The No. 12 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra will start tomorrow’s FIA GT Series Qualifying race from pole position, as René Rast put in a lap of 1:42.551 around the challenging 2.721-mile Baku World Challenge circuit.
The Audi GT factory driver was in a class of his own during the second and final qualifying session that was run in almost dark conditions.
After lighting up the timing screen with purple sector times lap after lap, Rast got an impressive margin of 1.046 seconds over the sister No. 11 Audi of championship leader Laurens Vanthoor who wound up second.
“I really like this street circuit, it has everything,” Rast said. “At the time I didn’t have the feeling that it was a perfect lap, but it was enough to put us on pole. Conditions were challenging as it was quickly getting dark and temperatures were dropping.”
The first qualifying session was dominated by Markus Winkelhock. The German’s time would have put the Phoenix Audi No. 5 on the front row, but the car will start from the back of grid as it was excluded due to a technical infringement.
While Audi locked out the front row, McLaren was the most represented brand with no less than five MP4-12C GT3s in the top-10. Alexander Sims put in the third time on his debut with Boutsen Ginion and edged out the No. 10 Sebastien Loeb Racing entry of Mike Parisy by 0.030 seconds.
Maxime Martin and Nick Catsburg will start tomorrow’s Qualifying race from fifth on the grid in front of the second McLaren entries of SLR (Loeb-Parente) and Boutsen Ginion (Vandoorne-Vervisch).
Title protagonists Edward Sandström and Frank Stippler qualified a disappointing 12th, more than two seconds off the pace in their No. 13 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi.
To make things worse, Sandström also received a five-place grid penalty for causing a collision with the Callaway Corvette Z06 GT3 of Daniel Keilwitz during Free Practice 1, damaging the Corvette beyond repair.
The HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS of Pro Am points leaders Andreas Simonsen and Sergei Afanasiev was fastest in class, equaling the fifteenth time overall, and could already seal the title in the Qualifying Race with a 20-point advantage over the Grasser Racing Lamborghini of Hari Proczyk.
Fading light meant that the usual Superpole session had to be canceled after on track action was delayed by almost four hours as the circuit couldn’t be completed on time.
The two sessions were interrupted by as many red flags, the first one being caused by the No. 1 HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes of Maximilian Buhk (no time) getting stuck into the tire barriers, while Mattheus Stumpf crashed his Rodrive Lamborghini on the same spot fifteen minutes later.