The No. 28 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3 will start tomorrow’s Blancpain Sprint Series Qualifying Race from pole, as Jeroen Bleekmolen managed to fend of both Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audis in a close qualifying session at Nogaro.
Already in both Free Practice sessions, became clear that Audi was ready to continue its domination from previous years at the compact and challenging French circuit, with the sister Lamborghini brand also in contention.
After two 15-minute sessions in which both drivers on each car had a chance to post a fast lap to get into the final 10-minute 10-car shootout, five of the six entered Audis lined up against two Lamborghinis, two BMWs and one Mercedes in Q3.
It was Laurens Vanthoor’s No. 1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi who immediately put down the time to beat. However, it didn’t take long for Bleekemolen to complete a lap only 0.012s shy of the Belgians time, before the Dutchman improved next time round to take the pole.
“I liked the car right away,” said Bleekemolen. “It’s a fun track to drive, the walls are close, so it is still a bit tricky.
“I’m very happy to start the season like this. We’ll see how to beat the Audis tomorrow, it will be close fore sure.”
The second WRT Audi managed third on the grid (+0.409s), with René Rast delivering the fastest lap of the field in Q2, but unable to improve his time in Q3.
Despite the lack of testing, Blancpain Racing will start tomorrow’s Qualifying Race from P4, with Peter Kox capitalizing on the Lamborghini’s strong form at the French track.
One of the surprises in qualifying came from both BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil BMW Z4 GT3s, as Sergio Jiminez was fastest in Q1 and Nelson Piquet Jr. came only 0.226s short on Rast’s fastest time in Q2.
However, both Brazilian cars couldn’t repeat their performances in the final session and ended up last in ninth and tenth position.
Phoenix Racing couldn’t quite match the pace from the WRT Audis and will start from P5 and P7 tomorrow, separated by the G-Drive Racing Audi of Stéphane Ortelli and Gregory Guilvert.
Allessandro Zanardi didn’t manage to reach Q3 and ended up in fourteenth place.
Qualifying was disrupted by a crash of Indian driver Armaan Ebrahim in the No. 62 Fortec Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 at the final corner. No red flag was needed However.