Blancpain GT Sports Club Overall points leader Anthony Pons will start Sunday’s Qualifying Race from pole position at Circuit Paul Ricard after the #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 topped Saturday’s Qualifying. Driving the #3 Ferrari 488 GT3, Artega Rennsport’s Klaus Dieter Frers went fastest in the Iron Cup field and will line up a couple of spots ahead of title rival Stephen Earle..
Taking place under scorching hot conditions, the battle for pole in round three of this year’s Blancpain GT Sports Club campaign turned out to be a thrilling affair at the French Grand Prix venue, with multiple changes inside the top five all the way until the chequered flag.
Having gone fastest in FP1, AF Corse’s Alex Demirdjian thought he had done it again in the #22 Ferrari 488 GT3 only to be stripped off pole position minutes after the end of the 20-minute session.
The Lebanese driver, who had won the 3 Hours of Monza in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Am category earlier this year, was docked three places on the grid after he was found guilty of causing a collision with another car. Prior to the penalty, Demirdjian’s fastest mark had already been deleted, which eventually pushes him down to seventh on the grid.
Pons, who had set the FP2 pace, was thus promoted to the top spot and secures his second pole position after Misano’s season opener last April. The Frenchman will also be pleased to see main title rival Cédric Leimer’s Autovitesse Garage R.Affolter Lamborghini Huracan GT3 fourth on Sunday’s morning grid.
Lining up alongside Pons will be Boutsen Ginion’s Claude-Yves Gosselin in the #4 Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso R-EX. Behind the two Frenchmen, AF Corse’s Patrick van Glabeke confirmed his strong form around the 5.842km circuit, having already gone second fastest in FP2.
Karim Ojjeh makes it two Boutsen Ginion cars in the top five with the #2 BMW M6 GT3. The former Le Mans class winner pipped Daniele Perfetti, who was a late addition to this weekend’s Blancpain GT Sports Club entry list in the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3, for a mere 0.044s.
Making his return to the series this weekend, reigning Overall champion Michael Broniszewski had to settle for 12th in the #11 Kessel Racing-entered Ferrari 488 GTE.
In the Iron Cup, Blancpain GT Sports Club’s class reserved for drivers aged 60 and over, Klaus Dieter Frers took a crucial pole position, ahead of Stephen Earle (#111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3). The German driver is trailing the US racer by 12 points in the current standings and will look to make inroads into Earle’s championship lead on Sunday. Willem Paulys de Pundert (#39 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3) finished a solid third in class, with Louis-Philippe Soenen (#50 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3) wrapping up the Iron Cup field.
Anthony Pons, #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Today’s Qualifying was quite strange actually because we all tried to give each other space on the circuit so we could have a clear lap. But we ended up ebbing and flowing around the track and the times only went down at the very end. I went fastest on my final attempt, which was a bit surprising because the tyres should have been past their prime. The only thing that matters though is to start from the front and hopefully we’ll have a clean launch. With the Qualifying Race defining the grid order for the Main Race, the aim is definitely to get a strong result in the morning contest.”
Klaus Dieter Frers, #3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3: “The conditions were very hot out there, especially when we seemed to have an issue with the air-conditioning system in free practice. It turned out I had just forgotten to switch it on! We had come here at Paul Ricard during the spring time for testing and we just went 1.5s faster so we’re very pleased with the car, setup and tyres. I feel very well at the wheel and I could have gone maybe a couple of tenths quicker but I hit traffic and lost the rhythm.
“It’s important to close the gap to Stephen [Earle] this weekend. Both in Misano and Silverstone, I was ahead of him at some point but the rear tyres were too hot in the closing stages of the race and I ended up slipping behind my American friend! We think we have solved the problem because the issue did not occur over long runs in free practice.”
Sunday’s Qualifying Race gets under way at 10:50, Paul Ricard time. The results of the 25-minute contest will determine the grid for the 40-minute Main Race, which starts at 15:35. Both events will be shown live on our official website and Facebook page with commentary in both English and French.
Source. SRO Motorsports Group