Porsche grabs pole in tricky Qualifying

A gamble on slick tyres and a scintillating final session enabled the Exim Bank Team China Porsche 911 No.9 of Mike Parisy and Matt Halliday to grab pole position for today’s Qualifying Race amid changeable weather conditions in Zolder.

Tyre choice became crucial as the session wore on and a dry line began to appear. The top 8 for the Qualifying shoot-out was split over tyre choice - wet or dry. The No.9 Porsche opted to start Q3 with slicks with Halliday at the wheel. The New Zealander reeled off a series of fastest laps to eventually top the charts with a time of 1:33.568.

“The Porsche has been quite quick here, and the track suits us a little bit more than at the last circuit at Nogaro,” Halliday said. “Mike did a good job to get us through the early stages. The conditions made it pretty difficult to make the calls on tyres, and we had to be on our toes. You don’t get a lot of time to make decisions but I think we made the right calls on the set-up and the tyres and we just drove it like hell.

“Everyone in the team helped make the decision, we all just decided at the last minute. It was a bit of a gamble. Sometimes you can take a gamble and it will go the wrong way but today it was definitely the right choice.”

Co-driver Parisy said victory in this afternoon’s Qualifying Race was definitely on the cards. “Yes, we can be confident going into the race,” the Frenchman said. “A lot depends on the weather of course but we know the car is quick around this circuit and we are ready to win.”

Just two tenths behind was the No.33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 LMS of Oliver Jarvis (GBR) and Frank Stippler after the German made a late leap up the order as the session closed.

The No.25 Reiter Lamborghini of Peter Kox (NLD) and Darryl O’Young (CHN) was third in 1:33.936.

In fourth was the best of the Mercedes – the No.37 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport SLS AMG of Thomas Jager (DEU) and Nicky Pastorelli (NLD), the pole man in 2011.

Next came the championship leaders – Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) and Stephane Ortelli (MON) in the No.32 Audi.

BMW continued their improved performance at the second round with the No.18 Vita4One Z4 of Michael Bartels and Yelmer Buurman (NLD) in sixth.

The biggest casualties of Q2 were the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italias, despite being in the top three in yesterday’s Free Practice.

The Ferrari No.3 of Toni Vilander (FIN) and Filip Salaquarda (CZE), quickest overall yesterday was ninth while the No.4 of Enzo Ide and Francesco Castellacci was on the bubble in 12th position with two minutes remaining but ultimately missed the cut.

Vilander said: “These conditions are not best for us, a mix of wet and dry. Filip did a good push on the last lap but we missed by 800 hundredths the P8 we needed to get through. We just have to focus on the race and try and make up some places.”

The struggle at Hexis Racing McLaren continues. The No.1 car of Frederic Makowiecki (FRA) and Stef Dusseldorp (NLD) made it through to Q2 but the No.2 of Gregoire Demoustier (FRA) and Alvaro Parente (PRT) failed to advance. It will start the race 10th. After just four laps, the MP4-12C struggled to 16th place.

“It hasn’t been the easiest weekend for us,” Parente said. “We had some problems yesterday but we still managed to do some laps. The guys are working hard to solve today we had a turbo issue like yesterday.”

The Valmon Racing Team Russia Aston Martin No.6 of Andreas Zuber (AUT) and Sergei Afanasiev (RUS), struggling with gearbox problems, failed to set a competitive lap. The No.10 Sunred Ford GT was also down the order and eliminated in Q1.