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Barnicoat, Engel Take Final Poles of Sprint Cup Season

JOTA’s Ben Barnicoat tops Q1 before Maro Engel leads a Mercedes 1-2-3-4 in second quali…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

JOTA McLaren driver Ben Barnicoat and Mercedes-AMG’s Maro Engel scored the pole positions for the final two races of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup season at Valencia.

Barnicoat led the first of two 20-minute qualifying sessions to secure the top grid spot for Race 1, before Engel achieved the same feat in the second qualifying run for Race 2.

Engel’s co-driver Luca Stolz qualified second behind JOTA driver Barnicoat in Q1, putting the No. 6 Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo on the front row of the grid for both 60-minute contests on Sunday.

The first session saw a late flurry of lap time improvements result in the No. 38 McLaren 720s GT3 emerging as the fastest car.

Barnicoat, who had one of his early efforts deleted for breaching track limits, turned in a time of 1:32.711 that gave the Brit only 0.073 seconds of clearance over Stolz.

It marked McLaren’s first Sprint Cup pole of the year, after Barnicoat lost his first-place result from one of the qualifying sessions at Brands Hatch for impeding a competitor.

Silver Cup entries qualified on the second row of the Race 1 gird, as Oscar Tunjo claimed third for Toksport WRT ahead of Attempto Racing Audi driver Dennis Marschall.

Timur Boguslavskiy was fifth in the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG with a time of 1:33.10. The Russian will start alongside Madpanda Motorsport’s Ezequiel Companc.

Mercedes-AMG entries showed up well across qualifying. Cars from the German manufacturer occupied four of the top six places in Q1 before blocking out the top two rows of the Race 2 grid.

Christian Engelhart initially looked set to take Porsche’s first pole of the season when he came through on a 1:32.365 with six and a half minutes left in Q2, until a quartet of Mercedes-AMGs made improvements in the latter stages.

Engel posted a time of 1:32.094 to secure Toksport WRT’s second overall pole of the campaign, beating Jules Gounon in the No. 89 AKKA-ASP car by seven thousandths.

Silver Cup pole-sitter Jim Pla was third overall in the No. 87 AKKA-ASP machine – one of three entries for the French squad – while Dominik Baumann took fourth as well as the highest starting position in Pro-Am.

Baumann’s No. 20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes swept the Pro-Am qualifying sessions as his Bronze-rated co-driver Valentin Pierburg led Q1 by 0.041 seconds from AF Corse’s Louis Machiels.

Engelhart settled for fifth in Q2 for Dinamic Motorsport, one place ahead of Albert Costa who gave the Emil Frey Lamborghini squad a highest combined starting position of sixth.

The top Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo in the second session was the title-winning No. 32 Team WRT car driven by Dries Vanthoor, but the Belgian’s time was only enough for 13th.

WRT’s No. 30 Audi driven by Benjamin Goethe and Robin Frijns did not register a lap time in either session due to suspension repairs.

After Barnicoat took pole for the opening race of the weekend, Oliver Wilkinson steered the JOTA McLaren to 11th in the second qualifying session.

The penultimate race of the Sprint Cup season starts at 10 a.m. CEST (4 a.m. EST) on Sunday.

RESULTS: Qualifying 1 / Qualifying 2

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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