Vanthoor, Vervisch share poles
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT dominated Blancpain GT Series qualifying sessions at Brands Hatch, securing pole position for both of Sprint Cup races. Fresh from victory at Monza, where its Audi R8 LMS triumphed in the opening Endurance Cup event of the season, the Belgian squad carried their impressive form over to the British circuit. Blancpain GT Series points leader Dries Vanthoor – pictured – claimed pole position for the opening race, while Frederic Vervisch marked his first appearance of the season by taking top spot for race 2.
Vanthoor looked to be in control throughout the first segment of qualifying. The Belgian driver spent almost the entirety of the 20-minute session on top of the times, eventually lapping in 1:23.931 to seal pole position. His closest challenge came from another Audi R8 LMS, with Attempto Racing’s Steijn Schothorst continuing the impressive form that carried him to victory in the Sprint Cup opener at Zolder by taking second on the grid for race one. The Dutchman was just 0.139s behind of Vanthoor, edging out a number of established stars to seal his spot on the front row. He was followed by the AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG of Michael Meadows, who showed well in front of his home fans to secure P3. The top five starters for race one will be rounded out by the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car of Alex Riberas and the Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Christian Engelhart, both of whom were competitive but ultimately unable to challenge for the front row.
While the first segment of qualifying always seemed to be under Vanthoor’s control, the second session was a highly competitive affair that kept everyone guessing until the chequered flag. The battle for pole eventually came down to a two-car tussle between Belgian Audi Club Team machine of Vervisch and Raffaele Marciello’s AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG. The latter ran his laps early, then parked the Mercedes and looked set to hang on and defeat Team WRT. But Vervisch was determined to shine in his first Blancpain GT Series outing of the season and delivered a stellar lap to pip the Italian by just 0.109s. The other Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car of Christopher Mies also looked to be in the battle for pole, eventually settling for P3 with a time just 0.178s off the quickest effort. Indeed, there was little to choose between the front-runners. Mirko Bortolotti (Lamborghini) and Kelvin van der Linde (Audi) completed the top-five, with both lapping within a quarter of a second of pole.
PRO-AM class pole position for the opening race was captured by the TP 12-Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 of Piti Bhirombhakdi, who was a comfortable 0.596s clear of the Team Parker Racing Bentley of Ian Loggie. Having secured a clean sweep of poles and race victories at the previous Sprint Cup event, the Thai driver looked assured once more at Brands Hatch and will be targeting another triumph. Pole for race 2 went to Markus Winkelhock in the Sainteloc Racing’s Audi, who ended the highly-competitive second session in P7 overall, less than half a second shy of Vervisch’s best time.
The Silver Cup category saw a clean sweep for the AKKA ASP squad (Mercedes), with Nico Bastian and Jack Manchester both securing class pole.
“This is my first Blancpain GT Series start this season and I’m on pole, so I’m extremely happy“, reflected Vervisch, “Everything has gone really well. Audi has been good at this circuit in the past, but it’s still not a simple track. WRT are really strong when it comes to race strategy, so I hope we can finish where we have qualified.“