The No. 98 ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C GT3 of Alvaro Parente, Alex Premat and Gregoire Demoustier will start tomorrow’s Blanpain Endurance Series season opener at Monza from pole.
It was Parente who pushed the McLaren to its limit in the final of three qualifying sessions. The Portuguese factory driver managed the fastest lap of day in 1:47.603 midway through the 15-minute session. His second fastest time would have still given him pole for tomorrow’s race.
“It was all part of the strategy,” said Parente afterwards. “We decided to give it all in the third session to try and prepare the race as well as possible. My two fast laps were very good, I made no mistakes.”
Second overall and first Pro-Am car was the No. 11 Kessel Racing Ferrari in the hands of Giacomo Petrobelli. The same car already topped the morning Free Practice and managed the fourth time in Pre Qualifying.
“To be honest, I thought I was blocked by a Bentley on my fast lap, but I don’t think I would have been able to catch the (Parente’s) McLaren”, said Petrobelli. “P2 overall and P1 in class is still a very good result and I’m very much looking forward to the race.”
Francesco Castellacci made it two Ferraris in the top three as he drove his Villorba Corse car to P3, narrowly edging out the No. 7 Bentley Continental GT3 in the hands of Steven Kane by just 0.041s.
There was no reason to smile for Kane however, as the Brit crashed his car on his final fast lap. Kane took to much curb while entering the Ascari corner combination, which unsettled his Bentley that subsequently crashed in the wall, causing a considerable amount of damage to the front of the Continental GT3.
“There was a problem during the downshifting which meant Steven [Kane] couldn’t get the car to slow down enough,” Guy Smith told Sportscar365.
“There’s a considerable amount of damage, but we have enough spares and should be able to get it repaired by tomorrow. After all, M-Sport has a lot of experience with mending broken rally cars.”
Two hours after the end of qualifying the No. 7 Bentley left the circuit on the back of a flat bed transporter to head to a local body shop.
The Audis were definitely on the pace today at Monza, tough the No. 1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 only managed P5 (+0.739s) in the end with Laurens Vanthoor behind the wheel. Grégory Guilvert impressed as well but eventually had to settle for P6 and second best Audi.
The No. 84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes rounded out the top ten, despite Harold Primat beaching the car on the outside of the Parabolica in the first session.