The #50 AF Corse Ferrari will start from pole position at the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km, round five of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series. In the final seconds of a closely fought qualifying session Alessandro Pier Guidi edged ahead of Monegasque Pro-Am driver Olivier Beretta in the sister #53 AF Corse 488 GT3. Both M-Sport Bentleys occupy the second row, with Maxime Soulet putting the #8 Continental third. David Perel, driving the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari, was quickest of the Am Cup drivers.
Glorious sunshine greeted teams and drivers for the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km qualifying session. As usual things got serious in the third and final qualifying segment, with several of the new Ferrari 488s vying for top spot. But the competition was not willing to let the Prancing Horses dominate the show, and Shane Van Gisbergen in the #58 Garage 59 McLaren and Luca Stolz’s #19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini managed to get their cars at the sharp end of the grid as well.
But it wasn't until Steven Kane and Maxime Soulet set their first quick laps that the Ferrari drivers lost top spot. A last gasp effort by Olivier Beretta (substituting for the absent Giancarlo Fisichella) and Alessandro Pier Guidi pushed the Bentleys back down the order again, but it was still the best Blancpain GT qualifying session ever for the Continental GT3.
In the Am Cup Stephane Lemeret was on top for a while, but once David Perel took the wheel of the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari the South African jumped to first in class and 30th overall.
The Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km starts this afternoon at 6pm local time and finishes around midnight. The race can be followed live – and for free - on the official Blancpain GT Series website and app.
Alessandro Pier Guidi (#50 AF Corse Ferrari): “The traffic was definitely key, along with AF Corse’s good work. The first two races were difficult but the car was brand new. It’s taken time for us to find the way but I am now very happy, both for myself and the crew because they have worked very hard.”
Olivier Beretta (#53 AF Corse Ferrari): “We are here to achieve a good result but whether we fight for overall positions or only the Pro/Am victory depends on race conditions. Both are important to Ferrari, who have worked very hard to sort out the new 488. There has been a lot of testing and investment, and we have shown that today.”
Maxime Soulet (#8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental): “When the team came on the radio and said I was P1 I was like ‘wow!’ because we knew the Ferraris would be fast. In the end it wasn’t quite enough but this is still a very good result for Bentley, and one of the best since the Continental GT3 programme began. It will be good for both cars to start a six-hour race from third and fourth.”
David Perel (#111 Kessel Racing Ferrari): “I’ve done a lot of studying before this weekend and made a document that was about 20 pages long comprising notes and screenshots, which actually came from the Bentley. I’ve got screenshots of them taking curbs! A lot of focus and hard work has gone into it. The team is working really well together this weekend.”