Laurens Vanthoor’s Sprint Cup season is off to the best possible start. A 1:33.262 lap midway through the top-20 shootout handed himself and Frederic Vervisch pole position in the #1 WRT Audi R8 LMS for tonight’s night race at Misano.
Vanthoor’s lap didn’t look good enough for pole at the time though. The #1 Audi, which ran quickly throughout the three Qualifying sessions with Vanthoor and Vervisch at the wheel, looked as if it was going to end up second on the grid after Vanthoor’s fastest Q3 lap, as Franck Perera topped the times with under five minutes remaining.
Purer, driving the #74 ISR Audi, was a somewhat unexpected name to find at the top of the sheets, after an astonishing tour of 1:33.199. It was unfortunately too good to be true though, as just before the session came to a close the stewards cancelled the Frenchman’s lap due to a track limits infringement. Himself and teammate Marlon Stockinger will lineup 11th.
Alvaro Parente, who was extremely quick during his Q2 run carried on his form through to the shootout and in the end was promoted to second spot from third in the #58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3, just 0.015 off Vanthoor. Third on the grid was then awarded to the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 458 of Norbert Sielder, showing that the older Ferrari still has life in it yet.
Fourth spot on the grid was taken by last year’s star rookie Robin Frijns in the #4 WRT Audi, and rounding out the top five was the first of the Pro-Am runners: Giacomo Piccini in Kessel Racing’s brand new Ferrari 458.
It was an extremely busy qualifying to start the year off, with the 39 cars packing out the tight and twisty 2.5-mile Misano circuit. The nature of the traffic density threw some surprises, with quite a few notable teams and drivers failing to break into the top 20 to secure a spot in the shootout during the first two combined sessions.
Of the runners eliminated after Q2, neither Rowe Racing BMW M6 or RJN Nissan GT-R made the cut, along with the #7 M-Sport Bentley of defending champ Vincent Abril and Steven Kane.
Astonishingly, by the end of the shootout, the top 15 cars were within a second of each other on pure speed, providing further proof of the quality in this year’s field.
The Qualifying Race later today is due to start at 20:50 local time in Italy and has all the ingredients needed for an extremely exciting sprint race to kick off the Blancpain Sprint Cup season.