Grasser Racing Lamborghini fastest in Qualifying 24 Hours of Spa

24 Hours of Spa - Photo by Melissa Warren

A stellar lap from Jordan Pepper during the dying seconds of Thursday evening’s Qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps has secured the #163 Grasser Racing Lamborghini the prime running slot for Friday’s Superpole showdown.

The South African driver unleashed the full potential of his Huracán GT3 EVO2 to post a 2m14.903s, knocking the #51 AF Corse – Francorchamps Motors Ferrari off top spot in the process. Pepper’s time was the best of the day, narrowly beating the 2m14.938s set by Vincent Abril in the #71 AF Corse – Francorchamps Motors Ferrari. These were the only two drivers to break the 2m15s barrier during Qualifying.

The #163 Lamborghini was quick across all three of its sessions. Franck Perera ran first and set the second-best time in his segment, while Marco Mapelli finished 10th in his outing. They combined to set an average time of 2m15.275s, 0.046s faster than the #51 Ferrari. The #48 Mercedes-AMG Team Mann-Filter entry finished third, followed by the #71 Ferrari and the #7 Comtoyou Racing Aston Martin.

The fastest 20 cars from Qualifying will run in reverse order during Friday’s Superpole session, while starting positions 21 through 66 have been locked in for the centenary race.

A trio of class pole-sitters have already been determined, with top spot settled in the Silver Cup, Bronze Cup and Pro-Am. The battle for P1 in the Gold Cup will continue in Superpole, with four cars finishing among today’s top 20.

In one of the most impressive performances of the day, the #188 Garage 59 McLaren comfortably secured a place in Superpole and took a commanding Bronze Cup pole. Its crew of Miguel Ramos, Adam Smalley, Louis Prette and Marvin Kirchhöfer combined to take 12th overall and, as the only car from its class to reach tomorrow’s session, is already assured of P1.

The #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG secured top spot in the Silver Cup, qualifying 29th overall with its three-man crew of Tanart Sathienthirakul, Dan Arrow and Colin Caresani. Pro-Am honours also went to a Mercedes-AMG squad as Uno Racing Team with Landgraf led the way. David Pun, Rio, Kevin Tse and Indy Dontje share the #16 machine, which is a one-off entry for the centenary.

In the Gold Cup, top spot will be disputed by four cars. The fastest qualifier was the #25 Saintéloc Racing Audi, which placed an excellent 11th overall. The #77 HRT Mercedes-AMG, #88 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi and #777 AlManar Racing by GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG will also contest Superpole. In total, eight brands will be represented in tomorrow’s session.

As ever, there were a number of high-profile absentees from the top 20. Team WRT missed out with both of its BMW entries, the #46 crew coming within just 0.072s of a Superpole slot. It will start 21st, while the sister #32 qualified two spots further back. There were more significant problems for two hotly tipped Pro cars, with the #992 HubAuto Racing Porsche qualifying 44th overall and the #130 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing down in 52nd.

The session was punctuated by two red flags, though it passed without a serious incident. The first stoppage occurred late in Q2 when Kerong Li lost control of the #61 EBM Porsche, leaving the car beached in the gravel. There was a second pause during Q4 when the #159 Garage 59 McLaren stopped on-track, though the Tom Gamble-driven car was able to return to the pits under its own power.

Superpole will see each crew nominate one driver to complete two flying laps of the 7km circuit. They will run in reverse order to their finishing positions, with the Grasser Racing squad rolling off last in the battle for pole. This will be followed later by a 30-minute Warm-Up and is open to the full field. 

Pre Qualifying

CSA Racing hit the front at Spa-Francorchamps once again, this time in Pre Qualifying  The #111 Audi spent most of the session at the head of the order thanks to an early 2m15.330s lap from Arthur Rougier.

The same car and driver combination also topped Tuesday’s pre-event test session, although the Pre Qualifying time was half a second faster than the Frenchman managed on that occasion. It was, however, a little shy of the benchmark 2m15.234s that Lucas Auer set in Free Practice aboard the #48 Mercedes-AMG.

Charles Weerts was second quickest at the wheel of the #32 Team WRT BMW, 0.153s in arrears of Rougier. The young Belgian was followed by Marco Mapelli (#163 Grasser Racing Lamborghini), David Pittard (#34 Walkenhorst Motorsport Aston Martin), Daniel Morad (#48 Mercedes-AMG Team Mann-Filter) and Davide Rigon (#51 AF Corse – Francorchamps Motors Ferrari). This meant that six manufacturers were featured among the top six positions.

The #111 Audi also topped the Gold Cup class, finishing six places ahead of its nearest class contender. The #74 Kessel Racing Ferrari led the way among the Bronze Cup runners, placing 10th overall with Ben Tuck at the wheel.

Local squad Boutsen VDS hit the front in the Silver Cup. Aurélien Panis was at the controls of the #10 Mercedes-AMG, setting a time good enough for P26 overall. In Pro-Am, Triple Eight JMR remained at the head of the class order thanks to Jordan Love in the Mercedes finishing P37 overall.

The session was stopped once, at the very end, but otherwise ran cleanly. There was a brief Full-Course Yellow after 20 minutes when Jop Rappange spun the #55 Dinamic GT Porsche into the gravel, but a red flag was not required. There were also engine troubles for the #23 Phantom Global Racing Porsche during the latter stages of the session.

Free Practice 

Mercedes-AMG Team Mann-Filter topped the first official session of the centenary CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa after Lucas Auer set a 2m15.234s at the wheel of the #48 machine in free practice.

The Austrian driver was 0.227s faster than the #22 Schumacher CLRT Porsche of Laurin Heinrich, while the #2 Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed entry of Fabian Schiller was a further 0.037s back. They were followed by a trio of Audis, led by the #28 Haas RT driven by Dennis Lind.

Next up was the #88 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi, which led the Gold Cup thanks to a 2m.15.527s from Lorenzo Ferrari. The sister #66 was next and also topped the Bronze Cup field with a 2m15.579s lap.

RJN led Pro-Am with its #100 McLaren. The retuning British squad finished the session in P15 overall thanks to a 2m15.874s from Jann Mardenborough. The best of the Silver Cup runners was the #26 Saintéloc Racing Audi driven by Gilles Stadsbader, who finished P35 overall.

Notably, Auer’s time represents another new GT3 lap record at Spa-Francorchamps – and probably not the last this week – following recent resurfacing work at the Belgian track. What’s more, 55 of the 66 cars that took part in today’s session were faster than last year’s Superpole winner.

There were three red flag stoppages during Free Practice. The first came after 20 minutes when by Mateo Llarena (#19 Grasser Racing Lamborghini) found the gravel at T2.

There was plenty of clear running thereafter, until Jef Machiels (#52 AF Corse Ferrari) hit the barriers at T3 with 30 minutes to go. A final stoppage came within the final 10 minutes after the #9 Boutsen VDS Mercedes-AMG stopped at T9. By Melissa Warren

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