Alvaro Parente, driving the #98 ART Grand Prix McLaren, will start from pole position in the Paul Ricard round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, just like he did at the opening round in Monza. Stef Dusseldorp set second fastest time in the #85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes, with Alex Buncombe in the #80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan in third overall and quickest in the Pro-Am Cup. Francesco Guedes in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari set the pole in the Gentlemen Trophy, for the third time in a row.
With temperatures in the high twenties, qualifying for the French round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series would always be tough for drivers and machines. Times kept improving throughout the three sessions however and when Katsumasa Chiyo in the #35 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan set a high 1’57, it was clear that the drivers participating in Q3 would decide the fight for pole.
Chiyo’s time was quickly improved by his Nissan team-mate Alex Buncombe and Alvaro Parente in the #98 ART Grand Prix McLaren, but the session was red flagged, aborting some potentially quick laps. The #99 ART Grand Prix McLaren had come to a halt with suspected fuel pump problems and the car had to be evacuated.
After a short break the session was restarted, with nine minutes remaining. It gave Stef Dusseldorp in the #85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes the opportunity to improve his lap time considerably. The Dutch youngster first jumped to fourth overall, before taking a spot on the front row, beating Buncombe’s time by a mere 0.001 seconds. With Parente shaving another two tenths of his time, the starting order for this evening’s race (start at 19.15) was known.
Alvaro Parente (#98 ART Grand Prix McLaren): “This is a good track for our car, I am really happy for the team that we were able to conquer pole again. It will be a tough race, but together with our new team-mate Nicolas Lapierre we should be able to perform well. We will have to be careful during the closing stages of the race though, because if it is really dark by the end of the race, this track might catch you out. A good set of headlights is certainly a good thing around here.”
Alex Buncombe (#80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan, 1st Pro-Am): “We all know our car is really fast on the straights, and we have worked hard to get a good set-up in qualifying. It is really important to start at the sharp end of the grid, to avoid any incidents in the opening laps. We should be on the pace during the race as well. We are aiming to beat the series leaders in Pro-Am, the ROAL Motorsport BMW, but this will be a long race and anything can happen.”
Francisco Guedes (#51 AF Corse Ferrari, 1st Gentlemen Trophy): “Our car may not be the quickest of the lot, but this track suits our Ferrari well. We were able to determine a good set-up for the qualifying and the race. It might seem easy to get on pole, but it is not. There is a lot of hard work behind it. We will try to convert this third pole of the season in a good result this evening.”