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Bentley Team M-Sport snatches pole in ultra-close Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms qualifying

1 June 2019

The #107 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 will start this evening Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms from pole position, continuing the British marque's stellar form at the French venue.

Bentley entered the weekend as the brand to beat, having previously claimed two victories (2014 and 2017) and two runner-up finishes (2015 and 2018) at Circuit Paul Ricard.

None of those came from pole, however. In fact, today's result represents the British marque's first pole position in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.

The #107 car did not immediately appear to be a contender for P1, but a consistent showing from Jordan Pepper (fifth in Q1) and Steven Kane (12th in Q2) put the Bentley in the fight for a place in the top-five on average times.

Then, when Jules Gounon went quickest with a stellar lap in Q3, he sent the #107 car to the top of the order. The French ace was the fastest across all three qualifying sessions and edged the #107 Bentley ahead of the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3, which will start this afternoon's race from second spot with Marco Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman at the wheel.

The #4 seemed to be headed for pole, but with Buurman only 10th in Q3 the Mercedes-AMG was 0.053s shy of top spot on average times.

"You know, you have these days when everything comes together," said an elated Gounon afterwards. "We haven't been very lucky since Circuit Paul Ricard in 2018, so it just feels amazing to be on pole here. Jordan did an amazing job in Q1 and Steven’s Q2 was pretty strong too. I just had to finish the job."

The result was especially sweet for Kane, who has been with Bentley throughout the brand's time in the series and can now at last celebrate a pole position.

"This is a proud moment for the team," said the British driver. "Jules and Jordan did a mega job. Now let’s wait to see how the race goes later."

Third overall and on pole in the Silver Cup class was the #55 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS, which was consistently quick in the hands of Steijn Schothorst, Pieter Schothorst and Mattia Drudi. The same trio took Silver pole at Silverstone and will start seven spots clear of its nearest class rival, the #90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3, this evening.

Pro-Am pole went to the #97 Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3, which has now secured top spot in qualifying in three successive races. Salih Yoluc and Ahmad Al-Harthy tackled the first two sessions before Charlie Eastwood ensured class honours with the sixth best time overall in Q3.

In the Am Cup category, the #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 secured pole courtesy of Chris Harris, Alexander West and Chris Goodwin. The British squad took its most recent victory at this event 12 months ago – albeit with a different brand of car – and will be targeting a return to the top step this weekend.

Attention now turns to this evening's race, which begins at 18.00 and runs for up to 1000kms. Bentley's tremendous form at Circuit Paul Ricard makes the #107 Continental GT3 hot favourite for the win. But, given the unpredictable nature of the event, nothing will be decided until the chequered flag falls at midnight.