Blancpain GT Series, Round 5, Sprint Cup, Zolder – Qualifying:
Jake Dennis and Team WRT team-mate Peter Schothorst will start the opening race of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup round at Zolder in Belgium from seventh position, while Ben Barnicoat faces a tough challenge from 18th spot.
Dennis and Schothorst had already begun the weekend well by setting the quickest outright time in both of the previous day’s two Free Practice sessions in their Audi R8 LMS machine.
Barnicoat and Strakka Racing team-mate Alvaro Parente meanwhile faced struggles, their McLaren 650 S GT3 finding it difficult to navigate the 2.4-mile circuit in a competitive time.
Dennis began the opening part of Saturday’s qualifying session in the #3 Audi, and despite a red flag intermission when the #11 AF Corse Ferrari ended in the wall at Turn 1, Dennis demonstrated the car’s pace by setting the second quickest outright time in the final laps with a best of 1m 29.933s, just 0.226 seconds off quickest man Rob Bell in the #59 Strakka McLaren 650 S GT3.
Like Dennis, Barnicoat also took the first qualifying stint in the #58 McLaren, posting the eighth quickest lap with a best time of 1m 30.551s, yet only 0.033 seconds off Bell’s time.
Dennis handed his Audi over to Schothorst for the second part of qualifying, with the Dutch ex-single-seater racer able to set the 11th fastest time and moving the car into the third and final part of qualifying in which pole position would be disputed.
Having taken the wheel of the #58 McLaren from Barnicoat, Parente became stuck in traffic, unable to gain a clear lap and was therefore unable to sufficiently handle the 650 S GT3 to a time within the top 17 cars which moved through to Q3.
Setting a time of 1m 30.050s, Parente set the 18th quickest time, missing out on Q3 by less than a tenth of a second.
“For Alvaro to get stuck in traffic in Q2 is a real shame,” Barnicoat said. “The car felt good for me. I was the only one of the four Strakka McLaren cars to run in Q1 on old tyres, so I was happy to set the eighth quickest Q1 time.
“It’s also very tricky to overtake around this track so we’re just going to have to do what we can in the first race an stay out of trouble.”
With the three remaining Strakka McLaren machines impressing in the final qualifying shootout, Schothorst managed to set the sixth fastest lap with a time of 1m 29.420s. The time was the third quickest set by an Audi on the grid.
“To start from seventh place is a big improvement from where we have been in previous races,” Dennis said. “My qualifying went well, the red flag didn’t help our cause but it was a solid lap.
“Pieter seemed to also do a pretty good job and the car is working well. Hopefully we can therefore have a good opening race and score some double points.”
The fellow Team WRT car of Stuart Leonard and Robin Frijns will begin Saturday’s later qualifying race from pole position having posted a quickest time of 1m 29.025s, with McLaren GT Academy driver Andrew Watson narrowly missing out on pole and having to settle for second place on the grid in his and team-mate Rob Bell’s McLaren 650 S GT3.
Dennis and Schothorst will line up on the fourth row of the grid alongside the Strakka McLaren of David Fumanelli and Lewis Williamson.
|Zolder (4.011km / 2.492 miles): Qualifying|
|Pos||Driver||Team||Car||Time / Gap|
|1||Leonard / Frijns||Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||1m 29.025s|
|2||Watson / Bell||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||+0.107s|
|3||Meadows / Marciello||Akka ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+0.211s|
|4||Ceccon / Stippler||ISR||Audi R8 LMS||+0.272s|
|5||Engelhart / Bortolotti||GRT Grasser Racing||Lambourghini Huracan GT3||+0.300s|
|6||Ledogar / Kane||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||+0.308s|
|7||Schothorst / Dennis||Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+0.395s|
|8||Fumanelli / Williamson||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||+0.396s|
|9||Winkelhock / Stevens||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+0.430s|
|10||Eriksson / Baumann||HTP Motorsport||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+0.434s|
|18||Barnicoat / Parente||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||+1.070s|
Free practice 1: Barnicoat/Parente 29th, 1m 32.813s, +2.749s; Schothorst/Dennis 1st, 1m 30.064s. Free practice 2: Barnicoat/Parente 10th, 1m 30.740s, +0.368s; Schothorst/Dennis 1st, 1m 30.372s. Qualifying (qualifying race grid): Barnicoat/Parente P18, 1m 30.095s, +1.070s; Schothorst/Dennis P7, 1m 29.420s, +0.395s.
Photo: Olivier Beroud / Vision Sport Agency. Copyright-free Racing Steps Foundation images are available from the RSF Image Bank at http://www.jakobebrey.com/rsf