Mercedes-AMG works driver Maro Engel delivered Toksport WRT’s first Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup pole position for race two at Magny-Cours.
Engel scaled the 27-car order with a time of 1:35.627 with one minute of the 20-minute qualifying session to go, displacing JOTA’s Ben Barnicoat at the top of the leaderboard.
German outfit Toksport WRT joined GTWC Europe last year and took a Silver Cup-class pole in its debut season, but this marked its first outright qualifying best with a Pro car.
Barnicoat had led since the early stages and looked set to give McLaren its first Sprint Cup pole since 2016 until Engel improved on the British driver’s effort by 0.267 seconds.
There was also a late improvement from race one runner-up Albert Costa who planted the No. 163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo on the front row of the grid.
Costa ended up 0.253 seconds short of Engel’s pole number, which in turn was 0.159 seconds off last year’s top qualifying time set by Simon Gachet in a Sainteloc Racing Audi.
Barnicoat settled for third on the grid and will start Sunday’s 60-minute contest alongside Dries Vanthoor in the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, which took a resounding victory in last night’s opening race of the 2021 season.
Alex Fontana completed the overall top-five and set the Silver Cup pole time of 1:36.008 onboard Emil Frey Racing’s No. 14 Lamborghini.
The Swiss placed ahead of AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG driver Raffaele Marciello, CMR Bentley Pierre-Alexandre Jean and Jules Gounon in ASP’s other Pro-class Mercedes.
Alexandre-Jean was looking on course to snatch the overall pole time in his Silver Cup-class Bentley, but the Frenchman’s purple first two sectors were evaporated by a red flag caused by his CMR teammate Stephane Richelmi, who spun exiting the last corner.
Richelmi’s position facing the wrong way on the start-finish straight prompted the session to be halted and not resumed with less than a minute left on the clock.
Williams Formula 1 test driver Jack Aitken placed ninth in his first Sprint Cup qualifying outing for Emil Frey as the Swiss team got all of its Lamborghinis in the top ten.
Aitken qualified narrowly ahead of Frederic Vervisch and Christopher Haase in the two Sainteloc Racing Audis.
Pro-Am pole honors went to Jonny Adam, who set a time of 1:36.405 to lead the class and place 11th outright in the No. 188 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Adam will have seven cars between himself and his nearest Pro-Am competitor on the starting grid.
Dominik Baumann qualified second in the four-car class ahead of last night’s winner Andrea Bertolini and Barwell Motorsport driver Henrique Chaves.
The second and final race of the Magny-Cours Sprint Cup meeting is due to start at 2:40 p.m. CEST (8:40 a.m. EST).
RESULTS: Qualifying 2