Franck Perera secured pole position for Sunday’s Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup qualifying race after a closely-fought third part of qualifying at Brands Hatch on Saturday. The Frenchman, driving the #74 ISR Audi R8 (above), was less than a tenth quicker than HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG drivers Jules Szymkowizak and Jazeman Jaafar. Morgan Moullin-Traffort in the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG was fastest of the Pro-Am drivers, while Luca Stolz’s #19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini ended up quickest in Silver Cup.
Despite the slight threat of rain in the early afternoon, qualifying for round three of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series was run in sunny conditions. The first two parts were largely incident-free, but one of the more notable contenders not to make the cut was the Misano Qualifying Race-winning #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental of Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek. The Belgian-Spanish duo, who are currently fifth in the overall driver standings, will start Sunday’s qualifying race from 24th.
In Q3 finding a clear lap was crucial. And Perera, who joined ISR’s Audi squad at the start of 2016, managed exactly that in the final segment. His 1m23.260s was enough to give the Czech team its first pole position since joining the Blancpain GT Series.
Brands debutant Perera said afterwards: “I have no real experience of this track but we have worked really hard, both here and during pre-season, to get on top of the new car. Obviously Marlon [Stockinger] is new to GT racing but we have just done our best in a short space of time to catch the guys ahead. Qualifying at the front here is really important because it is so difficult to overtake. The aim is to win and the car is good, especially over a stint. I am really confident that we have the pace to win tomorrow’s race.”
Szymkowiak and Jaafar, driving the #86 and #85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG respectively, both came within a tenth of Perera’s time. The final 10 minutes of qualifying also saw championship leader Dominik Baumann and Misano winner Laurens Vanthoor hit trouble: the Austrian clipped an dvertising hoardings and the Belgian got stuck in traffic during his final attempt, leaving them 11th and ninth fastest respectively.
For a long time it looked as though the fastest of the Pro-Am drivers, Morgan Moullin-Traffort in the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG, would also get a chance to make his mark in the final part of qualifying, but some last-gasp improvements from others left the Frenchman a mere three hundredths shy of scraping into Q3.
Right behind Moullin-Traffort was the fastest of the Silver Cup drivers: Luca Stolz and the #19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini. With only one car entered in the Am Cup, Stéphane Lemeret took no risks in the #55 AF Corse Ferrari.
Tomorrow’s qualifying race starts at 1205 UK time, with the top-of-the-bill main race getting underway at 1420. DSC will have full coverage of both races.