With rain announced for Thursday evening, most teams and drivers chose to go for a quick qualifying lap during the first of two qualifying sessions. After the usual skirmishes, Raffaele Marciello in the #90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG came out on top, a mere 0.113 quicker than the #2 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 of Fred Vervisch. James Calado, driving the #55 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari, ended the first session in third… and those positions did not change during the second session, even though the expected rain did not appear.
Behind the top three, some of the favourites used that second session to get into the top-20, in order to secure their ticket for Friday’s Superpole. The most notable of those were the leaders in the Blancpain GT Series driver standings, the drivers of the #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini. Eventually Mirko Bortolotti clocked the sixth time.
With a whopping 36 cars within the same second – which is a record, by the way – some cars missed the Superpole session by the tiniest of margins: the #5 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 of Dries Vanthoor and multiple Le Mans 24 hours-winners Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer was only 0.004 short of a position in the top-20.
Only one Pro-Am car made it to the Superpole this year, thanks to a flyer from Jonny Adam at the wheel of the #97 Oman Racing Team with TF Sport Aston Martin. The Monza Pro-Am Cup winner beat the next car in Pro-Am – the #912 Herberth Motorsport Porsche – by less than a quarter of a second, but that was enough to put fourteen other cars in between them.
Fastest of the Am Cup drivers was again David Perel, at the wheel of the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari. The South African finished up in 47th overall. Just like last year, Gregory Paisse took the pole position in the Groupe National, at the wheel of the #991 Speedlover Porsche.
The qualifying sessions were marred by two heavy crashes. Both the #00 Good Smile Racing & Team Ukyo Mercedes-AMG and the #22 Motul Team RJN Motorsport Nissan hit the tyre barriers in the Raidillon, fortunately without consequences for the drivers. Both teams will do their utmost to get their cars ready in time.
Raffaelle Marciello (#90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG): “This quickest time is not really important, since we still have the Superpole tomorrow. But it’s good to know that we will be near the sharp end of the starting grid, which could be an advantage for the opening hours of the race.”
Frédéric Vervisch (#5 Audi Sport Team WRT R8): “It’s not so easy to improve your time in the dark. In theory you have some more power, but because the vision is a bit less, you lose time, almost without noticing it. That is why we tried to get our fastest time in the first session.”
Vincent Vosse (Team Manager Audi Sport): “We are happy to have three cars in the top-20, but this has been such a crazy qualifying session, with 20 cars only separated by just over four tenths of a second. I think the people of SRO can be very proud of their work.”
James Calado (#55 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari): “We will probably need a perfect lap to get pole position, but in the end the race is much more important. We will try our best though.”
Jonny Adam (#97 Oman Racing Team with TF Sport Aston Martin, 1st Pro-Am Cup): “This pole in Pro-Am is good for us, since we get an extra point for the championship. The car felt good tonight, everybody’s happy in the team.”
David Perel (#888 Kessel Racing Ferrari, 1st Am Cup): “I’m pretty happy! We improved in the night quali, which wasn’t easy. It’s not easy to pick up your brake markers, for example. But the car is one piece, we are completely ready for the race.”
Gregory Paisse (#991 Speedlover Porsche): “The car was fantastic all through the night, we could even keep up with some of the GT3 cars. The little blue men on our car brought us luck, that’s for sure!”
Source. SRO Motorsports Group