Stephen Errity, GT Correspondent
The #66 Team Vita4One and #3 Marc VDS Racing BMW Z4s will line up on the front row of the grid for tomorrow's Blancpain Endurance Series Spa 24 Hours race. The planned Super Pole shootout for the top 20 qualifiers from last night was cancelled following a torrential thunderstorm at the Belgian circuit – however the worst of the rain eased off before the session was due to begin.
Frank Kechele and the other Vita4One drivers will no doubt be happy to have retained pole position, but some of their rivals were not satisfied to have their qualifying chance taken away from them. “It's disappointing, as I don't mind the wet at all,” said third-place qualifier Alvaro Parente, driving the Von Ryan McLaren. “We don't get to do Super Pole sessions very often, so that's a shame. I think we had a real chance at pole, as the all the work I was doing with the engineers was going in the right direction.”
Local hero Maxime Martin, driver of the lead Marc VDS BMW, was also unhappy. “I think we had something to do here today,” he said ruefully. “And we might have gone even better in the wet. But the front row is still good, of course.” The young Belgian's co-driver and team manager Bas Leinders was vocal in his criticism of the race organisers: “They imposed Super Pole regulations, only clarified the exact procedure two hours before the race and then cancelled because of some rain that had mostly stopped when the time came to run. If you're going to get the 20 best GT drivers in the world to do a pole shootout, I think they can handle a wet track.”
Down in the AF Corse Ferrari garage, works driver Andrea Bertolini was less affected by the Super Pole cancellation, as his car had qualified outside the Top 20. However, he wasn't happy about what he sees as an imbalance between the 458 and some of the other GT3 designs. “If you look at the Ferrari, it's a true GT3 car,” he said. “We use the steering wheel from a Ferrari Challenge car – the gearshift paddles don't turn with the wheel. But the McLaren, Audi and BMW are more like GTE cars – they have F1-style steering wheels and paddles that turn with the wheel.” The veteran Italian was nonetheless reasonably confident of his car's chances in tomorrow's race. “We have a good package and some good gentleman drivers, so we're targeting to go well in the Pro-Am class. I think it will be a race of attrition during the night, as you could see in night qualifying yesterday that some of the less experienced drivers were really struggling in the dark.”
The cancellation of the Super Pole session means the Spa 24 Hours grid will now line up as it qualified on Thursday.