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International GT Open: Monza, Qualifying Report

Qualifying 1

Colder and wetter conditions on Saturday morning did nothing to undo the Ferrari domination of GT Open at Monza so far – Alessandro Pier Guidi secured overall and GTS-class pole for the Esta Motorsports 458, while Andrea Montermini was not far behind, clinching second overall and Super GT pole for the Villorba Corse Ferrari.

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GT Open competitors have a simple choice of full wets or full slicks, which led to some ill-fated experimenting in the morning session. Duncan Cameron was the first to come a cropper, bringing out the yellows after a trip to the gravel that fortunately left his AF Corse 458 undamaged.

Leipert Lamborghini man Stefan Rosina also took a gamble, and although his car didn’t leave the track, he found himself only 15th in class when the flag fell. “We were a bit unlucky there, but that’s life,” he said. “At FIA GT in Navarra I took a tyre gamble and it worked, but here it didn’t.”

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Pole winner Pier Guidi set his time on wets, but also spent some laps on slicks to get a better understanding of how they behaved on the damp track. “The Dunlop wets are pretty good on a drying track,” he told us, “but at the same time the slicks take a long time to get into their operating window when the surface is so cold, so it’s tricky deciding when to change in a short session.”

Once again, the Bhai Tech McLarens were the only cars able to get amongst the Ferrari tidal wave – Giorgio Pantano put his and Rafael Suzuki’s machine third-fastest (and second in GTS) in this session, but Chris van der Drift in the other 12C could only manage 14th. “I wasn’t able to attack in the last part of the session,” said the New Zealander, “as the Super GT cars had just come out and were circulating slowly on cold tyres.”

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Another man disappointed with his race-one start slot was Michael Lyons, who starts from ninth in class for Saturday’s race. “No excuses, really, it was just my first time at Monza in the wet,” he admitted. “I was improving by half a second a lap towards the end of the session, but as always for racing drivers, the flag came out too soon!”

Second in Super GT went to the Bert Longin/Diederich Sijthoff Corvette – the front-engined machines benefitting from faster-warming tyres in the cool and damp conditions – while the AF Corse Ferrari duo of Vimal Mehta and Marco Cioci will line up third in class (albeit 12th overall) for Saturday’s 70-minute race. Third in GTS went the way of Stefano Costantini, sharing one of the two Ombra Racing 458s with Stefano Gattuso. Ferraris filled nine of the top 11 slots this session.

Qualifying 2

As the first flying laps in Q2 were completed, it was immediately clear the track was drier and quicker than in the morning session – Maxime Soulet’s opening effort of 1:58.7 in the GPR Aston Martin already faster than Pier Guidi’s race one pole time. Anyone who’d gone out on wets quickly returned to pits for slicks, and the lap times tumbled accordingly.

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A brace of drivers then turned in 1:55 laps, before Pier Guidi’s co-driver Aleskandr Skryabin lowered the bar to 1:53. Luiz Razia and Matteo Beretta shaved another three seconds off the target time, and most of the leading group followed suit as the session wound down.

In the end, only Rugolo (AF Corse Ferrari) and Razia (Bhai Tech McLaren) managed to go under 1:50 barrier, ending the session first and second in GTS respectively. “I could have been even quicker, but there was a yellow flag in the last corner, so I had to back off in that sector,” said happy poleman Rugolo afterwards. Behind Razia were Matteo Beretta (AF Corse Ferrari), Stefano Gattuso (Ombra Ferrari), Marco Frezza (Kessel Ferrari), Roman Mavlanov (SMP Ferrari) and Skryabin.

AF Corse’s Filip Salaquarda and Fabio Onidi will line up fifth and eigth in class for races and two respectively. This is FIA GT and Ferrari regular Salaquarda’s first time racing in GT Open, and also his first time racing on the series’ Dunlop control tyre. “P3 was possible in the first qualifying, but we had some traffic,” he told us. “I find the Dunlops very stable compared to the Pirellis, you don’t get the same peaks and troughs of grip as the session goes on.”

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In Super GT, qualifying once again came down to a battle royale between the AF Corse and Villorba Corse Ferraris – although this time it was F1 tester Davide Rigon, not Luca Filippi, in the latter car. Rigon’s 1:48.8 benchmark time stood for much of the session, before he improved slightly to 1:48.661 in the last few minutes.

Matt Griffin in the AF Corse car had a reasonable lap in the bank, but quickly realised there would only be time for one more tour before the session ended. “I came across Rigon slowing down in the first sector, so I had to back off a little,” he said afterwards, “that took some temperature out of the tyres, but I still had to go balls-out in the last two sectors to make up for it.” In the end, it was enough to take class and overall pole for Sunday’s race by just six thousandths of a second.

Matteo Cressoni and Carlos Viera’s Drivex Porsche was third in the Super GT class in this session, with Nicky Pastorelli fourth in the lead V8 Racing Corvette still struggling for ultimate pace.

Stephen Errity
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