Mirko Bortolotti and Dries Vanthoor led the way in this morning's Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe qualifying session at the Nürburgring, taking pole position for race 1 and race 2 respectively.
Bortolotti (#63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini) snatched top spot for this afternoon's opening contest, as well as a crucial bonus point, with a lap of 1m54.926s around the German circuit. It was exactly the performance required by the Grasser driver as he and teammate Christian Engelhart look to remain in the championship battle.
"I was pushing to the maximum and I'm really happy to be back on the pole. The team did a mega job and put me in a perfect spot without traffic. We weren't on-point in free practice 1 but, step by step, we got there."
Bortolotti was 0.161s faster than current points leader Luca Stolz (#4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG). The German, who shares with fellow countryman Maro Engel, is once again well-placed to score good points at his home event.
Third was the impressive Simon Gachet, who put in one of his finest qualifying performances in the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi to book a spot on the second row of the grid. He will be joined by Kelvin van der Linde (#66 Attempto Audi), who had looked the early favourite for race 1 pole but faded later in the session.
Fifth on the grid went to the Silver Cup pole-sitter. It was another impressive display from Mattia Drudi (#56 Attempto Audi), who beat several leading contenders to a place on the third row. He will start three spots ahead of his nearest class rival, Nico Bastian (#89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG).
Pro-Am pole went to the championship-chasing Rinaldi Ferrari of Rinat Salikhov, who has a three-place advantage over his nearest class rival. The #444 HB Racing Ferrari was uncontested in the battle for Am Cup pole after the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari crashed early in the session, which caused the only red flag of the the qualifying process.
Vanthoor entered the second session as firm favourite for pole after showing strong pace during Friday's free practice runs. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT driver delivered on that promise, setting a 1m54.497s during the first five minutes. The only person who could beat this time was Vanthoor himself, with the Belgian shaving a few more hundredths off to eventually claim pole with a 1m54.439s lap.
"The car was already working very well yesterday, so a big thanks to the mechanics," said Vanthoor afterwards.
"I'd like to dedicate this pole to Enzo [Ide]. As we know he's in hospital and maybe this can give him more strength to fight harder. We still have race to go but this is already something I can give, which is nice."
A number of drivers tried to match Vanthoor's benchmark and fought valiantly to do so. Christopher Haase capped a magnificent qualifying for the #25 Sainteloc Audi by taking second, while Chris Mies took third in the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine. Points leader Maro Engel was fourth in his Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG, ensuring the German crew another strong starting spot.
Pro-Am pole once again went to Rinaldi Racing as David Perel put the #333 Ferrari an excellent ninth overall. That ensured Rinaldi another bonus point, edging them closer to the top of the Pro-Am standings. Silver Cup pole went to the #10 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine of Oscar Tunjo, who was 11th overall and completed a strong showing by his team. HB Racing took another Am Cup pole as the Kessel Ferrari remained in the garage during the second session.
Two of the leading championship contenders endured mixed qualifying sessions. The #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini will start from sixth in race 1 and seventh in race 2, which puts the Chinese-Italian outfit behind the leading Black Falcon car for both runs. The #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG will start down in 13th for race 1 and sixth for race 2.
The opening contest will get underway at 14.30 this afternoon. All of the action will be streamed live on the Blancpain GT Series website and across its social media channels.