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Red Bull Ring, Qualifying, SMP Ferrari On Pole

SMP Racing's Basov edges Hamaguchi's FFF McLaren

Aleskey Basov and Viktor Shaitar are on pole for Saturday evening’s Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup race at the Red Bull Ring.

The morning’s qualifying session saw Basov lap the Styrian circuit over half a second quicker than the SMP Racing Ferrari’s closest competitor, the FFF Racing McLaren of Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs.

55-FFF-McLaren-GT3LM-Red-Bull-Ring-2016-Qualifying

The series’ ‘super pole’ format was rendered somewhat redundant by the low number of entries at this round, as with 10 cars shooting for 10 spots in the second part of qualifying, there was no pressure to make the cutoff – just to keep going.

Basov topped the initial 15-minute session with a time of 1:29.826, seven tenths up on Egidio Perfetti in the Mentos Porsche. Those times would of course have no bearing on the final grid order, with the screens being wiped ahead of the second 15-minute segment.

That opened with the same pair again sitting 1-2 after the first flying laps, albeit initially two or three seconds off their pace from the first part.

Hamaguchi in the #55 then lowered the benchmark to 1:30.247, before Basov was back on his earlier pace with a 1:29.902. With around four minutes of the the session remaining, Salih Yoluc then popped up to second in the #34 TF Sport Aston Martin with a 1:30.133.

Hamaguchi and Perfetti continued chipping away, however, and they had displaced Yoluc to fourth on the grid by the end of the session, with Hamaguchi booking a spot on the front row courtesy of a 1:29.907 and Perfetti managing a 1:30.091 to line up third alongside Yoluc’s Aston.

This marks another step of improvement in qualifying for Hamaguchi, who qualified fourth at the season-opener in Imola and third at the Road to Le Mans race. “It was my first time driving this track yesterday, so to qualify P2, it couldn’t be better really,” said the Japanese driver.

Perfetti said he’d felt more comfortable in the first part of qualifying. “I was ready to push harder in the second part, but I struggled to get the tyres to the right level.”

The qualifying result also meant four different makes in the top four, with fifth place being taken by the second-quickest Ferrari, the #26 CMR 458 of Nicolas Misslin. Sixth was Thomas Flohr in the #51 AF Corse 488, ahead of seventh-place Philip Hanson in the Tockwith Motorsports Audi.

Taiiyou Iida in the FFF Lamborghini (who’s taken MotoGP racer Marco Melandri’s spot on the entry list), Ivor Dunbar in the FF Corse Ferrari 488 and Pierre de Leener in the #14 AF Corse Ferrari 458 complete the grid in eighth, ninth and 10th.