With an inspired couple of laps in the final section of qualifying, Portuguese driver Alvaro Parente claimed the first pole position of the 2014 season of the Blancpain Endurance Series. With his ART Grand Prix McLaren, he was over four tenths of a second quicker than Giacomo Petrobelli in the Kessel Racing Ferrari, but the Italian was quickest in the Pro-Am category. Another Ferrari driver, Francisco Guedes of AF Corse, set the best time in the Gentlemen Trophy.
Qualifying for the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series in Monza started under cloudy skies, but there was no threat of rain. The first and second parts of qualifying saw a couple of quick lap times, but it wasn’t until Q3 that the times really came down. It seemed that the French ART Grand Prix had played their cards close to their chest in Q1 and Q2, since Alvaro Parente (#98 McLaren) and Andy Soucek (#99 McLaren) quickly went 1-2 in the standings at the start of Q3, clocking in the low 1.48’s.
But whereas Soucek had difficulties in improving his time, Alvaro Parente managed to go even quicker, managing a 1:47.603, which was quick enough to stay in front of the Ferrari threat, which was headed by two Pro-Am teams. Giacomo Petrobelli and his Kessel Racing Ferrari were just over four tenths of a second short of claiming pole position, with the Ferrari 458 GT3 of newcomers Scuderia Villorba Corse, driven by Francesco Castellacci, hot on his heels.
Another newcomer, the M-Sport Bentley team, can start their first Blancpain Endurance Race from fourth position, after Steven Kane set the quickest time for the car. The M-Sport Bentley mechanics will have a short night however, since a late crash in the Ascari chicane almost completely destroyed the front end of the #7 Bentley Continental GT3. The incident, and the following red flag, also brought an early end to the session.
Alvaro Parente (#98 ART Grand Prix McLaren): “We decided to give it all in Q3, to be able to prepare the race of tomorrow. It seemed to have paid off, because I was able to set really quick laps. I know some of our competitors claim that the Monza circuit suits the McLaren and Ferrari better, but all I can say is that we have a very quick set-up. I have to congratulate the team for that, they really gave me a sensational car for qualifying.”
Giacomo Petrobelli (#11 Kessel Racing Ferrari): “To be honest, I think I lost some time behind a Bentley on my quickest lap, but I am not sure that it would have made a difference in the end. Alvaro really set a scorcher of a lap, and I don’t think I could have found four tenths to beat him. Second on the grid and first in Pro-Am is a good position to start the race. Our Ferrari has a good top speed, and even though we suffer a bit in the second sector, we’re not too bad overall. I am sure we will have a chance to be among the frontrunners tomorrow, and not only in the Pro-Am category.”
Francisco Guedes (#51 AF Corse Ferrari): “Of course we are very happy with the best time in the Gentlemen Trophy. We are well aware that we will have to be very careful tomorrow, since we will start in the middle of the pack. The first couple of corners might be very tricky, but if we can pass those without a glitch, we should be set for a good race.”