F3/GT: Minì shows his magic to take provisional Macau pole as Cairoli snaches top FP2 spot

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Gabriele Minì left it late to snatch provisional pole position for the 2023 FIA Formula 3 World Cup following a charging performance for SJM Theodore Prema Racing Team in Macau this afternoon

The Italian, 18, posted a 2m05.521s best to stake his claim for glory in Sunday’s big race, which also awards the 70th Macau Grand Prix title.

However, there is still a second qualifying session on Friday, when lap times traditionally improve, prior to the Qualification Race on Saturday, which will ultimately decide the grid for the main event in three days from now. Nevertheless, Minì was also quickest in Free Practice 1 this morning to underline his threat.

“It was not easy with the red flags and not easy to make a lap time when it mattered,” said the Sicily-born driver. “Also, with the laps we did the tyre [performance] was getting worse and worse. But on the last lap, surprisingly for myself, I managed to improve my lap time by almost a second, which was very good. We will try to do the same thing tomorrow.”

Behind Minì, Luke Browning, another Macau rookie, lapped the 6.12-kilometre Guia Circuit in 2m06.018s, the Hitech Pulse-Eight British driver ending up just 0.497s slower than his rival.

Swede Dino Beganovic, who is being mentored by 1992 Macau Grand Prix winner Rickard Rydell, was third fastest followed by MP Motorsport’s Norwegian Dennis Hauger, Ireland’s Alex Dunne and Isack Hadjar from France.

New Zealander Marcus Armstrong was the fastest driver with previous Macau experience in seventh place as two-time FIA Formula 3 World Cup winner Dan Ticktum, from Great Britain, went 10th quickest for Rodin Carlin.

Dutchman Richard Verschoor, who claimed victory in the 2019 FIA Formula 3 World Cup, the last time the event ran, was 11th for Trident Motorsport.

The session was briefly halted after seven minutes when Sebastián Montoya crashed at Lisboa. The Colombian’s car suffered front left-corner damage and the Campos Racing driver would take no further part in the 40-minute session.

Ugo Ugochukwu caused the second red flag when he overshot braking for Lisboa and ran down the escape road where his Trident Motorsport-run car became stranded before he was eventually able to continue.

Zane Maloney was sitting just outside the top 10 when he ground to a halt on the exit of Turn 16 with damage to the front and rear of his Rodin Carlin entry after hefty contact with the barriers earlier in the lap. The incident brought out the red flags with 10 minutes of the session remaining. When the action did resume, Browning was set to come out on top until Minì’s last-gasp effort.

Guia Circuit rookie Matteo Cairoli snatched the top spot in the dying moments in the extremely closely contested second and final of today’ FIA GT World Cup free practice sessions.

Porsche’s Kévin Estre was the early pace-setter with a 2:16.621 lap, however, as the 30-minute session went on, several drivers kept improving their times, with former winners Edoardo Mortar and Maro Engel atop the timing screens at different stages.

With three minutes remaining on the clock, Daniel Juncadella went fastest of all, making his way around the 6.2-kilometre circuit in 2:15.570, an incredible 0.001s slower than the 2019 pole-winning time of Raffaele Marciello.

It was the FP1 pace-setter Marciello who went on to demote his Spanish team-mate down to second, only to lose out on the top spot to Cairoli who emerged on top of the ranking after a last-gasp impressive 2:15.532s lap set aboard his striking Tsingtao-liveried Porsche 911 GT3R. Marciello and Juncadella rounded out the top three, covered by 0.038s.

The FIA Formula 3 and FIA GT World Cup drivers will be back on track tomorrow. Click HERE for live timing.