Mirko Bortolotti smashed the Blancpain GT Series qualifying lap record at Silverstone this morning to secure pole position for round two of the 2016 Endurance Cup. Franck Perera lines up alongside the Italian having secured top spot in Pro-Am, while David Perel ended the session comfortably fastest of the Am Cup contingent.
Sunny skies and warm temperatures were ever-present throughout the three 15-minute sessions, although the final grid positions were only decided in the latter. Rowe Racing’s Maxime Martin and Philipp Eng respectively topped Q1 and Q2 for BMW, but it was Bortolotti who ‘produced the lap of [his] life’ to seal GRT Grasser Racing Team’s fourth Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup pole with the Lamborghini Huracan.
Bortolotti was entrusted with the final segment of qualifying after also topping yesterday’s afternoon session, and did not disappoint. The team’s pre-determined tyre-saving strategy saw him jump aboard with the #16 Huracan languishing at the bottom of the standings, before his subsequent 1m58.469s lap vaulted the car into pole position.
The time, 2.4s faster than the Series’ existing qualifying lap record, was also 0.268s quicker than Perera’s best, which had previously helped him hold provisional pole. The Frenchman’s ISR Audi R8 starts second ahead of Alexander Sims’ Q1 and Q2 pace-setting #99 Rowe Racing BMW M6.
HTP Motorsport’s Monza pole-winner Maxi Buhk starts fourth in his Mercedes-AMG, ahead of the crowd favourite Emil Frey-run Jaguar that secured its best-ever Blancpain GT Series qualifying result. It also means that as many different manufacturers will start this afternoon’s race from the first five positions.
The Pro-Am top-three was completed by Scuderia Praha’s Matteo Malucelli (Ferrari) and Oman Racing Team’s Jonny Adam (Aston Martin), who had earlier seen co-driver Devon Modell stop at Brooklands with only three wheels on his V12 Vantage. Both cars start inside the top-10.
David Perel proved the class of the Am Cup class aboard his Kessel Racing Ferrari 458, which lapped six tenths faster than Gilles Vannelet’s AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG. Team Parker Racing’s Chris Harris completed the class top-there aboard his Bentley Continental.
Mirko Bortolotti, #16 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan: “I would say it was the lap of my life; really a perfect lap. There was no traffic, which is so important in this championship with so many cars on track at the same time. If you get a free spot you need to go for it as soon as you can, and I managed to do that. I think we have good long-run pace to challenge for victory this afternoon.”
Franck Perera, #74 ISR Audi R8 LMS: “The car is pretty good and we did a decent job yesterday with the set-up. It is also another example of how far we have come as a team since Misano. I really like Silverstone; I was on pole here two years ago with the Porsche. I knew the first lap would be really important and although maybe I could have found a little more I’m still happy with the time. We have a good driver line-up and worked towards race set-up yesterday, so should be able to fight for the win.”
Alexander Sims, #99 Rowe Racing BMW M6: “I thought the lap time was pretty sensible; we didn’t have another half a second to beat Mirko, so full credit to him for that time. I thought we got everything out of the package this morning. It’s always better to start near the front but we’ve also got to keep pinching ourselves because it was only six weeks ago we lined up for the first race without Rowe having completed a full winter’s worth of testing. We are still getting to grips with the M6. Hopefully we can stay in the mix for podium places.”
David Perel, #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia: “I’m happy because this is my first time at Silverstone. It is very satisfying, especially as my first ever race in 2014 was with Mirko. It is great to share the press conference with him. The lap was ok but not ideal as I was blocked by the #1 Audi, but I’m still very proud to be on pole on my Blancpain GT Series debut. I have played Playstation my whole life and raced at Silverstone over and over again, but never thought I would be here on pole. It’s truly surreal!”
This afternoon’s three-hour race gets underway at 15:00 local time. Watch it live here: http://www.blancpain-gt-series.com/live