Sebastien Loeb and Alvaro Parente overcame exclusion from the FIA GT Series superpole session at the Slovakia Ring to claim victory in the qualifying race.
Although Parente went third quickest in Saturday’s pole position shootout, he and Loeb were one of three crews penalised for not starting their sessions at the correct time. That left the Portuguese driver starting the qualifying race from eighth, but he made a flying start in his McLaren to move up into second place on the opening lap behind pole-sitter Rene Rast of the WRT Audi team.
The Audi remained ahead of the McLaren once the cars had been handed over to co-drivers Niki Mayr-Melnhof and Loeb respectively, but the nine-time World Rally Champion was able to quickly overhaul the Austrian.
Mayr-Melnhof stayed with Loeb for a while, but then fell to fifth when he was hit by the HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes of Alon Day. Day served a drive-through penalty at the end of the race as punishment, promoting another of the WRT Audis – that of Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor that started ninth – through into second, finishing 4.7 seconds behind Loeb.
“Alvaro did an incredible start when he managed to put the car in second place, and when I took my stint I was able to overtake the Audi and put the car in front,” said Loeb.
“After that, we had a yellow flag as a Mercedes had just stopped on the outside of the corner, so it was a bit tricky to push there. I did not want to make a mistake and be faster in sector two under the yellow flag so I was careful, maybe a bit too much. We were not so lucky since the start of the season except for the first race in Nogaro so I really hope this qualifying race will be a turning point in our season.”
Peter Kox finished in third in his Reiter Lamborghini to hand team-mate Stefan Rosina a podium on home soil. The second Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren of Mike Parisy and Andreas Zuber finished fourth ahead of the Mayr-Melnhof car.
Andreas Simonsen and Sergei Afanasiev took the honours in the Pro-Am class in their HTP Gravity Charouz car in sixth overall. The two BMW Team Brasil Z4s finished seventh and eighth, with Allam Khodair and Caca Bueno ahead of the sister car of Ricardo Zonta and Sergio Jimenez.
The third WRT Audi of Edward Sandstrom and Frank Stippler was ninth after a drive-through penalty for crossing the pit exit line, ahead of the similarly-penalised car of Day and Maximilian Buhk.