Alvaro Parente denied the Monza crowd a Ferrari pole position for the Blancpain Endurance Series season opener, instead the Portuguese have put the ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C fastest in the session.
Parente, who shares the #98 entry with Gregoire Demoustier and Alexandre Premat, was the fastest man in the third and final part of the qualifying session, when most teams installed their fastest drivers in the cars on their lowest fuel load.
The combination proved a worthy crescendo to the time trials session. Defending drivers’ champion Maximilian Buhk was briefly fastest in the HTP Motorsport Mercedes that had ended the opening part of qualifying backwards in the Parabolica gravel after Harold Primat lost the car under breaking. However, the Mercedes was overtaken at the top of the times by the Ferraris of Giacomo Petrobelli and Francesco Castellacci as well as the ART McLarens of Parente and Andy Soucek.
The ART teammates briefly held first and second and though Soucek was pushed back down to order to qualify eleventh fastest Parente was able to find more speed throughout the session, moving the target time out of reach, across the 1:48 barrier to 1:47.790 before putting an exclamation point on the session with a further improvement down to 1:47.603.
Behind the Pro Cup class McLaren Petrobelli and Castellacci fought over Pro-Am Cup honours, Petrobelli coming out on top in the Kessel Racing entry ahead of Castellacci in the Scuderia Villorba Corse car in which Stefano Gai had paced the middle part of qualifying to hold provisional pole.
Edward Sandstrom had set the fastest time in the first part of qualifying in the Sainteloc Racing Audi that Grégory Guilvert qualified sixth fastest behind the #1 Belgian Audi Club WRT R8 LMS ultra that Laurens Vanthoor wheeled to fifth on 1:48.396.
Fourth fastest – on the car’s European race debut – was the M-Sport Bentley Continental.
Stevan Kane took the #7 car around in 1:48.322 and was chasing a faster time when he too too much kerb in the first part of the Ascari chicane, kicking the big car’s right hand wheels into the air and beginning an accident that was to end with heavy frontal contact with the wall for the car and the red flag falling slightly early on the session.
Marco Seefried and Franck Perera were seventh and eighth, both anchoring Pro-Am teams in the session ahead of Belgian Audi Club WRT’s #9 and the HTP Mercedes.
Duncan Tappy put the second Bentley 13th fastest. Stephen Jelley was 19th fastest for the Motorbase Performance run Oman Racing Team on their series debut. Further British interest is supplied by the Pro-Am entries of Ecurie Ecosse and MP Motorsport AMR who will line up 21st and 26th respectively.
Francisco Guedes gave the #51 AF Corse team completed by Peter Mann and Filipe Barreiros pole position in the Gentlemens’ Trophy class in 25th overall of the 38 teams that set laps during the session.
The three hour race is scheduled at 1:45pm UK time on Sunday (April 13).