The #4 Mercedes-AMG Team BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 will start from provisional pole position for the final round of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series after Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman set an average lap time of 1:44.312 around the 4.655 kms Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Joining the #4 entry on the front row of the 52-car grid will be the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS piloted by Dries Vanthoor, Christopher Mies and Alex Riberas who set an average lap time of 1:44.484.
Completing the top three on the grid for the three-hour race on September 30, the final round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, will be the #43 Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing Mercedes with the driver line-up of Maxi Goetz, Alvaro Parente and Maxi Buhk who lapped in an average lap time of 1:44.587.
The first qualifying session was red-flagged with just under four minutes remaining when Pieter Schothorst, at the wheel of the #66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS, went wide at Turn 9 and then shot across the track to make heavy contact with the barriers on the inside of the circuit. The #66 car sustained series damage and must be considered unlikely to make the grid for the race later in the day.
Dries Vanthoor, who had set the quickest time in the first session in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS with a 1:43.950, had the time removed as the session resumed due to not observing a yellow flag.
Q2 was disrupted with a Full Course Yellow with nine minutes remaining after Lenny Marioneck had an off-track moment at T1 in the #24 Reiter Young Stars Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX. There was further disruption when the session was red-flagged with one minute remaining after the #888 Car Collection Motorsport Audi, driven by Antonio Forne Tomas, went into the gravel at T12, causing the stewards to announce that the car was to be investigated for causing the incident which resulted in the session being truncated.
At the end of Q2, shortened by the red flag, lap-times were adjusted for those cars that had improved their times in the second sector under a yellow flag. As a result, the #1 car finished the session in second place on average with the championship-leading #88 car in eighth.
Q3 ran largely uninterrupted with Raffaele Marciello, at the wheel of the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3, setting the quickest time of the weekend with a 1:43.667 with the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes .388 seconds back, Luca Stolz lapping in 1:44.055.
Raffaele Marciello, whose #88 car will start from fourth on the grid, was largely pleased with the qualifying result but knows that the race will be tough.
“We lost the chance to fight for pole position in Q2,” said the Italian driver. “It was important to start in the top five for the fight. It will be a tough race as it’s not so easy to overtake here but we will see. Our car is quite good in the race so it should be a good race for us.”
“We have to play smart at the start and we have to play smart at the pit stops because on the track it’s not so easy to overtake.”
Pole position for the #4 entry means that Engel, Stolz and Buurman start the final round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance equal on points with Raffaele Marciello at the top of the Endurance Cup drivers standings.
Pole position in the Pro-Am class went to the #42 Strakka Racing Mercedes of Chris Buncombe, Nick Leventis and Lewis Williamson. The #54 Emil Frey Jaguar Racing G3 Jaguar, piloted by Alex Fontana, Adrian Zaugg and Mikael Grenier will start from the front of the Silver category grid while the #89 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes was quickest in the Am Cup category.
The lights go out for the three-hour race at 15:00 local time on Sunday September 30.
Photo courtesy of Blancpain GT Series