Jeroen Bleekemolen scored pole position ahead of the 2017 running of the Dubai 24 Hours, after a lap of 1:57.705 driving the #2 Black Falcon Mercedes AMG GT3 in what turned out to be an extremely tight session, with less than a second separating the top 10 A6-Pro runners.
Bleekemolen’s time is the quickest set by anyone so far this weekend, and a tenth quicker than Christer Joens’ pole time from a year ago in the Abt Audi R8 LMS GT3. It was also 0.117 faster than second place Mirko Bortolotti’s best in the #963 GRT Lamborghini Huracan GT3; the Italian jumped to P2 in the final five minutes after making a significant improvement on his best time.
“The level is so high here you never know if you’ve got it,” said Bleekemolen after the session. “I had a good first lap but hit traffic, which was a shame. I had a great lap in the end though so I’m pleased to take pole.”
Starting third on the grid for tomorrow’s 24 meanwhile will be the Precote Herberth team’s Porsche after Robert Renauer’s 1:57.993 tour of the Dubai Autodrome. Renauer’s performance was good enough to beat out Christopher Haase’s fastest time in the Optimum Audi which was briefly good enough to put him second in the closing stages of the 30-minute session.
Haase’s time, which puts the #14 Optimum Audi on the second row of the grid, was a 1:58.006, which put the British team ahead of the second A6-Pro Black Falcon AMG GT4 of Mark Engel which rounded out the top five and held provisional pole after the first flurry of laps.
The #12 Manthey Porsche, #964 GTR Lamborghini, #76 IMSA Porsche, #4 WRT Audi and #29 Forch Racing Porsche – which has been moved up to A6-Pro from A6-Am – claimed the remaining spots in the top 10.
First of the non A6-Pro runners in the order was the #204 Vortex V8 entry which was qualified by Arnaud Gomez who set a 2:01.895 to score pole in the SPX class and take 15th spot on the grid. Just behind was the pole-sitter in A6-Am, which in the end was the #17 IDEC Sport Mercedes AMG GT3 of Paul Lafarge.
Prior to the session for the front runners, the SP3-GT4 classes down went out for their separate qualifying session, with Mike Simpson scoring pole in the GT4 class with a 2:08.153, 0.318 ahead of the GT Academy RJN Nissan 370Z of Jann Mardenborough.
Mardenborough gave it everything to leapfrog Simpson’s CWS Ginetta, which almost had a costly shunt early in the session, forcing Simpson to put the car into a spin in avoidance of a slower car.
“Second position,” Mardenborugh stated. “I’m happy but pole would have been great. The Ginetta was too strong, but it’s a long race and we’ll be there. All four of us have been very quick all weekend. It’s nice to be back in a GT4, in a sportscar.”
It turned out to be a very good Qualifying for the Ginetta teams, as third in the session was Nathan Freke in the Century Ginetta, ahead of Stewart Linn’s Optimum G55, making it three Ginetta’s in the top four in SP3-GT4.
Rounding out the top five was track-club Lotus Evora, 1.5 seconds off the pole time in the class.
Three significant frontrunners failed to make it out for the session, the #10 Leipert SPX Super Trofeo Huracan after its Free Practice 3 shunt and the HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3. Both Qualifying sessions were relatively clean, with the only notable incident the Bovi Motorsport Brockernet Silversting grounding to a halt out on the circuit in the second session.
Next up on the schedule is Night Practice which runs until 20:00 local time in the UAE, ahead of the race tomorrow which starts at 14:00.