Tech 1 Racing’s Thomas Neubauer and AKKA-ASP’s Raffaele Marciello claimed the poles for the first two GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup races at Misano.
Neubauer went quickest in the first 20-minute qualifying session which determined the grid for Race 1 this evening, before Marciello clinched pole for Race 2 on Sunday in the No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
Neubauer set a time of 1:32.124 aboard the Silver class Tech 1 Racing Lexus RC F GT3 that he shares with Aurelien Panis, to earn his first overall pole in Sprint Cup.
It also marked the first outright pole for a Lexus in Sprint. While an Emil Frey Racing Lexus was classified on pole for the first 2018 race at the Nürburgring, this only came after it started second to a Lamborghini that was later disqualified from the event.
Neubauer, who was fastest overall in this morning’s Pre-Qualifying run, continued his good form by jumping to the top of the order with just over nine minutes remaining to displace WRT Audi driver Charles Weerts.
But the Frenchman was forced to search for an improvement in the last few minutes after Jules Gounon went half a second clear in the No. 107 CMR Bentley Continental GT3.
Gounon looked set to have secured Bentley’s first Sprint Cup pole since the 2016 main race at Misano, only for Neubauer to find more time and snatch pole by 0.035 seconds.
Jim Pla turned in the third-best time to put the Silver-class No. 89 Mercedes on the second row, ahead of the No. 32 WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo qualified by Weerts.
The second Pro-class WRT Audi ran fifth in the hands of Ryuichiro Tomita, while Giacomo Altoe was sixth in the No. 163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
In the second qualifying session, Gounon’s Bentley teammate Nelson Panciatici held provisional pole at the halfway point.
Panciatici remained there until the final five minutes, when Audi drivers Mattia Drudi and Christopher Haase, and AKKA-ASP’s Marciello, posted a string of new session bests.
Marciello then led to the end, the Italian’s 1:31.841 good enough for pole, while the drivers behind him contested for the remaining front-row starting position.
Kelvin van der Linde ultimately qualified second with a 1:31.992 in the No. 31 WRT Audi, while Maro Engel slotted into third for the Haupt Racing Team Mercedes squad.
Albert Costa improved on his co-driver Altoe’s effort from session one to go fourth in the Emil Frey Lamborghini as Dries Vanthoor finished fifth in the Audi started by Weerts.
Haase and Drudi were sixth and seventh at the finish with their Sainteloc Racing and Attempto Racing-prepared Audis, while Panciatici ended up eighth in the Bentley.
Simon Gachet qualified ninth outright in the No. 26 Sainteloc Racing Audi, earning a class pole for the FFrench team, while the Tech 1 Lexus will start Race 2 from 15th.
The two Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020s on the grid shared out the poles in the Pro-Am class.
Louis Machiels put AF Corse on top in the opening session, while Eddie Cheever III qualified first in class and 11th overall in session two for Sky Tempesta Racing.
Race 1 is due to get underway at 7:15 p.m. CEST (1:15 p.m. EST) while Race 2 is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. (5:20 a.m. EST) on Sunday morning. There will be a third qualifying session before Race 2, to determine the grid for Race 3 on Sunday afternoon.