Super exciting qualifying at Spa

The qualifying for the six hours FIA World Endurance Championship race at Spa Francorchamps was run under looming rainclouds, but starting off with dry asphalt.

The GTE cars were the first to get 25 minutes on the track. The cars got five extra minutes, since Spa Francorchamps is the longest track on the calendar, apart from Le Mans, or else there could be problems for both drivers to complete their laps.

Motoaki Ishikawa was the first driver of the weekend to run off in Eau Rouge. The Japanese in MR Racing Ferrari #70 lost the car on the way to the top, also called Raidillon, came sideways over the top and drove into the barrier on the outer side of the track. Luckily, he could drive the car back to the pits by himself, but no more qualifying time for the white Ferrari. However, it was really lucky that the car didn’t have more damage.

BMW Team MTEK drivers were leading the GTE Pro, taking both first and second place with their first flying laps.

BMW Team MTEK #82
Photo: JJ Media

Michael Christensen in Porsche #92 wasn’t so lucky. His first flying lap was cancelled due to track limits, and thus he had to do another one, which brought him to P6.

Giancarlo Fisichella set the fastest time in GTE Am, as the first driver in Spirit of Race Ferrari #54. But as always it’s the bronze drivers in GTE Am, who will decide the cars’ start position.

Aston Martin Racing was the first to put their second drivers in the car, and sent #97 to the top of the table, followed by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK #67 and AMR #95.

BMW still had plenty in store, and Antonio Felix da Costa in #82 set a laptime that was 0,3 second faster than the first non-BMW cars.

The times, however, continued to tumble down, and the teams then started to put the first drivers back in the cars, in order to improve the times. Only BMW Team MTEK #82 didn’t return to the track.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67
Photo: JJ Media

And it was a poker game that BMW lost, to a big annoyance for both drivers, who could no longer able to come back to the track and set a new time. Belgian Maxime Martin in AMR #97 set a time that put their average to be 0,025 second faster than BMW.

In GTE Am, there was also a battle to the last second. TF Sport Aston Martin #90 took Pole Position on the very last flying lap, with Salih Yoluc bag rattet. His average time as well as Charlie Eastwood’s gave the first Pole Position to the English team in FIA WEC. Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 was P2, ahead of Team Project 1 Porsche #56.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 ended up snatching Pole Position in GTE Pro, with a last flying lap from Andy Priaulx, following up his teammate Harry Tincknell. They took Pole with 0,067 down to AMR #97, and further 0,025 second behind was BMW Team MTEK #82.

TF Sport Aston Martin #90
Photo: JJ Media

Porsche #92/#91 and AF Corse Ferrari #51/#71 closed off the GTE Pro field – with both Ferraris over a second slower than the Pole time average, while Porsche despite everything was only 0,798 second slower from #92. But we have seen before that the two brands are much stronger in the race than in qualifying.

The first rain drops started to fall towards the end of the GTE quali, while the race director gave the teams an expectation of rain five minutes into the LMP quali… which added extra drama and pressure for the teams to set a fast time on their first flying lap.

Kamui Kobayashi met up with the challenge and set the fastest time of the week, with Kazuki Nakajima in #8 in P2.

Sure enough, the there were drops five minutes into the qualifying, but the tires were still warm enough to work optimally.

Jackie Chan DC Racing #37
Photo: JJ Media

Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Will Stevens set the quickest time in the LMP2 category, ahead of Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 ad DragonSpeed #31.

But just like in the GTE classes, the LMP classes must also swap drivers.

Toyota already dived in after their first flying lap, while both Rebellion Racing cars made another attempt – though it didn’t do much to break Toyota’s and SMP Racing’s advantage.

Actually, Mike Conway even drove a better time than the already impressive one from Kobayashi, and pulled away from the followers.

Egor Orudzhev in SMP Racing #17 pushed the car as much as he could, and came sideways through the Bus Stop chicane – and was actually only 0,7 second slower than the Toyotas.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7
Photo: JJ Media

In LMP2, G-Drive Racing #26 jumped up to P1, in front of both Jackie Chan DC Racing cars, but the duel was certainly not over. With ten minutes left, Jean-Eric Vergne in #26 set an amazing time and was only 0,004 second from under two minutes limit – in an LMP2 car.

ByKolles Racing Team #4 was in trouble yet again. Tom Dillmann parked the car, just as he had crossed the finish line on a flying lap. At the same time the rain began to fall heavier over the track, which meant the quali was pretty much over, although there were still five minutes left on the clock. #4 was so slow that the car qualified in the middle of the LMP2 field – 8,5 seconds slower from Toyota’s average laptime.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Mike Conway and Kazuki Nakajima (and Jose Maria Lopez as third driver) took Pole Position, ahead of their teammates in #8, followed by SMP Racing #17, Rebellion Racing #3, SMP Racing #11 and Rebellion Racing #1 in the respective positions.

G-Drive Racing #26
Photo: JJ Media

LMP2 class saw G-Drive Racing #26 with Job van Uitert and Jean-Eric Vergne (plus Romain Rusinov) on Pole Position, in front ot Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 and David Heinemeier Hansson plus Will Stevens and Jordan King in Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 in P3.

Now the teams should only wait until tomorrow afternoon at 13.30, where the six hours race will start.

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