrari 458 Italia #70, SMP Racing: “It’s nice to be first in the overall classification tonight, but tomorrow it’s the Superpole so we could be 20th on the grid on Saturday… But I’ll try to be on pole. We showed that we have the pace. We are in a PRO-AM Cup so we also need to find a good compromise on the car set-up for all the drivers. Today I did my best time in my second lap, so it was like a Superpole… For SMP Racing it’s very important to be on top tonight.”
Stéphane Lemeret, Ferrari 458 Italia #52, Sport Garage: “I’m happy to be first of the Gentlemen Trophy but a little bit disappointed not to be in Superpole. We were supposed to use the last set of tyres at the end of the night session, but due to the red flag we did not have time to put it on. It’s positive to set the pole in the category. It is my first time in the Ferrari 458 and I was immediately confident with it. It’s the first time that I’m in charge of qualifying, so it was interesting and nice. And I’m in front of Frédéric Bouvy, the most experienced driver here with his 19th participation (17th for me).”
Koen Wauters, McLaren MP4-12C, Boutsen Ginion. Team Belgium Captain: “As the Captain of Team Belgium, it was nice to see Laurens Vanthoor set the fastest time of the night session and make it to Superpole. He is one of the most promising drivers we have in Belgium, so it’s good to see him fighting for the pole position on Friday. Our drivers delivered well as usual. It’s nice for the team, for the drivers, for the partners and for the show to start in front of everybody on Saturday.”
Marc A. Hayek, #24 Blancpain Racing Lamborghini LFP560-4 – Pro-Am Cup "So far, everything is going well, we still need to find some set ups but we are very happy to be in the Super Pole. I trust Peter to improve our time tomorrow, because he will be the one doing the Super Pole. There is room for hope, but this is a long race, so we will see what happens!"