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AF Corse Locks Out Le Mans GTE Poles

Bruni, Bird put AF Corse on GTE-Pro, GTE-Am Le Mans poles…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Gianmaria Bruni has held onto the GTE-Pro pole position in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia through Thursday’s two Le Mans qualifying sessions, after he also set the fastest time in Wednesday’s first session.

The third and final session was extended a half-hour, to run from 9:30 p.m. to midnight local time, following a rash of incidents in the second qualifying earlier in the day.

Bruni’s Wednesday time of 3:54.754 was the initial standard-setter, but he raised the bar big time by improving early in third qualifying.

In the first 15 minutes of the session, Bruni went down to a 3:54.458, then laid down the ultimate pole time of 3:53.700. The Italian will co-drive with Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella.

AF Corse made it a double pole in GTE with the No. 81 Ferrari F458 Italia ending second in the entire GTE field and first in GTE-Am, courtesy of a 3:54.665 by Le Mans debutante Sam Bird.

Bird co-drives with Michele Rugolo and Steve Wyatt in one of the team’s six cars for this race.

Corvette Racing made key strides with both of its Corvette C7.Rs, as the No. 73 leapt into second and the sister No. 74 into fourth in GTE-Pro.

The No. 73, driven by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor, found nearly two seconds from its Wednesday time. Garcia got down to a 3:54.777, after the No. 73 clocked in a 3:56.443 yesterday.

The sister No. 74, driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook, made a series of damper and gearing changes on Thursday morning and found some four seconds. The Wednesday time of 3:59.445 improved down to 3:55.190.

Aston Martin Racing made it to third place in GTE-Pro, in-between the pair of Corvettes, with the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage driven by Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Bruno Senna. A 3:54.891 eclipsed the car’s Wednesday time of 3:55.067.

Fifth in GTE-Pro and one of a number of cars involved in qualifying incidents was the No. 52 Ram Racing Ferrari F458 Italia, driven by Alvaro Parente, Matt Griffin and new recruit Federico Leo. Parente had an accident in the Ford Chicane.

The two Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantages were second and third in GTE-Am, with the No. 98 ahead of the No. 95.

AF Corse’s other FIA World Endurance Championship-entered car in GTE-Am besides the No. 81, the No. 61, clocked in fourth in class with the provisional polesitting No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari F458 Italia ending fifth in class.

There were a fair number of incidents during the session, which caught out a number of GTE-spec cars.

Besides the No. 52 Ram Ferrari, other GTE cars caught out during the session included the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR in GTE-Pro and the No. 90 8Star Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am. There were other cars with incidents during Thursday’s second session.

RESULTS: Qualifying

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony

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