Marc VDS Man Martin Claims Provisional Spa 24 Pole


Maxime Martin's top time was set long before night fell on Spa-Francorchamps (Credit: Tom Loomes Photography)

Though there was more than three hours of qualifying spread out over the evening’s schedule Maxime Martin required only three laps to set the time that puts he and the rest of the #45 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS crew on provisional pole of the 2015 Total 24 Hours of Spa.

Martin’s time (2:18.456) was just nine thousandths quicker than Laurens Vanthoor’s similarly early lap in the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT #1. However, their efforts will last less than 24 hours before the times for the top 20 are wiped clear before the Superpole session on Friday afternoon.

Vanthoor had taken the top spot with his first flying lap of the first qualifying session, only for Martin to eclipse his time on his next time across the start-finish line. Gianmaria Bruni, fresh from setting the best time of the Pre-Qualifying session, slotted his AF Corse Ferrari into third overall at the head of the Pro-Am Cup class, but misfortune was to befall the #47 team before the end of the 90 minute session.

Having been penalising track limit indiscretions with drive throughs during the practice and pre-qualifying sessions officials turned to deleting lap times during qualifying. First the lap on which the offense occurred would be removed – it was a consequence that had limited impact on the very top times, Bernd Schneider and the #18 Black Falcon team one of few high flying teams to be dropped down the order mid session.

Of greater significance was the next stage up the penal scale – the removal of the fastest time by the car at the end of the session.

It was this penalty that the #47 team would collect later in the session, the loss of Bruni’s 2:18.436 dropping the car down to 18th after the first session. The loss of the quickest time was to gain further importance when they team where pushed out of the crucial top 20 by those who improved during the two hour night session.

Their number included the #8 M-Sport Bentley team. Maxime Soulet had put the car in fourth early in the first session before they were another to lose their best time from the session. Unlike their Ferrari rivals, though, the penalty dropped them from the top five down to 45th overall.

Come the night session they #8 team became one of five teams to improve upon their times to secure a place in the Superpole line-up. Their 2:19.060, fifth in the night session, translated into 17th fastest overall.

Frank Stippler was the fastest man in the night session, setting a 2:18.608 in the opening minutes of the session to move the #2 Audi up to sixth in the combined qualifying session times in the car he shares with Stephane Ortelli and Nico Mueller.

The pair of Von Ryan Racing McLarens were second and third in the night session, both guaranteeing themselves top 20 place, Kevin Estre’s 2:18.938 placing the #58 eleventh fastest overall having ended the first session a lowly thirtieth.

Ecurie Ecosse were the only other team in the top 20 to improve in the second session, claiming 18th overall.

Credit: Tom Loomes Photography)
Credit: Tom Loomes Photography)

While the night session was completed uninterrupted the first session was stopped briefly after the #70 GT Russian Team Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 stopped on the exit of Pouhon with 11 minutes to go. The session was restarted but was red flagged – and this time for good – another five minutes later when Nicki Thiim spun the #5 Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi into the tyres at Les Combes.

Thiim, who shares the entry with Christian Mamerow and Christopher Mies, was unharmed but the damage to the car was enough to keep them from much of the night session.

Grasser Racing Team’s #19 Lamborghini Huracan missed all of the first session fixing the damage from the car’s pre-qualifying off. The car, did, however, return to the track for the night session.

Third overall – once the penalties had been served – was #11 Ferrari of Kessel Racing with Michael Lyons the quickest driver of the Pro-Am Cup pace setters. Leonard Motorsport AMR – fifth best both overall and in the first session – were second in Pro-AM courtesy of works Aston pilot Stefan Mucke with the #18 Black Falcon Merc third in class, despite losing what should have been its best lap to track limits.

The #10 Akka ASP Ferrari team of Christophe Bourret, Pascal Gibon, Philippe Polette and Jean-Philippe Belloc was 37th overall, securing pole position among the Am Cup runners.