With a last-gasp effort, Laurens Vanthoor claimed pole position for tomorrow’s qualifying race at Brands Hatch, the venue for the second round of the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series. The Belgian was only 0.022 seconds quicker than the #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes of Maximilian Götz and 0.119 seconds ahead of Jeroen Bleekemolen’s Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini. David Fumanelli and his ROAL Motorsport BMW were quickest in Silver Cup, while Marc Basseng took his Phoenix Racing Audi to pole in the Pro-Am Category.
The qualifying session for the Blancpain Sprint Series meeting at Brands Hatch was the final chapter of a action-packed first day on the legendary British circuit. The teams only had two one-hour Free Practice sessions to prepare themselves for what turned out to be a frantic qualifying session.
The first part of qualifying confirmed the improvement in form the BMW teams had shown during free practice. With three cars in the top four, and Sergio Jimenez in the #0 BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil the quickest overall, they could aim for some of the ten vacancies in Q3.
However, Q2 saw the comeback of the Audi teams, with three R8 LMS ultra in the first three places. The combined classification proved that several teams and manufacturers could cherish ambitions for pole position, with the top ten separated by just half a second.
It was Jeroen Bleekemolen who set the first benchmark in the third and deciding part of the qualifying session. The Nogaro polesitter, who had barely made it into Q3 at Brands, was the first driver to break the 1’24 barrier. It was quite clear that his reference time of 1’23.984 would be hard to beat, but two of his colleagues still managed to do so. Nogaro winner Maximilian Götz went a mere nine hundredths of a second quicker than Bleekemolen and was almost convinced to have taken pole when the ten minutes of Q3 were over. Laurens Vanthoor could still finish his last-ditch effort though and the Belgian improved Götz’s time by 0.022.
Other notable performances in the qualifying session came from BMW-drivers Valdeno Brito and Alex Zanardi. The first, replacing Nelson Piquet jr. in the #30 BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil BMW and participating in his very first Blancpain Sprint Series meeting, will be fifth and first BMW driver on the grid tomorrow. Alex Zanardi, back at the venue where he conquered his three Olympic medals, will share the third row of the grid with Brito.
Laurens Vanthoor (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi): “The final part of qualifying was a bit problematic for me. During my first two flying laps I made a mistake on each of the laps, so I had only one chance left. I knew that if you push hard on this track, take many risks, you can go very quickly. So it was a real all or nothing effort and luckily it worked out for me.’
Maximilian Götz (#84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes): “I had two very good laps, and I thought it was enough to be on pole. But Laurens beat me in the end, by a couple of thousandths of a second. Still, I enjoyed driving in qualifying on this historical race track.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen (#28 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini): “We decided to save our tyres during the second part of qualifying, so I did only one fast lap. It was very close, because we were tenth and only just got into Q3. But now we have good tyres for the race, so that’s ok. I knew it would be close in the end, because Maxi in an SLS and Laurens in an Audi, that’s the top of GT racing in the moment. I am happy that I could take the fight for pole to them, especially on this track. I think I had a smile on my face the whole time. It is so nice to drive on this circuit, even though the Lamborghini is not the easiest car around here.”
David Fumanelli (#34 ROAL Motorsport BMW, 1st Silver Cup): “This track suits our car very well. Certainly the second sector, with its fast corners, goes well for us. I am happy with pole position in Silver cup, but I am also a bit upset. In Q3 I made a mistake, which lead to a laptime which was six tenths slower than in Q2. Without that mistake, I could have finished in the top-5 again. Now that we are more competitive, we would like to get a good result overall as well.”
Marc Basseng (#5 Phoenix Racing Audi, 1st Pro-Am): “I will try to gain some places in the first part of the race tomorrow, to give the car to my team-mate Alessandro in a good position. The excellent work of our pit crew should give us the possibility to obtain a good result.”