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GT World Challenge Europe

SMP Leads Ferrari Front Row for Paul Ricard 1000km

Ferraris qualify first and second for final round of Endurance Cup at Paul Ricard…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

SMP Racing’s Sergey Sirotkin, Toni Vilander and Antonio Fuoco took pole for the Paul Ricard 1000km and led a front-row lockout for Ferrari’s two Pro-class entries.

The drivers of the No. 72 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 combined for an average time of 1:53.578 across the three 15-minute qualifying sessions, while the No. 51 AF Corse crew of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Tom Blomqvist and Come Ledogar came through in second.

Vilander went fourth-quickest for SMP in the first session, before Fuoco and full-season driver Sirotkin each set fastest laps on their turns behind the wheel to clinch the pole.

AF Corse’s car also never left the top five across the three segments with Pier Guidi running third in Q1, Blomqvist going second in Q3 and Ledogar finishing fourth in Q3.

The Ferraris’ averages were separated by 0.216 seconds at the end, while Haupt Racing Team’s No. 4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo that rose to the provisional pole in the first session through Maro Engel ended up on a 1:53.959 aggregate score to qualify third.

Engel, Luca Stolz and Vincent Abril will share the second row of the grid with the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo of Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts and Christopher Mies.

The highest-placed Audi trio delivered an average time of 1:52.937.

Row three of the grid will be made up of two Lamborghini crews from Orange 1 FFF Racing Team and Emil Frey Racing, respectively.

FFF reached the top five courtesy of Dennis Lind, Marco Mapelli and Andrea Caldarelli who narrowly beat Giacomo Altoe, Mikkel Mac and Albert Costa despite running slower in the first and third sessions. Mapelli’s half-second edge over Mac was the differentiator.

Endurance Cup drivers’ championship leaders Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy, who are sharing the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo with Maximilian Buhk at Paul Ricard, will start from ninth.

The Dinamic Motorsport Porsche crew which is level on points with Marciello and Boguslavskiy heading into the season finale is due to start down in 26th position overall.

Porsche’s highest-placed entries were the Nos. 12 and 40 GPX Racing machines which came through in eighth and ninth, while the Sainteloc Racing Audi that led both Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying rounded out the overall top ten.

Silver Cup pole went to Madpanda Motorsport for the first time in Endurance Cup, courtesy of Ezequiel Companc and Patrick Assenheimer who are contesting Sunday’s six-hour race as a pairing.

Team owner Companc did the first two sessions, finishing first in class and sixth overall in Q2, before handing over to Assenheimer for the final run.

The Madpanda duo submitted an average time of 1:54.636 while the second-placed Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini of Patrick Kujala, Frederik Schandorff and Alex MacDowall registered a 1:54.680.

Pole position in the Pro-Am category went to the No. 93 Sky-Tempesta Racing Ferrari driven by Chris Froggatt, Jonathan Hui and Eddie Cheever III.

That car will start from 21st overall on the grid and will have three cars between it and the second-best qualifier in Pro-Am which was Garage 59’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Alexander West, Chris Goodwin and Marvin Kirchhofer.

Of the two entries competing in Am Cup, only Sainteloc Racing’s Audi completed all three sessions and will therefore start ahead of the No. 108 CMR Bentley Continental GT3.

RESULTS: Qualifying (Combined)

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

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