With the sun greeting the 20 fastest drivers participating in this evening’s Superpole session for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, conditions were perfect. With only eight tenths of a second separating the 20 car field in Thursday’s qualifying session, there were fireworks expected for Superpole.
Maro Engel in the #00 AMG-Team Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG was the first to beat the quickest time of Thursday evening, lapping the 7.004-kilometre circuit in a time of 2:18.223.
Sadly it was not enough to claim pole position, as Clemens Schmid in the #85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG eclipsed this with a time of 2:18.025 and was nearly toppled immediately after by Felix Rosenqvist who lapped within 0.009s of the Austrian’s time.
This year sees the first appearance of BMW’s mighty M6 GT3, which qualified 15th in the hands of Dutchman Nick Catsburg – the #98 car set a time of 2:19.517 with teammate Alexander Sims achieving a best time of 2:19.865 minutes in the #99 car. BMW starts the Ardennes marathon as reigning champions after last year’s victory for the BMW Z4 GT3, so they’ll be looking to improve from their lowly grid position and put the AMG Mercs under pressure during the race.
As with all Superpoles, time passes quickly, and it wasn’t long before Dani Juncadella (#56 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG), Maxi Götz (#86 AMG-Team HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG) and Shane Van Gisbergen (#58 Garage 59 McLaren) took to the track and attempted to grab pole in the closing minutes.
The Black Falcon driver was on a faster lap when he missed his braking point in the final chicane. Then bad luck struck the fastest man of Thursday’s qualifying session, Shane Van Gisbergen – the McLaren driver slowing down on the track and causing a yellow flag situation. That ruined the flying lap of Maxi Götz, which would have been fast enough for pole, and ended the session, leaving the top-six places filled solely by the AMG Mercs.
Don’t expect them to remain quite so dominant in the race. The BMW’s will be looking to improve, while the Audi R8 LMS of Laurens Vanthoor (#28) and Franck Perera (#74) are poised to mount their attack from 7th and 8th on the grid.
The race starts at 16:30 CET on Saturday 30th July, with 65 cars fighting it out for the GT3 class.
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Words:Kevin Mc Glone.
Pictures:Kevin Mc Glone(Red Square Images), BMW Motorsport, Audi Media.