Porsche on pole as mixed conditions shake-up Spa grid

Matteo Cairoli claimed pole for the 24 Hours of Spa

Matteo Cairoli claimed pole for the 24 Hours of Spa. Picture: SRO/ JULES BEAUMONT

The 24 Hours of Spa is known for rapidly changing conditions, no matter what time of year it’s held.

The 2023 running certainly saw plenty of variation during qualifying, with only the ultimate Super Pole session being held in the dry.

That saw Matteo Cairoli emerge fastest, banking the #20 Porsche 911 GT3-R’s place on pole position for the race.

Pre-qualifying & Qualifying

Pre-qualifying saw a mix of wet and dry areas around the track, with some corners heavily soaked and others not having seen rain.

There were three red flags during the session, the first caused by the #2 GetSpeed Mercedes spreading gravel onto the track after going off at Speakers Corner, requiring marshals to clear it up.

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After the session restarted, the #64 HRT Mercedes also went off at Speakers Corner, this time spinning with Naveen Rao behind the wheel and beaching in the gravel, requiring retrieval.

The final red flag was called by a heavy crash for Kenny Habul behind the wheel of the #75 Sun Energy1 Mercedes.

Habul was able at the time to exit the wrecked car unaided but was subsequently taken to hospital and withdrawn from the event due to injuries.

Conditions during the four subsequent qualifying sessions caused a shaken-up top 20 for Super Pole.

The Pro-class teams, with only three drivers, did not take part in session one.

That turned out to have the best track conditions, with drivers able to set times 20 seconds faster than they would in the final session.

Heavy rain came down from partway through Q1 onwards, limiting the averages drivers could achieve.

As a consequence, Pro teams were significantly under-represented in the top 20 and Bronze, Silver and Gold pole positions yet to be decided by the shoot-out. The Pro-Am pole was settled by Barwell Motorsport, whose #78 Lamborghini was the only car of its class to make the top 20, finishing overall 11th.

The best time of qualifying, however, went to the #911 Pure Rxcing Porsche, with an average of 2:28.569 across the four drivers sharing the Bronze class car thanks in a significant part to a good time set by Aliaksandr Malykhin in Q1.

Q4 was red flagged with just under two minutes remaining after Jordan Love crashed the #79 Haupt Mercedes.

He was unharmed and the car did manage to average times to take it through to Super Pole, however.

Super Pole

Earl Bamber set the first laps of Super Pole in the #23 Grove Porsche, with Arjun Maini next out in the fellow Bronze class #79 Haupt Mercedes.

Bamber set times faster than Maini but it quickly became clear that track evolution would favour cars that were sent out later.

The subsequent car out, the 58 Lamborghini with Crestani behind the wheel, seemed to have track advantage, immediately setting purple sectors but Bamber replied by setting 2:17.997s.

After 19 minutes Alessio Rovera became the first driver to set a lap below 2:17, putting in a 2:16.996 lap to take the top of the times. 2:16.990 Carioli after 29 minutes.

Provisional pole sitter Klaus Bachler, in the final car to go out, set a 2:17.232 on his first lap.

On his second lap, however, he went off track, throwing away the lap.

Carioli’s time consequently set pole, the Bronze class #20 Huber Motorsport Porsche will start tomorrow’s race at the front.

Second place goes to the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, from the Pro class, with Bachler’s #911 Pure Rxcing Porsche in third.

Bamber’s time put the #23 Grove Porsche 17th for the start, with Maini’s laps having kept the #79 Haupt Mercedes 18th.

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