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Gulf 12H

Graff Locks Out Front Row for Gulf 12H; Kessel Leads GT3

Graff on pole for Gulf 12H; Kessel Ferrari leads new McLaren in close GT3 qualifying…

Photo: MPS Agency

Graff provisionally locked out the front row of the grid for the Gulf 12 Hours with its pair of LMP3 cars while defending winner Kessel Racing led the GT3 field in qualifying.

Kang Ling, Eric Trouillet and Thibaud Mourgues set the best three-driver average to beat the sister Graff Norma M30 Nissan of James Winslow, Neale Muston and Jake Parsons.

The French squad’s No. 39 crew clocked an average time of 2:07.440 across three sessions to go 0.335 seconds quicker than the sister No. 4 entry, with times subject to official confirmation.

Ben Barnicoat set the fastest lap during the first session, clocking a time of 2:09.094 in the new McLaren 720S GT3 with the Graff cars running close behind.

But the LMP3s stretched ahead of the GT3 cars in Q2 and Q3, with Winslow out-pacing Mourgues by two-tenths in the former session and Ling beating Parsons by seven-hundredths in the latter.

The key difference between the two Normas was the gap of four-tenths of a second put up by Trouillet on Muston in the opening session.

Third in qualifying was the Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon and Michael Broniszewski which led the GT3-Pro pack.

The trio formed an average of 2:09.206, which was enough to pip the new McLaren of Barnicoat, Alvaro Parente and Shane van Gisbergen by 0.089 seconds.

Van Gisbergen looked to have secured a class pole in the final two minutes of Q3, but the New Zealander had his best effort deleted for abusing track limits.

In fifth was the No. 97 new-generation Aston Martin Vantage GT3 entered by Oman Racing and run by TF Sport.

Aston Martin factory drivers Jonny Adam and Darren Turner combined with Ahmad Al-Harthy to set an average of 2:09.594 and go ahead of the R-Motorsport Vantage on row three.

Daiko Lazarus Racing took pole in GT3 Pro-Am with its Lamborghini Huracan GT3, while the new-generation Aston Martin Vantage GT4 led its class.

The Aston Martin Racing-entered No. 95 crew registered an average of 2:22.502 to beat the Cicely Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 by just over half a second.

The eighth running of the Gulf 12 Hours, which takes place in two parts, gets underway on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 9:30 a.m local time (12:30 a.m eastern).

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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