The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina and Mikhail Aleshin will start this afternoon’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup race at Monza from pole position.
Over three 15-minute session staged this morning, the #72 crew’s average time around the Italian circuit was 0.008s faster than the #54 Emil Frey Jaguar Racing entry, with the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT crew 0.051s off in third spot.
It was a remarkably close session as a packed field of 54 cars battled for grid position – not to mention space on the circuit.
“My lap wasn’t perfect as I had to overtake two cars at the beginning of it, but SMP Racing and Ferrari gave us a good car,” explained Aleshin, who is contesting his first Blancpain GT Series race since 2013. “My team mates did a great job as well,” added the Russian. “Unfortunately Davide also had to face a lot of traffic, but Miguel had a clear lap. We have a good feeling in the car and that is thanks to the work of the engineers.”
The depth of competition was demonstrated by several highly-accomplished line-ups qualifying down the order, with the top 33 cars covered by just over a second. With that in mind, this afternoon’s race promises to be closely fought.
The #54 Emil Frey Jaguar Racing machine came within a cat’s whisker of bagging what would have been a shock overall pole position. The crew’s pace is made all the more impressive by the fact that they compete in the Silver Cup class, with Alex Fontana, Adrian Zaugg and Mikael Grenier at the wheel this weekend. All three set quick times, with Fontana expressing his delight at managing to find space for a fast lap.
“When I saw that no one was in front of me at the exit of Parabolica, I knew I had to go for it,” said the Swiss driver. “We worked really hard on the car after each session and managed to develop it in the good direction for today.”
Top spot in Pro-Am went to the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari shared by Michael Broniszewski and Alessandro Pier Guidi. The Ferrari 488 GT3 was 23rd quickest overall, 0.7s shy of outright pole. Broniszewski took class honours at Monza 12 months ago and will be bidding for a repeat win this afternoon.
“As with most of the cars, our biggest issue today was traffic,” said the Polish racer afterwards. “But we were well-prepared and the team did a great job. Driving a Ferrari here at Monza, and so close to our workshop, this was the best place to be on pole for us.”
In the Am Cup class, the #89 AKKA ASP Team secured top spot thanks to the efforts of Philippe Giauque, Eric Debard and Fabien Barthez. The trio’s combined lap was just 1.7s shy of the outright pace, with Giauque pleased to enjoy a successful Blancpain GT Series return after not competing in 2017.
“I felt good on the track, and the great work of the AKKA ASP Team made this a really enjoyable one from our perspective,” said the Swiss.
The session was temporarily stopped during Q2 following a crash for the #49 Ram Racing Mercedes exiting the Ascari chicane. The car sustained significant front-end damage, but the driver was able to walk from the scene
This afternoon’s race begins at 15.00 and will be streamed live on the Blancpain GT Series website.