HTP Mercedes take pole for Blancpain 1000 title deceider
HTP Motorsport will start tomorrow’s Blancpain 1000 at Nürburgring in pole position after a close and exciting qualifying session this afternoon.
Setting the fastest time of 1m54.852s was Maximillian Götz (DEU) who took advantage of a rare clear lap in the 49-car field to maximise the handling of his Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 and claim the top position for tomorrow’s starting grid.
Along with his team mate Bernd Schneider (DEU), Götz is racing not only for himself and his team but also for fellow young German, Maximilian Buhk, who can win the driver’s title. Currently just two points behind the points leaders - Kessel Racing’s Davide Rigon (ITA), Cesar Ramos (ITA) and Daniel Zampieri (ITA) - Buhk now has the perfect platform to seal the 2013 title in tomorrow’s Blancpain 1000 race.
Starting on the front row of the grid alongside the TOTAL 24 Hours of Spa winning Mercedes will be the Esta Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia. The Russian team started in exactly the same position at the TOTAL 24 Hours of Spa and survived an infamous Eau Rouge spin in the hands of Alessandro Pier Guidi. The Italian again proved his speed today with a best time of 1m55.348s in the final qualifying session. Pier Guidi will share the car with Alexander Skryabin (RUS) and Matteo Bobbi (ITA).
Lining up third and making it three GT3 brands in the top three grid positions is the ART Grand Prix run McLaren MP4-12C. Andy Soucek (ESP) set a highly creditable time after his team mates Mike Parisy (FRA) and Antoine Leclerc (FRA) had played the percentage game earlier on to save tyres for the all-important race tomorrow.
Teams that are in the hunt for titles in the Pro Cup category experienced varying degrees of fortune during the qualifying session this afternoon. The #3 Marc VDS Racing Team BMW Z4 will start 6th overall and in a good position to take the fight to their championship rivals. Yelmer Buurman (NDL) set the best time of their qualifying session today, while team mate Maxime Martin (BEL) was thwarted for a late pole charge by encountering traffic.
The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT squad has two cars that are capable of crowning their drivers the champions tomorrow. The #13 Audi R8 LMS ultra of Frank Stippler (DEU)/René Rast (BEL) and Christopher Mies (DEU) is directly behind the #3 Marc VDS Racing team BMW Z4 in 7th place while the Edward Sandström (SWE)/Stéphane Ortelli (MON)) and Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) Audi lines up 17th. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is also in the thick of the teams title fight, just eight points behind Marc VDS Racing Team.
Points leaders Kessel Racing fought back from a Free Practice accident to qualify in 15th position today. A heroic effort by the Swiss team saw their Ferrari 458 Italia repaired just in time for the session to give drivers Davide Rigon (ITA)/Daniel Zampieri (ITA) and Cesar Ramos (BRA) hope of still claiming the driver’s title tomorrow afternoon.
In the Pro-Am category it will be the #71 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia starting on the class pole position. The all-Russian line-up of Kirill Ladygin, his younger brother Anton Ladygin (RUS) and Victor Shaitar (RUS) scored their best qualifying result of the year after an impressive performance by Kirill Ladygin in the final session of qualifying.
Placing second in the Pro-Am class was the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN entered #32 Nissan GT-R NISMO entry. GT Academy graduate Jann Mardenborough (GBR) set the best time with an impressive display to give himself and his team mates – Mark Shulzhitskiy (RUS) and Alex Buncombe (GBR) a sound platform to challenge for the team’s championship silverware and in Buncombe’s case, the drivers title too.
Claiming third place in the Pro-Am class and at their home circuit was the #19 Black Falcon Mercedes. Adam Christodoulou (GBR), who also starred with his pace in the Free Practice session, set a best lap of 1m55.941s. He shares the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 with regular partners – Steve Jans (LUX) and Klaas Hummel (NDL)
Continuing his teams magnificent 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series season, Jérôme Policand (FRA) enjoyed his driving role within the team to the fullest, claiming pole position in the Gentlemen Trophy class. Driving the #10 SOFREV-ASP Ferrari that he shares with Gabriel Balthazard (FRA) and Maurice Ricci (FRA), Policand saw off a late challenge from the #52 Sport Garage entry. SOFREV-ASP sealed both the driver and team championship crowns in the last round at Spa but will nevertheless be looking to put the cherry on top of the cake and finish the 2013 with a fourth win from five races.
Tomorrow’s grand finale to the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series begins at 11.45cet and will last for a maximum of six hours. The weather forecast is set fair for an epic encounter that will see 2013 champion drivers and teams crowned in both the Pro Cup and Pro-Am classes.