Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and Alvaro Parente (PRT) took a convincing win in this morning’s wet qualifying race at Circuito de Navarra, Spain.
Taking their McLaren MP4-12C to a third qualifying race victory of the 2013 season, the French team led the race throughout after Parente executed one of his customary electric starts to go from 4th to 1st at the start, laying the foundations for Sébastien Loeb to complete a classy victory.
With the 60-minute race delayed for 10 minutes after a shower descended upon the 3.933kms track, most teams scrambled to change from slick to wet tyres. However, pole man, Stefan Rosina (SVK) in the Lamborghini Blancpain Reiter and 3rd on the grid, Oliver Jarvis (GBR) in the #12 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMs ultra were the only runners to opt for slick Pirelli’s and it soon became evident this was the wrong choice, as they fell back by up to 10 seconds a lap.
Parente soon opened up a convincing gap to the rest of the pack before handing over to Loeb in the pit window. Despite a small drama closing the door of the McLaren, Loeb exited the pit lane and was never headed, sealing his and Parente’s third qualifying race of the season after similar successes at Nogaro and Slovakia Ring.
Claiming second place were Pro Cup title protagonists Edward Sandström (SWE) and Frank Stippler (DEU) in the #13 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra. Starting on the front row, Sandström drove impeccably in the tricky conditions, spiritedly holding off fellow title rival Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) in the sister Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMs ultra just before the pit stops, before the Belgian muscled his way through in an impressive display of close wheel-to-wheel racing between the teammates.
With both Sandström and Vanthoor pitting on the same lap, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT completed their usual excellent pit work but decided to go for slick tyres on the #11 Audi for Stéphane Ortelli (MCO) to return to the race. Believing that the tack would dry out in the final stages of the 60-minute encounter, Ortelli was sent back out in to the fray but a late race shower put paid to their plan and Ortelli fell back in to the clutches of the wet-shod cars. He eventually took the chequered flag in 7th place overall and 4th in the Pro Cup class, meaning both his and Vanthoor’s title lead is now cut to 16 points.
Completing the Pro Cup class podium were Mike Parisy (FRA) and Andreas Zuber (AUT) in the #10 Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren MP4-12C. After starting from a lowly 18th place on the grid both drivers were satisfied with their spectacular performances, scything their way through the field to claim 4 points.
An excellent 10th overall were ‘Caca’ Bueno (BRA) and Allam Khodair (BRA) who blazed their way through the field after starting the #0 BMW Sports Trophy Team Brazil BMW Z4 from the pit-lane after being forced to fix their ECU just before the start.
If the title race in the PRO cup is getting more interesting then the fight in Pro-Am is reaching fever pitch after this morning’s race. The GRT Grasser Racing team enjoyed perhaps their best race of the season to claim the Pro-Am category win and also place a brilliant 3rd overall. Starting from back in 15th place on the grid the all-Austrian team watched in delight as their Lamborghini, in the hands of Gerhard Tweraser (AUT) was the fastest car overall in the final stages of the race. Tweraser even picked off Ortelli and revelled in the grip of the Pirelli wet tyres to ensure that team mate Hari Proczyk (AUT) is now just 6 points behind Pro-Am drivers points leaders – Sergei Afanasiev (RUS) and Andreas Simonsen (SWE). The HTP Gravity Charouz pair had an equally impressive race, coming from 14th on the grid to finish 2nd to the Grasser Lamborghini, albeit 26 seconds behind.
Completing the Pro-Am podium were the Team Novadriver Audi pair of Cesar Campanico (PRT) and Michael Ammermüller (DEU). Despite some damage to their Audi R8 LMS ultra after early race contact, Campanico brought the car home after a thrilling late battle with Ortelli’s Audi and the #10 McLaren of Andreas Zuber.
Not only claiming a victory in the Gentlemen Trophy class but also displaying a polished performance throughout the difficult conditions this morning was Michele Rugolo (ITA) and Claudio Sdanewitsch (DEU) in the AF Corse. They took a best ever overall result for a Gentlemen Trophy class car with 8th place today. Rugolo ran as high as 4th in the early running, enjoying an exceptional start to mix it with the Pro and Pro-Am class runners.
The main race begins at 14.15cet this afternoon with the result from the qualifying race forming the starting grid. You can follow live timing and streaming here - http://www.fiagtseries.com/pages/live