Van Gisbergen fastest in Spa qualifying
McLaren’s Shane van Gisbergen has continued his stunning form in the Blancpain Endurance Series by setting the pace in qualifying for the 24 Hours of Spa.
It was a busy opening day of track action for teams and drivers at Spa, with a 90 minute practice followed by 60 minutes of pre-qualifying, 75 minutes of qualifying and a two hour night qualifying.
German heavyweights Audi and Mercedes traded blows in the preliminary sessions, with the former locking out the top four places in practice before AMGs took four of the top five positions in pre-qualifying.
The three-pointed star continued to shine in the evening qualifying as Maxi Gotz showed the way with a 2:18.53s best aboard the #86 HTP Motorsport entry he’ll share with Thomas Jager and Gary Paffett.
Supercars star Van Gisbergen was quick to respond once the night session commenced 30 minutes later, undercutting Gotz by 0.058s before red flags flew due to a crash for the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes.
Although the Kiwi handed the #58 Garage 59 McLaren to his co-drivers Rob Bell and Come Ledogar for the remainder of the session, his time proved good enough to stand as the provisional pole.
It ensures that Van Gisbergen will be the last man out in tomorrow evening’s Superpole, which will see each of the top 20 drivers from qualifying set off on two-lap runs in the quest for the number one starting spot.
“I think we’ll be ok for Superpole, but I’m not sure what the other guys have left,” Van Gisbergen told Speedcafe.com.
“We were down in 19th (after the first session) so we needed to turn it up to make sure we made it.
“We’d spent the day mostly working on race pace.
“The car was a bit ugly this morning so we’d been tuning it more and more, just trying to make it easier to drive before we had that go at the end.
“The track was pretty green this morning as well and our car makes its speed from the aero, so it took a while for it to come to us.
“We had the same grip from one qualifying session to the other but we just had more power due to the colder conditions.”
Van Gisbergen trumped all of Europe’s top GT guns just days after campaigning his Supercars Holden at Queensland Raceway.
Now in his third Spa 24, the 27-year-old said that reacquainting himself with the high-speed Eau Rouge complex proved the only major challenge.
“It’s easy going this way, it’s harder going the other way,” he said of moving from the Holden to the McLaren.
“The track here is quite tough. Within three or four laps I was on the limit but when you drive into the wall (Eau Rouge) the first time it’s pretty scary. That takes a bit more than four laps.”
Gotz’s time was enough to secure second ahead of Dani Juncadella (#56 Black Falcon Mercedes), Laurens Vanthoor (#28 WRT Audi), Felix Rosenqvist (#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes) and Christopher Haase (#26 Sainteloc Audi).
“I think the Audis and the Mercs are very fast and the Mercedes is particularly easy on the tyres,” added Van Gisbergen when asked of how his McLaren is placed on race pace.
“That’s pretty critical around here in the race, but we’ll see what happens.”
Australian Liam Talbot’s #888 Kessel Ferrari will line up 36th, 15 places ahead of fellow Pro-Am Class runners Lago Racing, whose Lamborghini is being shared by David Russell, Steve Owen, Jonathon Webb and Roger Lago.
Nissan’s Aussie GT Academy winner Matt Simmons will start 60th after a challenging opening day for the two-car GT-R squad.
Simmons however completed valuable night time running in the second qualifying session and says he’s looking forward to the big race.
“It was just insane to go through Eau Rouge in the dark for the first time at night,” he said.
“The track is just so different at night. I felt comfortable straight away but the difficult thing with 65 cars out there is when you start to encounter traffic.
“That’s when it got a bit tricky for me dealing with the flashing headlights of the cars. I lost my rhythm a bit but it was a good lesson learned which will prove valuable in the race over the next couple of days.
“It was a good stint, we still need to work on improving the GT-R but I’m looking forward to hopefully having another stint in the dark to work on what I learned tonight.”
|1||58||Garage 59 McLaren||Shane van Gisbergen, Come Ledogar, Rob Bell|
|2||86||Team HTP Mercedes||Maximilian Gotz, Gary Paffett, Thomas Jager|
|3||56||Black Falcon Mercedes||Dani Juncadella, Oliver Morley, Miguel Toril, Abdulaziz Al Faisal|
|4||28||Team WRT Audi||Laurens Vanthoor, Rene Rast, Nico Muller|
|5||88||AKKA ASP Mercedes||Felix Rosenqvist, Tristan Vautier, Renger van der Zande|
|6||26||Sainteloc Racing Audi||Christoper Haase, Mike Parisy, Gregory Guilvert|
|7||84||Team HTP Mercedes||Maximilian Buhk, Jazeman Jaafar, Dominik Baumann|
|8||85||Team HTP Mercedes||Indy Dontje, Clemens Schmid, Luciano Bacheta|
|9||8||Bentley Team M-Sport||Maxime Soulte, Andy Soucek, Wolfgang Reip|
|10||00||Black Falcon Mercedes||Maro Engel, Yelmer Buurman, Bernd Schneider|
|11||7||Bentley Team M-Sport||Guy Smith, Vincent Abril, Steven Kane|
|12||50||AF Corse Ferrari||Palin Lathouras, Michele Rugolo, Alessandro Pier Guidi|
|13||74||ISR Audi||Franck Perera, Nicolas Lapierre, Henry Hassid, Philippe Giauque|
|14||2||Team WRT Audi||Stuart Leonard, Robin Frijns, Michael Meadows|
|15||24||Team Parker Bentley||Ian Loggie, Tom Onslow-Cole, Callum Macleod, Andy Meyrick|
|16||99||Rowe Racing BMW||Alexander Sims, Philipp Eng, Maxime Martin|
|17||16||GRT Grasser Lamborghini||Mirko Bortolotti, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Rolf Ineichen|
|18||6||Team Phoenix Audi||Christopher Mies, Frank Stippler, Markus Winkelhock|
|19||98||Rowe Racing BMW||Nick Catsburg, Stef Dusseldorp, Dirk Werner|
|20||666||Barbell Motorsport Lamborghini||Jon Minshaw, Phil Keen, Oliver Gavin, Joe Osborne|