• Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG ace Marciello bags record-extending 13th Sprint Cup pole with dramatic final lap
• Mies leads Audi one-two to put Saintéloc Junior Team on top for race 2
• Audi sweeps Gold Cup poles thanks to Boutsen VDS and Comtoyou Racing
• Tresor Attempto Racing Audi takes opening Silver Cup pole, AF Corse Ferrari on top for race 2
Two of the most experienced drivers on the Fanatec GT Europe grid shared the spoils in qualifying for tomorrow's Sprint Cup opener at Brands Hatch, with Raffaele Marciello and Chris Mies earning a pole position each at the British track.
Marciello will start Sunday's opening contest from P1 after keeping his nerve in a tense final dash. Much of the first qualifying session was led by Emil Frey Racing, the Ferrari squad sitting one-two at the mid-point with the #14 of Konsta Lappalainen leading Albert Costa in the sister #69. But the top-four was impossible to call at this stage, with Mattia Drudi (#40 Tresor Orange1 Audi) and Marciello just a few hundredths adrift.
Everyone emerged for a second attempt at pole during the second half of the session, but there was drama with less than four minutes left on the clock when Christian Engelhart spun the #54 Dinamic GT Huber Racing Porsche into the grass at the end of his push lap. It was a tough break for the experienced German, who had gone purple in the middle sector and was threatening to secure Porsche's maiden Sprint Cup pole.
This brought out a red flag with three and a half minutes remaining. When the track went green again Marciello left the pits second on the road but overtook the #32 Team WRT BMW of Charles Weerts on their out-lap. The Swiss ace then delivered a typically cool performance, posting a 1m22.258s to edge out Lappalainen.
The Finn was also bettered by teammate Costa, who will share the front row with Marciello tomorrow morning. Lappalainen will line up alongside Drudi, followed by the #32 Team WRT BMW, the #11 Comtoyou Racing Audi, the #60 VSR Lamborghini and the #54 Dinamic GT Huber Racing Porsche.
Silver Cup pole went to the #99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi, which confirmed its status as class favourite after topping both of Saturday’s practice sessions. Alex Aka delivered a lap of 1m23.215 and will line up ninth overall. In the Gold Cup, Aurélien Panis led the way in the #9 Boutsen VDS Audi, taking 11th overall with a 1m23.356s.
The second session was a little less tense, though no less entertaining as Mies battled for a long-awaited return second Sprint Cup pole with the #14 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari of Giacomo Altoé and fellow Audi man Christopher Haase (#11 Comtoyou Racing). It produced another red flag, too, the much-fancied Lorenzo Patrese dropping the #99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi into the Paddock Hill Bend gravel at the halfway mark.
When the second runs began Mies led an Audi top-four sweep, but it was soon clear that Altoé had the pace to fight the Ingolstadt machines. His 1m22.028s lap was the fastest of the day, displacing Mies, but the German driver had a little more pace to unleash. A decisive 1m21.716s from the Saintéloc Junior Team driver was enough to earn a first Sprint Cup pole since the series visited Portimao back in 2015.
Haase also broke the 1m22 barrier, posting a 1m21.970s to book a place alongside long-time colleague Mies on the front row of the grid for race 2. Altoé will share the second row with Patric Niederhauser (#25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi), while Maxime Martin will be the best of the Team WRT contingent after qualifying fifth in the #46 BMW he shares with Valentino Rossi.
Sixth overall went to the Gold Cup pole-sitter, Gilles Magnus (#21 Comtoyou Racing Audi), followed by a strong showing from Nicolai Kjaergaard in the #159 Garage 59 McLaren. Series debutant Nicola Marinangeli earned an impressive Silver Cup pole in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari, edging fellow countryman Patrese with a 1m22.693s.
The 2023 Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup season will kick off on Sunday with a pair of 60-minute races, the first of which gets underway at 11:05 BST followed by a second outing at 16:10. Coverage will be available across a variety of free-to-view online platforms, including the GT World YouTube channel and the series' official Facebook page.