QUALIFYING : COCKER AND RUFFIER CLAIM POLE POSITIONS
For the fourth meeting of the inaugural season of the FIA GT3 European Championship, the teams and drivers are in France, at the challenging and historic circuit of Dijon-Prenois. 3.8 km long, many of the teams have prior knowledge of the track, as one of the pre-season test days where held here in April.
The first 20-minute session sets the grid for Saturday's race, while the second 20-minute session for the second race, on Sunday. However, the slowest driver in each car will start the first race, while the fastest driver will start the second race.
QUALIFYING RACE ONE: ANOTHER DIFFERENT POLEMAN...JONATHAN COCKER
Jonathan Cocker, in the nr 44 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBRS9, claimed his first FIA GT3 pole position of the season, with a time of 1.21.683. The young British driver was the seventh different man on pole position since the beginning of the season, with Barwell Motorsport the seventh different team to set the pole position. In the nr 13 Reiter Enginnering Lamborghini Gallardo GT3, Phil Bastiaans set the second fastest time, the best performance of the season so far for a Lamborghini. Four different makes were in the top 6, and once again 16 cars were within just two seconds !
In the nr 32 JMB Racing Ferrari, Ian Khan was the first driver to claim provisional pole, but all the times increased quickly. On his first flying lap, Massimiliano Mugelli, in the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin DBR9, went off at the end of the straight line, but after a while, he managed to get back on track.
In the nr 13 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo GT3, Phil Bastiaans claimed provisional pole position with a time of 1.22.661, but first the nr 29 Pouchelon Racing Dodge Viper Competition Coupe of Anthony Reid, and then the nr 10 Racing Logistic Dodge Viper Competition Coupe of Jean-Luc Blanchemain, improved on the best time. Than it was time for the Aston Martin DBRS9, as Jonathan Cocker on nr 44 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBRS9 set the fastest time with a lap of 1.21.683, while Toni Seiler in the nr 24 BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin DBRS9 set the second time.
Five minutes before the end of the session, Jonathan Cocker in the nr 44 Aston Martin was in the lead, in front of Phil Bastiaans (nr 13 Lamborghini), who had improved his time to move up to 2nd position, Toni Seiler (nr 24 Aston Martin), Jean-Luc Blanchemain (nr 10 Dodge Viper), Anthony Reid (nr 29 Dodge Viper) and Stephane Daoudi, who was 6th in the nr 34 JMB Racing Ferrari 430 Challenge GT3. All the cars were within one second!
During the last minute, the nr 23 BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin of Massimiliano Mugelli went off the track in the "Pouas" corner, damaging the car. The team did not know if they will be able to start the first race.
QUALIFYING RACE TWO: Second pole position for James Ruffier
The Corvettes are efficient on this fast and technical track, and for the first time of the season, a driver claimed a second pole position. Although Christopher Campbell was on provisional pole for most of the session, James Ruffier managed to do a perfect flying lap during the final minutes, setting the pole position with a lap of 1.20.910. After his pole in Oschersleben, James Ruffier is the first driver to set two pole positions in the new FIA GT3 European Championship. Three Corvettes were in the top three, as Christopher Campbell set the second-fastest time and Jurgen von Gartzen the third. Championship leader, Patrick Bornhauser was fourth, first of the Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, and in fifth, Michael Bentwood was the fastest of the Aston Martin.
As usual all the drivers needed a few laps before they began to set significant times. With a lap of 2.21.810, Sean Edwards, on nr 9 Tech 9 Porsche 996 GT3 Cup was the first to do a good time, but immediately nr 10 Racing Logistic Dodge Competition Coupe of Patrick Bornhauser increased. But Frenchman Christopher Campbell, a former driving instructor on this track, set a lap of 1.21.073 in the nr 21 Riverside Corvette Z06 GT3, and claimed the provisional pole position, with the fastest lap of the week-end so far. Jurgen Von Gartzen, in the nr 18 Team Carsport Callaway set the second time, with a a lap of 1.21.258. So, after 10 minutes, Campbell was leading ahead of Jurgen von Gartzen (nr 18 Corvette), Patrick Bornhauser (nr 10 Dodge Viper), Sean Edwards (nr 9 Porsche) and Marco Cioci (nr 26 Dodge Viper).
A few drivers waited for the final moments of the session to increase their time. In the nr 19 Riverside Corvette, James Ruffier set the second time, then with a time in 1.20.910, James Ruffier claimed his second pole position of the season, while Michael Bentwood, with the nr 22 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBRS9, improved to fifth position.
Jonathan Cocker -- nr 44 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin DBRS9, 1st: "It is my first pole position of the season, and my first pole position since last year in the Asia Porsche Carrera cup. It's always nice to be quicker than anybody else. I tried as much as I could to save the tyres for the race. So first I managed to have a clear lap, then as soon as I did my time, I went back to the pits and watched the times set by the others. We had a good balance, the tyres are still brand new, so it is an advantage. We have to keep our pole position at the start, and then we could get a good result."
Phil Bastiaans -- nr 13 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo GT3, 2nd: "The car has a new evolution, with a new front bumper and new wheel dimensions. I drove the Gallardo for the first time in Spa, and now we have made a great improvement. We are very happy with this second time, and we are sure that there is more to come. I'm happy to be in this team, we are working well together, and for me the most important thing is to do a great job for the team. It is a pleasure to race with Albert von Thurn und Taxis, and I hope we can do a good result together."
Toni Seiler -- nr 24 BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin DBRS9, 3rd: "I'm very happy; the team did a great job. I had traffic, but the result is OK. Here it is important to start at the front. Our car is going to be good for a one hour race, we'll try to win."
James Ruffier -- nr 19 Riverside Corvette Z06 GT3, 1st: "We had a problem at the beginning of the session, maybe an alternator problem. So I could only do my lap at the end of the session, I had no choice and I had to push. I did what I could. The car is much better than yesterday. All seems to be OK now, we'll see for the race and I'm happy with my team-mate's times. Anyway, I'm pleased to be the first driver to do two pole positions in this Championship."
Jurgen von Gartzen -- nr 18 Team Carsport Callaway Corvette Z06 GT3, 3rd: "The time is not so bad, because during the first session my team-mate spun, touched the wall and damaged the car. The team did its best to repair everything, and the car is not 100% perfect, but hopefully it is ok. So I'm happy with the third time in such conditions."
Patrick Bornhauser -- nr 10 Racing Logistic Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, 4th: "In both sessions we are fourth, and in both sessions we are the first of the Vipers. We are happy with the car, Jean-Luc Blanchemain and I are on a similar rhythm, so we can be optimistic for the race. And in both sessions we only did one flying lap each, so it is good for our tyres. We have a clear philosophy, our main goal is to finish the race, and if we are not making any mistakes, we are going to do a good result."
Sean Edwards -- nr 9 Tech 9 Porsche 997 GT3 Cup: "I did a first good lap early in the session, and then I came back into the pits to change our tyre pressure. Then I had one good lap, which was my best, then traffic. But we are on a good pace, the Corvette was just too fast for us, but we are confident for the race. My team-mate did a great job; he did a great time in spite of a terrible traffic, so we are waiting for the race."