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Blancpain Endurance Series: Spa 24 Hours, Superpole, Stippler Hands WRT Pole (Up-dated)

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UPDATE: Following the session, the stewards elected to cancel the fastest lap time of the following four cars:

– #6 Phoenix Racing Audi, which will now start 14th
– #18 Black Falcon Mercedes, which will now start 18th
– #21 Black Falcon Mercedes, which will now start 17th
– #9 ROAL Motorsport BMW, which will now start 15th

Frank Stippler snatched pole position in the #2 WRT Audi R8 LMS ahead of the 2015 Spa 24 Hours, in what was an extremely tight session that saw the top 16 all finishing within a second of each other. Stippler’s lap of 2:18.130 came at the halfway mark, topping Kevin Estre’s second place #58 Von Ryan Racing McLaren by just 0.017.

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“Looking at the competition we have, it’s an honour to take pole,” said Stippler. “We struggled with the balance for a while, but we found a solution at the last minute last night. The car and myself were on top form for the session. How good we’ll be over a stint is the big question. I haven’t had the chance to do a proper long run just yet.”

Third overall, and on pole in Pro Am was the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari after Andrea Piccini’s second flying lap put the car in the top three. A 2:18.176 by the Italian places the team three spots ahead of the second placed Pro Am runner which was eventually the #18 Black Falcon Mercedes of Bernd Schneider that’ll start seventh.

“We’re super-happy, the car was fast from the beginning. There was also a lot more grip than last night. I couldn’t push and harder, so we’re quite confident. My team-mates are fighting for the Pro-Am championship, but if there’s a chance for a good overall result we’ll be up there, without taking big risks,” said a jubilant Piccini.

Third in the class is the Leonard Motorsport Aston Martin, after Stefan Mücke put the British team 15th overall.

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Estre’s first flying lap of 2:18.147 looked to be enough to claim the top spot for the #58 Von Ryan McLaren, being two tenths quicker than the provisional pole time set by Maxime Martin during the first Qualifying session yesterday. But the Von Ryan squad would eventually have to settle for second and then fourth, after Alvaro Parente stuck the #59 650s just outside the top three following a lap of 2:18.254.

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“The off at T11 yesterday wasn’t how I wanted to start the event, we missed a session but the team got the car repaired,” explained Estre. “It wasn’t so easy to drive yesterday and I struggled to get a lap down in the night session. We took a risk on setup for Super Pole, tried something we hadn’t before and it looks like it was the right decision. There’s still a question mark over our long-run pace and if you look at the names and the gaps on the timing screens you can see it’s going t be a very fun and close race.”

Fifth spot on the grid will be taken by the best of the Bentley runners. Maxim Soulet stuck the #8 Continental on the top of the screens briefly after his first tour of 2:18.350 but it wasn’t quite enough. It is however a very promising result for the M-Sport team who have struggled for raw pace to this point.

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After an extremely positive run from Maxime Martin during Thursday Qualifying and Night Qualifying putting the Marc VDS squad on provisional pole, the best he could manage was 12th overall in the #45 BMW Z4; 0.581 off Stippler’s hot lap. The sister car of Nick Catsburg had better fortunes however finishing inside the top 10. A 2:18.451 was quick enough for him to claim eighth spot

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It was a calm session, with all 20 cars staying on the road for the duration. The stewards will be looking at many drivers for exceeding track limits though.

SUPERPOLE TIMES >>

Stephen Kilbey & Stephen Errity