AKKA ASP Team secured a pole position sweep for this weekend’s Sprint Cup double-header at Misano, with Nicolas Jamin and Raffaele Marciello topping their respective qualifying sessions at the Italian venue.
The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a proven winner at Misano, having taken a pair of victories at last year’s event in the hands of HTP Motorsport. Once again, it was the car to beat today.
SILVER ACE JAMIN SNATCHES OVERALL POLE
Jamin took pole position for race 1 thanks to a lap of 1m33.961s aboard the #87 machine. Top spot had originally been occupied by the sister #88 car of Michael Meadows, but the Brit lost his fastest time for exceeding track limits.
That promoted Jamin from an already-impressive P2 into overall pole for the opening encounter. The Frenchman is competing in the Silver Cup this weekend and thus also starts at the head of his class.
“I’m obviously very happy,” commented the Frenchman afterwards. “I feel I’m still on a learning curve in GT racing and we’re trying to improve every weekend. Clinching overall and Silver Cup pole here is very satisfying.
“Misano is a track where overtaking is not easy, so if I manage to get a good start, keep my head down and not make any mistakes, I hope we can fight for victory,” Jamin added.
Second overall was the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine driven by Alex Riberas, who was just 0.038s shy of Jamin’s best time. Another Silver Cup AKKA-Mercedes will start in P3 thanks to Nico Bastian, while the penalised Meadows has every chance of a strong result from P4 on the grid.
Pro-Am pole for race 1 went to the #21 Audi Sport Slovakia machine of Christian Malcharek, who shares an R8 LMS with his father Jirko. It was an impressive performance from the Slovak racer, who is making his maiden appearance in the series.
“We are very excited to be here and looking forward to the races,” commented Malcharek. “Maybe we were expecting a bit more, but the weekend is long and there are two races in front of us, so we will see.”
MARCIELLO CONFIRMS AKKA ASP DOMINANCE
Raffaele Marciello ensured that AKKA-Mercedes ruled qualifying by topping the second session. The Italian ace made up for crewmate Meadows’ disappointment in Q1 and confirmed that the #88 machine will be a force to be reckoned with during this weekend’s races.
“It’s good to have pole, but it will be a long race and quite hot,” he said later. “Mercedes-AMG are strong here, as we saw last year, and our car feels good in medium-to-high speed corners, so I’m confident.”
Marciello’s best effort of 1m33.212s looked unbeatable at one stage, but a late surge by the #82 Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Franck Perera almost toppled the local favourite.
Ultimately, Marciello was just 0.089s clear of Perera – a winner here last year – with Christopher Mies giving the #1 R8 LMS another excellent starting position in P3. Mirko Bortolotti was fourth in the #63 Grasser-Lamborghini, a sterling effort after their car managed only five dry-weather practice laps yesterday.
Silver Cup pole for race 2 went to Sheldon van der Linde in the #17 WRT-Audi, with the South African teenager recovering from a penalty to comfortably head the class.
“I had a really good lap but due to track limits it was cancelled, which is a shame,” commented Van der Linde. “That pulled me back three or four positions [in the overall classification].
“Nevertheless, it’s great to be on the Silver Cup pole for the first time, and in my first Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup race. The competition is really tight and I’m enjoying it.”
Pro-Am pole for race 2 went to Markus Winkelhock in the #26 Sainteloc-Audi, with the German driver taking P10 overall in the car he shares with Nyls Stievenart.
“I actually thought we could have been a little bit stronger,” said the German driver. ”Yesterday was really good, so I expected more.
“But, in the end, we are focused on the Pro-Am class, so being on pole position is okay. We have to finish the races without any issues so we can score some important points for the championship.”
Today's opening 60-minute race gets underway at 19.40 local time, while Sunday’s contest is set to begin at 14.00. All of the action will be available to watch live on the Blancpain GT Series website.