Belgium's Maxime Martin has been one of the standout stars of the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2012, and not even a painful broken rib from a training accident could stop him claiming an important pole position for the penultimate race of the season at the Nurburgring. The #3 Marc VDS BMW Z4 driver set a time of 1:56.639 to top the timesheets, just ahead of the #13 Phoenix Racing Audi piloted by Rene Rast and the #66 Vita4One BMW driven by Spa 24 polesitter Frank Kechele.
But the #3 crew's attention was focused on the #2 WRT Audi R8 – sister car of the #1 crew who are challenging Marc VDS for the title – and the rivalry was turned up a notch when their cars came together at the end of qualifying. Martin complained that Laurens Vanthoor in the Audi had been letting the rest of the field past but blocking him during the session. And when the BMW driver went wide at the end of the start-finish straight, Vanthoor appeared not to see him as he rejoined the track and the two cars collided side-by-side. Vanthoor stopped, but Martin, having already completed his pole lap, kept going.
“I don't think it's very fair play from them,” Martin commented afterwards, before turning his attention to the race. “Of course, a win would be good for the championship, but at the same time we have to be strategic,” he said. “This is a good track for the BMW over one lap, but we need to see if the tyres hold up over a long stint. My broken rib is painful, but it's not slowing me down. I had a broken rib for my last pole position, so maybe I should break it every time!” he laughed.
Fresh from his GT1 World Championship victory, Peter Kox took pole in the Pro-Am class for Reiter Lamborghini, driving the car he shares with Mark Hayek, the CEO of series sponsor Blancpain. “It's nice to be on class pole, but I think we could have been higher up the overall grid. Like 95 percent of the field, I think we could have done a better lap in that session.” Kox also had a suggestion for the series organisers to change the rules of the Blancpain Series qualifying sessions. “At the moment, only the time set by the pro driver in the final session counts for the grid. It would be more interesting for the silver or bronze-rated drivers if they took an average of the times they set in the Q1 and Q2 to decide the grid.”
Ireland's Matt Griffin put the Mtech Ferrari 458 second on the Pro-Am grid, but the two Ferrari teams in contention for the championship title, AF Corse and Vita4One Team Italy saw their #52 and #57 cars qualify 11th and 25th in class, respectively. Third-place qualifier in Pro-Am was the Pro GT By Almeras Porsche driven by Henry Hassid and Anthony Beltoise. Earlier in qualifying, a red flag halted the session for several minutes while track workers recovered the #90 Preci-Spark Mercedes, which had been buried under a tyre barrier by its driver Godfrey Jones. Fortunately the only injury was to his pride, as he had to make an undignified exit out the wrong side of the car.
Story by: Stephen Errity, GT Correspondent