Blancpain GT Series, Round 9, Sprint Cup, Nürburgring – Qualifying:
Ben Barnicoat and the Strakka Racing team experienced an up-turn in fortunes to score a top 10 qualifying position for the penultimate round of the Blancpain GT Series, and the concluding Sprint Cup event of the season at the Nürburgring in Germany.
With the British team struggling to adjust to the 2017 Pirelli-designed tyres throughout the season, the McLaren 650 S GT3 machine finally demonstrated its ability in bright and sunny conditions masking cold ambient and track temperatures.
With qualifying split into three separate sessions, Racing Steps Foundation-backed Barnicoat left the #58 Strakka McLaren in the able hands of team-mate Côme Ledogar. The Frenchman, having waited in the pit lane for the majority of the 15-minute session, vaulted to second place on the timesheets with a time of 1m 56.240s, three tenths of a second behind the fellow #59 Strakka McLaren of Andrew Watson.
Fellow RSF-backed driver Jake Dennis, heading into the weekend with a chance of claiming the Sprint Cup title, began the session in the #3 WRT-engineered Audi R8 LMS machine, concluding it in 10th position with a best time of 1m 57.332s, trailing Watson’s time by 1.459 seconds.
Ledogar handed over the #58 McLaren to Barnicoat for the second session. Having set an early time of 1m 55.696s, improving on Ledogar’s effort, Barnicoat looked set to go quicker still having set the best overall first sector time before a red flag halted his hopes and left the car in 10th place overall.
Dennis’ team-mate Pieter Schothorst was to be less fortunate, though. Having stepped into the car for Q2, the Dutchman was unable to improve on Dennis’ time before a red flag prevented the field from continuing with six minutes remaining, with the #3 Audi demoted to 23rd position.
When the session restarted, Schothorst managed to only marginally improve, moving up to 21st spot with a time of 1m 55.935s. But a further red flag with 40 seconds remaining, prevented Schothorst from continuing on to a second flying lap and left he and Dennis with an uphill task in the day’s later qualifying race.
With only the top 17 cars going into the third and final qualifying shoot out, Barnicoat remained in the #58 Strakka McLaren.
With the ambient and track temperatures beginning to climb, tyres performed at their peak at the start of the 10-minute session, as Barnicoat set two consecutive flying laps and set a best time of 1m 54.178s to finish in 10th position.
The #5 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS of Marcel Fässler and Dries Vanthoor continued their dominance of the weekend, setting the pole position time of 1m 53.449s. They will start the day’s qualifying race alongside the #59 Strakka McLaren of Andrew Watson and Rob Bell.
Barnicoat and Ledogar will begin the qualifying race on the fifth row alongside the Akka ASP Mercedes-AMG machine of Michael Meadows and Raffael Marciello.
|Nürburgring (5.148km / 3.199 miles): Qualifying (Top 10)|
|Pos||Driver||Team||Car||Time / Gap|
|1||Fässler / Vanthoor||Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||1m 53.449s|
|2||Watson / Bell||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||+0.122s|
|3||Perez Companc / Caldarelli||Grasser Racing||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||+0.183s|
|4||Baumann / Eriksson||AKKA ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+0.603s|
|5||Mattschull / Keilwitz||Rinaldi Racing||Ferrari 488 GT3||+0.614s|
|6||Kane / Schothorst||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||+0.621s|
|7||Leonard / Frijns||Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+0.622s|
|8||Perera / Buhk||HTP Motorsport||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+0.657s|
|9||Meadows / Marciello||Akka ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+0.684s|
|10||Barnicoat / Ledogar||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||+0.729s|
|21||Dennis / Schothorst||Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+2.486s|
Free practice 1: Barnicoat/Ledogar 12th, 1m 57.710s, +1.708s; Dennis/Schothorst 10th, 1m 57.585s, +1.583s. Free practice 2: Barnicoat/Ledogar 33rd, 1m 58.566s, +3.858s; Dennis/Schothorst 10th, 1m 55.531s, +0.823s. Qualifying: Barnicoat/Ledogar 10th, 1m 54.178s, +0.729s; Dennis/Schothorst 21st, 1m 55.935s, +2.486s.
Photo: Strakka Racing. Copyright-free Racing Steps Foundation images are available from the RSF Image Bank at www.jakobebrey.com/rsf