The qualifying to the second round of the 2021 European Le Mans Series was run this afternoon at Red Bull Ring in Austria.
The first of the three sessions – one for the GTE cars – started in the dry, but dark clouds and rain showers were closing in from both sides of the track, in the valley.
There were nine GTE cars this race weekend, with a clear majority of Ferrari cars as well as two Porsches and a single Aston Martin.
Just as the cars were on the way to their first lap, there were rain showers over some parts of the track, which made it very difficult for the teams.
Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 was the first car to set a fast lap on the slippery track.
Matt Campbell in Proton Competition Porsche #77 went off over the gravel but was quickly back on the track again.
Michelle Gatting was chosen to qualify Iron Lynx Ferrari #83, and she set the fastest time in the second attempt.
Alessio Rovera in AF Corse Ferrari #88, however, set a fantastic lap time which was more than a second faster than everyone else’s. But the gap got less when JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 cut it by half, and then local hero Richard Lietz in Proton Competition Porsche #93 suddenly jumped up to P1.
The majority of the teams pitted for new tires, giving them one flying lap on fresh tires.
Iron Lynx Ferrari team managed to get both #80 and #83 out on an extra flying lap, which would later prove to be deciding. First, the two cars went to take P1 and P2 in GTE, before AF Corse Ferrari #88 with Alessio Rovera (plus Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard) claimed Pole Position. Gatting (plus Rahel Frey and Manuela Gostner) in #83 used the extra flying lap to her advantage and went to take second place, which was the best start position for the all-female team. All in all, it was a good quali for Iron Lynd since #60 with Paolo Ruberti (plus Giorgio Sernagiotto and Claudio Schiavoni) snatched P3, and championship leader #80 with Miguel Molina (plus Matteo Cressoni and Rino Mastronardi) was P4. Proton Competition #77 med Matt Campbell (plus Cooper MacNeil and Christian Ried) was the best Porsche in P5, while TF Sport Aston Martin #95 with Jonny Adam (plus Oliver Hancock and John Hartshorne) qualified sixth.
As the track dried out another shower came over, just before the qualifying session in LMP3, with sixteen participants.
Some of the drivers were out on slicks and had to try hard to drive an entire lap on the super slippery track.
Half of the teams pitted for wet-weather tires, amongst them RLR MSport #15 with Malthe Jakobsen behind the wheel.
Graff #8 had a spin in Turn 9, just before the pit entry. Team Virage #20 went off the track but came back quickly.
United Autosports #2 was the first team to set a fast time – on slicks. Half of the qualifying time was gone before the teams who were on wet tires could start their first lap.
Wayne Boyd in United Autosports #2 set an even faster time on slicks, before David Droux in Graff #8 being the first person to take P1 on wet tires. Malthe Jakobsen in RLR MSport #15 was only marginally slower on his wet tires.
DKR Engineering #4 had a double spin, on the way through Turn 9 but managed to stop the car before it hit the barrier.
But nobody could stop Laurents Hörr from setting the fastest time on the next lap.
There was contact between Cool Racing #19 and MV2S Racing #5 in Turn 1, but both cars got away without any damage.
DKR Engineering #4 with Laurents Hörr (plus Leo Weiss and Jean-Phillippe Dayraut) took Pole Position on slicks, ahead of United Autosports #2 with Wayne Boyd (plus Rob Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe), and United Autosports #3 with Duncan Tappy (plus Jim McGuire and Andrew Bentley), who were both on wets.
The choice of wet-tires for RLR MSport #15 with Malthe Jakobsen, plus his teammates Michael Benham and Alex Kapadia, didn’t work out, and they ended up in P10 out of the 16 cars.
The championship leader Cool Racing #19 had to be happy with P6.
Last but not least, it was time for the sixteen LMP2 cars to do their session. The sun came out again, so there was no doubt that slicks were the ones to go.
United Autosports #22 set a fast time on their first flying lap, before Racing Team Turkey #34 beat it on their second flying lap.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 chose to pit for new tires, already before they set any time. Everyone else did at least one flying lap before pitting for fresh tires.
But it didn’t slow down local hero Ferdinand Habsburg as he jumped up to P1, on his first flying lap.
After that it was a ping-pong between APR #24 and Racing Team Turkey #34, then #34 took first place while #24 tried to retaliate.
Racing Team Turkey #34 with Logan Sargeant took Pole Position, not just in LMP2 Pro/Am but also overall. Sargeant replaced Harry Tincknell, who was driving in the IMSA series this weekend. Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc made up the trio.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 with Ferdinand Habsburg (plus Diego Menchaca and Richard Bradley) qualified in second place, ahead of United Autosports #32 with Nicolas Jamin (plus Job van Uitert and Manuel Maldonado) in P3.
Championship leader Team WRT #41 with Louis Deletraz (plus Robert Kubica and Yifei Ye) will start tomorrow from P5.
The race starts tomorrow at 11 o’clock, with a preview from 10.40 CET. The race can be streamed on YouTube.