Rast is the master of Baku World Challenge qualifyingA tense and dramatic qualifying session was played out in the atmospheric city of Baku, the vibrant capital city of Azerbaijan this afternoon. 28 spectacular FIA GT Series cars are now ready to do battle in the first Baku World Challenge by Aztexnika and enthrall a huge crowd of Azerbaijani fans with the final rounds of the 2013 season tomorrow.
Starting on pole position will be the #12 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS of Rene Rast (DEU) and Niki-Mayr Melnhof (AUT) after Rast set a scorching best lap around the undulating 4.38kms track of 1m42.551s. The lap was six-tenths of a second faster than the second placed Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra of Markus Winkelhock (DEU), who shares with team mate Enzo Ide (BEL). The German set a best lap of 1m43.062s.
Rast was clearly the quickest man throughout the session, setting a host of purple sector times in his committed seven lap run. The German delighted his team after they had affected repairs from free practice incidents and the pole position gives a glimmer of light to his team mate Mayr-Melnhof’s slim Pro Cup title chances.
Stéphane Ortelli (MCO) and Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) in the #11 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra made it an all-Audi top three in qualifying at Baku today. The Pro Cup category leaders have a 5-point lead over team mates Edward Sandström (SWE) and Frank Stippler (DEU) in the #13 Audi. The title leaders gained an early advantage after Sandström was adjudged to have caused an accident with the Callaway Corvette in Free Practice 1 and given a five place grid penalty for tomorrow mornings qualifying race, meaning they will start in a lowly 17th position.
The Boutsen Ginion team had an encouraging day at Baku with both of their McLaren’s in the top 8. The Alexander Sims (GBR) and Stef Dusseldorp (NDL) entry was in 4th place while the Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) and Frederic Vervisch car ended in 8th place.
In the Pro Am class it was the HTP Gravity Charouz pairing of Andreas Simonsen (SWE) and Sergei Afanasiev (RUS) who led the way with their 4th pole position of the season. Simonsen set the time of 1m45.207s to give the Pro Am points leaders a 20-point advantage despite some brake problems on their Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. With their Pro Am title rival – Hari Proczyk (AUT) qualifying 3rd in class, the GRT Grasser Racing driver has much work to do on the streets of Baku tomorrow if he is to stand any chance of overturning the large gap.
Second place in Pro Am was the Novadriver Audi R8 LMS, in which Michael Ammermuller (DEU) set the best time. Ammermuller joined the team at the last round in Navarra, scoring a podium position with team owner and driver Cesar Campanico (PRT), so will be aiming for more big points tomorrow.
The leading Gentlemen Trophy class entry was the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia which was qualified superbly by 2011 FIA GT3 European Champion, Federico Leo (ITA). Setting a best of 1m45.156s the Italian secured a 15th place overall starting position for himself and team mate Claudio Sdanewitsch (DEU), who is aiming for a hat-trick of class victories after previous successes in Slovakia ring and Navarra.
Raceday at the Baku World Challenge by Aztexnika will kick off with a warm up session at 08.00. The Qualifying Race kicks off at 09.15, while the 2013 Main Race is at 13.00 (all times local) to underline an exciting and competitive 2013 season of FIA GT Series action.