The Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 no. 51 of AF Corse will start from second on the grid in the opening race of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. The crew of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Nicklas Nielsen closed the session just 144 thousandths of a second off pole despite a time that was compromised in Q1 due to the heavy traffic on the track. Their qualifying result is a bit surprising as the Balance of Performance doesn’t really favour the Maranello cars. However, the talent of the drivers reduced this handicap to a minimum. In the Pro-Am class, the 488 GT3 Evo 2020 of Sky – Tempesta Racing claimed a fantastic pole with Edward Cheever, Chris Froggatt and Jonathan Hui.
Q1. In a session where Dries Vanthoor (Audi) recorded the fastest lap of 1:41.882, Alessandro Pier Guidi was the swiftest of the 488 GT3 Evo 2020 drivers, clocking a best lap time of 1:42.292. He did so on the last available lap after he had significantly improved his partials and had been forced to pull out of his attempted fast lap by Florian Latorre’s spin coming out of Rivazza 2 just as the Italian was approaching the corner. Miguel Molina had to settle for the fifteenth fastest time of 1:42.536, recorded in the early part of the session. The Lamborghini of Dennis Lind, who was also trying to improve his time, slowed the Spaniard in his subsequent attempts. In the Pro-Am, Chris Froggatt set the fourth-fastest time of 1:43.825, while Niek Hommerson qualified his car in seventh with 1:44.244, followed by Pierre Ehret in eleventh with 1:45.363.
Q2. The second qualifying session followed just a few minutes after the first, with 46 cars on the Imola circuit. Nicklas Nielsen was the fastest of the Ferraristas with an excellent 1:42.02, earning him the sixth-best overall time. Making his series debut, the Dane was just three-thousandths of a second ahead of Patrick Pilet in a session that saw Mirko Bortolotti (Audi) the fastest driver with 1:41.791. Davide Rigon, however, was eleventh in 1:42.201, just two-tenths of a second off the podium. The Italian set his best time on lap seven, while previous attempts had been partially compromised by traffic. Rino Mastronardi ended the session in second place in the Pro-Am, behind the wheel of the 488 GT3 of Rinaldi Racing. His time of 1:42.954 was just 39 thousandths of a second slower than Clement Seyler. Behind him came Jonathan Hui of Sky – Tempesta Racing, with 1:43.578, while Louis Machiels took fifth in 1:43.681.
Q3.The third and final session decided the starting grid, calculated according to the combined times. James Calado and Sergey Sirotkin performed brilliantly in the last fifteen minutes of the time trial. The British driver, with a 1:41.517 recorded on lap six, guided the 488 GT3 Evo 2020 no. 51 of AF Corse to the front row, just 144 thousandths off the pole position won by the Audi of Attempto Racing driven by Mattia Drudi, Kim-Luis Schramm and Frederick Vervisch. Sergey Sirotkin, for his part, recorded the best Ferrari performance on the Imola track with 1:41.453, earning him fourth position. SMP Racing no. 72’s overall time of 1:42.063 means the trio will have to start from ninth on the grid. In the Pro-Am class, pole position went to the 488 GT3 Evo 2020 of Sky – Tempesta Racing, in part due to the fifth-best session time of 1:43.284 recorded by Edward Cheever. On his shoulder in sixth, Andrea Bertolini clocked 1:42.456. The Italian even attempted to take advantage of Calado’s slipstream in the final stages to improve further. The reigning champion will start from the second row of the Pro-Am class, while Rinaldi Racing’s Ferrari will set off from the third. The car, driven in the last session by Daniel Keilwitz, stopped the clock at 1:42.497, the seventh-fastest time.
James Calado: “We didn’t expect to qualify in second place, especially given the times recorded during free practice. We were aiming to finish in the top ten, but we managed to set some good times. Nicklas was really superb, as was Alessandro who limited the damage in traffic. The car was excellent, even though we’re a bit slow on the straight. The race pace is good, so let’s hope we do well. Starting from the front row is always positive, especially considering that it’s the first race of the season”.
Alessandro Pier Guidi: “A better than expected qualifying although paradoxically we can complain about the time lost during my attempt when Latorre span in front of me. In fact, on my fastest lap in the central sector, I was unable to replicate the time I was setting previously. Starting in the front row is very good also because our Balance of Performance isn’t exactly favourable”.
Race. The three-hour race kicks off on Sunday at 1:30 pm.