Stephane Ortelli triumphed in the first qualifying session of the Blancpain Sprint Series season at Nogaro.
The veteran topped the Q3 shootout with his first flying lap in the #3 WRT Audi he shares with namesake and fellow Monegasque racer Stephane Richelmi.
“It’s good to start the season with a pole position, but I have to admit I did not really expect that,” said Ortelli.
“The team did an amazing job in between the sessions to adapt the car to the conditions, and I gave it my all to beat these guys. I love the level of competition in these series and it is a nice feeling to be able to compete with them.”
The sister #1 car of Blancpain GT champion Laurens Vanthoor will miss the rest of the weekend after GT newcomer Robin Frijns crashed in Q1 at the final corner, spinning into the inside wall and damaging the chassis beyond immediate repair.
The closest driver to Ortelli in Q3 was Maxime Martin, who is making a one-off appearance with fellow factory BMW racer Dirk Muller in one of the Brazilian-entered Z4s. The team’s regular four drivers are all competing in Brazilian Stock Cars this weekend.
Reigning BSS champion Maximilian Buhk claimed third in HTP Motorsport‘s new Bentley, which he shares with Vincent Abril.
Markus Winkelhock put his and Niki Mayr-Melnhof‘s Phoenix Racing Audi onto the second row in P4 ahead of the #4 WRT entry of Frank Stippler, with James Nash.
Craig Dolby took a strong sixth in the MRS Nissan, in which he is joined by Sean Walkinshaw, and another WRT Audi was seventh in the hands of Christopher Mies, sharing with Enzo Ide.
F3 convert Jules Szymkowiak had an impressive session in the second HTP Bentley and claimed eighth for himself and team-mate Olivier Lombard.
Completing the top ten was the sole Porsche of Fach Auto Tech qualified by Martin Ragginger (sharing with Marco Wagner) and the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini of Nick Catsburg and his co-driver Albert von Thurn und Taxis.
Nogaro Qualifying Times
[table id=68 /]