P13 start for Dennis at Paul Ricard

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Blancpain GT Series, Round 6, Endurance Cup, Paul Ricard – Qualifying:

Jake Dennis and the #17 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS car will begin the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup 1000 Kilometres of Paul Ricard from 13th position, while Ben Barnicoat will start from 31st, following an exciting final 15-minute qualifying session in southern France.

The race is a warm-up for the next round, July’s Spa 24 Hours, and Barnicoat wasted no time in taking to the track for the first of three qualifying sessions in order to gain track experience in the #58 Strakka Racing McLaren 650 S GT3 which he shares with team-mates Rob Bell and Côme Ledogar.

Barnicoat’s best time of 1m 59.650s, set on an early lap around the 3.6-mile circuit was 1.4 seconds behind that of the early pacesetter, Racing Steps Foundation graduate James Calado in the #55 Ferrari 488 GT3 and good enough for 19th position. Barnicoat then handed the car over to Bell for the second qualifying session.

Dennis had to bide his time before taking to the wheel of the #17 Audi R8 LMS in the second session, having seen team-mate Stuart Leonard set the 29th best Q1 time of 2m 00.472s.

But Dennis was unable to improve on the car’s best overall time, opting to pit early and readying the car for the final Q3 session in which grid positions would be determined.

Like Dennis, Bell was also unable to improve on Barnicoat’s Q1 time in the #58 Strakka McLaren, dropping to 37th overall.

Dennis moved out of the car for team-mate Robin Frijns to fight for the car’s ultimate grid slot. With lap times being bettered by all cars in the final session, the Dutch racer quickly posted a best time of 1m 57.663s to put the car in the top six early times.

Ledogar posted the 18th quickest time, with the qualifying best of 1m 57.666s with five minutes remaining of the session, eventually slipping to 31st by the chequered flag, but start as the leading McLaren in the field. The Strakka squad will hope to take advantage of an evolving track throughout the lengthy race distance to improve on their position.

Frijns improved on his early best time to cross the line with a 1m 57.217s to place the car in 13th place on the grid for Saturday’s six-hour, 1000-kilometre race.

The #4 Team Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 snatched a last-second pole position from the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3. The #50 AF Corse Ferrari 488 demonstrated a strong performance from Ferrari machinery to claim third spot on the grid.

“The car seems to be handling quite well,” Dennis said, “but we still need to work on a few things to catch up on the leading Mercedes and Ferraris. Hopefully we can have a clean race and fight for a strong position.”

Barnicoat lamented the car’s lack of pace on a track with a long back straight: “We are struggling a lot, we feel that we have a very poor BOP [Balance of Performance] here which made qualifying difficult.

“The race will be a tough one with our lack of straight-line speed but will be pushig hard to make the most and capitalise on other car’s mistakes.”

Circuit Automobile Paul Ricard (5.861km / 3.642 miles): Qualifying    
Pos Driver Team Car Time / Gap
1 Stolz / Christodoulou / Buurman Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 1m 56.442s
2 Shayter / Molina / Rigon SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 +0.031s
3 Lathouras / Rugolo / Pier Guidi AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 +0.157s
4 Frey / Ortelli / Costa Emil Frey Jaguar G3 +0.217s
5 Eriksson / Buhk / Perera Team HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 +0.279s
6 Smith / Jarvis / Kane Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 +0.364s
7 Calado / Fisichella / Cioci Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 +0.533s
8 Soucek / Soulet / Abril Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 +0.622s
9 Serralles / Van Der Zande / Juncadella Akka ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 +0.665s
10 Garcia / Müller / Rast Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS +0.724s
13 Leonard / Dennis / Frijns Team WRT  Audi R8 LMS +0.775s
31 Barnicoat / Bell / Ledogar Strakka Racing McLaren 650 S GT3 +1.224s
Conditions: Sunny/Dry/Hot      


Weekend summary

Free practice: Barnicoat/Bell/Ledogar 57th, 2m 02.005s, +3.563s; Leonard/Dennis/Frijns 22nd, 1m 59.567s, +1.125s. Qualifying: Barnicoat/Bell/Ledogar 31st, 1m 57.666s, +1.224s; Leonard/Dennis/Frijns 13th, 1m 59.217s, +0.775s.

Photo: Patrick Hecq / Team WRT. Copyright-free Racing Steps Foundation images are available from the RSF Image Bank at www.jakobebrey.com/rsf

Racing calendar


09 Mar ‘17

IMSA, test: Sebring


13-14 Mar ‘17

Blancpain GT Series, test: Paul Ricard


15-18 Mar ‘17

IMSA, Rd 3: 12 Hours of Sebring


31 Mar-02 Apr ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 1, Sprint Cup: Misano


01-02 Apr ‘17

WEC, Prologue (pre-season test): Monza


14-16 Apr ‘17

WEC, Rd 1: Six Hours of Silverstone


21-23 Apr ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 2, Endurance Cup: Monza


28-30 Apr ‘17

PWC Rd 3, SprintX : Virginia Intnl Raceway, VA


04-06 May ‘17

WEC, Rd 2: Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps


05-07 May ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 3, Sprint Cup: Brands Hatch


12-14 May ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 4, Endurance Cup: Silverstone


19-21 May ‘17

PWC, Rd 4, SprintX: Motosport Pk, Ontario


25-27 May ‘17

PWC, Rd 5, SprintX: Lime Rock Park, Conn


02-04 Jun ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 5, Sprint Cup: Zolder


16-18 Jun ‘17

WEC, Rd 3: 24 Hours of Le Mans


23-24 Jun ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 6, Endurance Cup: Paul Ricard


04 Jul ‘17

Blancpain GT, test: Spa-Francorchamps


14-16 Jul ‘17

WEC, Rd 4: Six Hours of Nurburgring


27-30 Jul ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 7, Endurance Cup: Spa 24 Hrs


11-13 Aug ‘17

PWC, Rd 11, SprintX: UMC, Erda, UT


25-27 Aug ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 8, Sprint Cup: Budapest


01-03 Sep ‘17

PWC, Rd 9, SprintX: CoTA, TX


01-03 Sep ‘17

WEC, Rd 5: Six Hours of Mexico


14-16 Sep ‘17

WEC, Rd 6: Six Hours of Austin


15-17 Sep ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 9, Sprint Cup: Nurburgring


30 Sep-01 Oct ‘17

Blancpain GT, Rd 10, Endurance Cup: Barcelona


04-07 Oct ‘17

IMSA, Rd 13, Petit Le Mans (10hrs): Atlanta, GA


13-15 Oct ‘17

WEC, Rd 7: Six Hours of Fuji


03-05 Nov ‘17

WEC. Rd 8: Six Hours of Shanghai


16-18 Nov ‘17

WEC, Rd 9: Six Hours of Bahrain