Mirko Bortolotti (#63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan) took pole position for the qualifying race of the Brands Hatch round of the 2017 Blancpain GT Series. After a faultless lap he was an impressive half a second clear of last year’s Brands Hatch winner, Christopher Mies in the #1 Audi.
Qualifying at the 3,916 km Brands Hatch track was always going to be close, but never before has the margin between the different cars been so small. After Q2 the 17 cars going through to Q3 were separated by less than half a second. The three first cars that missed out on that final part of qualifying just missed out by a mere 0.01 of a second.
The deciding ten minutes of Q3 saw the fastest-ever lap of Brands Hatch in a GT3 car, courtesy of Mirko Bortolotti in the #63 Grasser Racing Team Huracan. The 27-year-old Italian, one of the winners of the endurance round in Monza and joint fourth in the overall classification, produced a faultless lap. The chronographs stopped at 1’22.891, which is almost half a second quicker than the previous lap record.
Half a second was also exactly the gap to the second-fastest driver in Q3, Christopher Mies in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8. Just like last year, the German erased the bad memories of a mediocre opening round of the season with an excellent qualifying result. In 2016 Mies and Enzo Ide went on to win the main race in Brands Hatch.
Jesse Krohn made his Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup debut during that same 2016 Brands Hatch weekend, but last year he was unable to get into the mix at the front. In 2017 the Finnish driver confirmed his quick lap time in the second free practice with the third fastest time in qualifying, despite a slow puncture on the #98 ROWE Racing BMW. This was the BMW M6 GT3’s best qualifying result in a Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup event to date.
The leading Mercedes-AMG was the #88 AKKA ASP car of Dani Juncadella, even though the Spaniard barely kept it out of the barriers in the dying minutes of qualifying. Championship leaders Franck Perera and Maxi Buhk will start the qualifying race from tenth on the grid. There was disappointment however for Steven Kane and Vincent Abril, second in the driver standings in the Sprint Cup. Just like their teammates at Bentley Team M-Sport, they failed to qualify for Q3 and will start the first of tomorrow’s two races from 19th on the grid.
In the Pro-Am Cup Daniel Keilwitz (#333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari) and Jules Gounon (#87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG) were the only drivers to get through to the final part of qualifying. Their battle in Q3 was closer than the one at the front, with the French youngster taking the Pro-Am pole position by only 0.07 from Keilwitz, which holds a lot of promise for tomorrow’s races.
In the Silver Cup, Lewis Williamson took his second consecutive pole position. Being the only Silver Cup driver that managed to qualify for Q3 – Williamson having beaten his fellow Silver Cup drivers by more than half a second – the 27-year-old tried to put the #42 Strakka Racing McLaren as high as possible on the grid, but after some small mistakes he had to settle for 16th overall.
Sunday’s qualifying race starts at noon local time, with the main race getting underway at 16.15. Both races will be streamed live on the official website of the Blancpain GT Series.
Mirko Bortolotti (#63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, pole): “I have to thank the team for sending me out at the perfect moment. I had no traffic and was able to drive on the edge for the whole lap. I really like this circuit, and after setting the Formula 2 lap record here a couple of years ago, I am very proud to claim the GT3 lap record today. But it’s all to play for in tomorrow’s races.”
Christopher Mies (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8, 2nd): “It’s a repeat of last year, isn’t it? A disappointing race in Misano and a good start of the weekend here in Brands Hatch. I lost some time behind a backmarker in my quickest lap, but I don’t think I could have improved on Mirko’s lap.”
Jesse Krohn (#98 ROWE Racing BMW, 3rd): “I noticed the slow puncture on my outlap, but we did not have enough time to come back in and change it. So I went for it, and it obviously affected my lap time, but I think for the conditions I managed to get a good lap time. Qualifying is very important here, as it is difficult to overtake.”
Jules Gounon (#87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG, 1st Pro-Am Cup): “It’s my first time here, and although I would have loved to be higher up on the grid, I am happy to get our second consecutive pole position in Pro-Am. Now let’s hope we can stay out of trouble in the races and get a good result.”
Lewis Williamson (#42 Strakka Racing McLaren, 1st Silver Cup): “We are a bit further back than we would like. There were one or two things I could have done better, but it’s still a great opportunity to race in this championship. Just look at the line up! It’s a good position to start from, we’ll try to keep all four wheels on the car this time and work our way to the front.”