Stefan Mucke continued Aston Martin’s roller coaster centenary year by claiming pole position from the 20 minute, 20 driver Superpole session at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The fastest 20 teams from Thursday evening’s qualifying session lined back up for a two flying lap shootout to decide the first ten rows of the grid for the race. Starting with the slowest of the two 20 the cars were released one-by-one, all but ensuring a natural crescendo at the end of the session.
As you would expect the session started slowly, with the provisional pole changing hands as the first drivers went through on the first flying laps. First out of the gate Franck Perera briefly held pole in the Pro GT by Almeras Porsche before Mathias Beche and Bertrand Baguette both took a turn at the top of the times.
Nick Tandy was the first genuine pole challenger to go take provisional pole, his first flying lap his fastest at 2:21.219 in the Prospeed Competition Porsche. The Briton’s time stood firm against the majority of the field, only being toppled once the fastest five from ‘regular’ qualifying started to set their own flying laps.
Maximilan Gotz took provisional pole position with his first lap and improved his time on his second, moving the pole position mark down to 2:20.917 in the HTP Motorsport Mercedes SLS he will share with Maximilan Buhk and Bernd Schnieder.
Gotz’s time, however, was also swept aside, though it remained good enough for a third place start, sharing the second row of the grid with the #4 Marc VDS Racing BMW qualified by Nicky Catsburg. As it should do the battle for pole came down to the final two cars on the track. Stefan Mucke put the Pro-Am Cup Aston Martin Vantage of Beechdean AMR on provisional pole, leaving only Alessandro Pier Guidi – fastest in qualifying – capable of deposing him.
Pier Guidi’s first flying lap was slow, leaving him in the midsts of the top twenty. His second lap was better and as Mucke peeled into the pitlane at the end of his in lap Pier Guidi was left the last man standing, accelerating from the Bus Stop chicane to cross the line and stop the clock a fraction slower than the target established by Mucke.
The Germans time of 2:20.675 stood firm, his Italian rival only recording a 2:20.902, leaving the English based team of Mucke, Jonny Adam, Andrew Howard and Daniel McKenzie on pole.
“Starting from the first row is always a good time and a good feeling but I think that it will be difficult to play for the win,” said Mucke. “I am expecting quite a tough race with the changing weather conditions. We don’t know what is going to happen but a top 10 at the end would be great. I am expecting an interesting first couple of hours but the whole race will be very tight.”
With Tandy fifth fastest the session ended with five different brands – Aston Martin, Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche in the top five and a top ten covered by less than a second, Alvaro Parente the final man in the bracket in the Hexis Racing McLaren – a sixth brand in the top ten.
Given the short, sharp nature of the session there were surprisingly few incidents.
The only major casualty of the session was Laurens Vanthoor. Having ‘only’ qualified 15th fastest in Thursday session to become the only Audi in the top 20 the Belgian driver spun and damaged the rear of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT #1 car, bringing an early end to his superpole session and pushing the best of the Audi’s – the defending winners of the event – down to 20th for the start of the race tomorrow.
Following the session both the SMP Racing Ferraris – the example qualified second by Pier Guidi and the sister car that will line up 11th after Mikael Aleshin drove in the final session – missed their scheduled time to leave the pits and will have to serve drive through penalties within the first four laps of the race.
The race starts at 4:30pm local time (3:30pm UK). www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have regular updates from the track throughout the race.