Robin Frijns put the #17 Team WRT Audi on pole position for the qualifying race of the fifth event of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series, at Zolder in Belgium. The Dutchman beat McLaren-youngster Andrew Watson by just over a tenth of a second, with Raffaele Marciello in the #90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG in third. Lewis Williamson (#42 Strakka Racing McLaren) was quickest of the Silver Cup drivers, with Carlo Van Dam putting the #39 Kessel Racing TP12 Ferrari on pole in the Pro-Am Cup. Sole Am Cup entrant, the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari, will start from 29th overall.
Even though the start of the qualifying session was given under bright sunshine, the overnight rain had left the Zolder track pretty green. However, it did not take long for the best GT drivers in the world to improve on yesterday’s free practice times, with Rob Bell in the #59 Strakka Racing McLaren being the first to go below the 90-second barrier. The gaps between the drivers were small though, with no fewer than 29 cars within the same second at the end of Q2. Only 17 cars go through to Q3 though, and among those that didn’t some drivers and cars of note: Alvaro Parente (18th), reigning Sprint Cup champion Enzo Ide (19th), both ROWE BMWs and both Team M-Sport Bentleys will have their work cut out during this afternoon’s qualifying race.
In the third and deciding part of qualifying Christopher Haase (#26 Sainteloc Racing Audi) was the first to set a reference time, but his lap time was soon improved upon. Andrew Watson (#59 Strakka Racing McLaren) was the first to do so, but once Robin Frijns completed his fast lap, his time of 1’29.025 would remain on top of the timing sheets. The 2015 Blancpain GT Series champion thus became the first Audi driver to claim a pole position in the 2017 season. Frijns, sharing the #17 Team WRT Audi with Stuart Leonard, will now try to match his performance from 2015, the last time the Blancpain GT Series visited Zolder. Two years ago Frijns – who then shared a car with Laurens Vanthoor – took a double win in Belgium.
In the Silver Cup Lewis Williamson once again proved to be the quickest of the lot, setting the eighth time overall. Williamson will have to serve a five-place grid penalty though, but will still be the first of the Silver Cup drivers on the grid.
In the Pro-Am Cup Carlo Van Dam showed some impressive speed during Q2, but a small mistake in Q3 meant the driver of the #39 Kessel Racing TP12 Ferrari was unable to significantly improve on that lap time in the final part of qualifying. The Dutchman still beat the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG to pole in Pro-Am Cup however.
With four manufacturers in the top-5 (current championship leader Mirko Bortolotti qualified his #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini in fifth), this afternoon’s qualifying race promises to be a close fought affair. The race starts at 15.00 CEST, and will be streamed live on www.blancpain-gt-series.com.