Pro-Am Ferraris Top Spa 24 Hours Free Practice

by James Broomhead
Toni Vilander put the yellow AF Corse Ferrari top of the session (Credit: Tom Loomes Photography)

Toni Vilander led a Ferrari one-two at top of the times sheets in the first on track session for the full field ahead of this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa.

A 90 minute free practice begun the action on the 7km circuit and the Finnish driver ended it fastest, after taking  the #52 AF Corse entered 458 Italia around a lap in 2:20.300. In doing so he pushed Alessandro Pier Guidi’s marker, just 48 thousandths slower from the top time and the two Ferraris remained fastest for the last hour of the session.

Not only did their times give AF Corse the top two times but also put two cars that will race for Pro-Am Cup honours ahead in the weekend’s first running. Vilander shares his car with Belgian Adrien de Leener, Monegasque Cedric Sbirrazzouli and Italian Raffaelle Gianmaria. Pier Guidi, who qualified on the front row for the Spa 24 two years ago, shares the #47 entry with Stephane Lemeret, Pasin Lathouras and Gianmaria Bruni. Both cars, however, were among those warned for wandering outside of the track limits across the top of Raidillon, the #47 having to serve a ten second stop-go penalty during the session.

BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS’ #45 Z4 GT3 was third fastest, Augusto Farfus setting the lap (2:20.348) that would give the Belgian team the best time of the Pro Cup runners in the session. The Brazilian was among the driver to exchange fastest times in the first half hour of the session. Nick Catsburg in the sister BMW was fastest after the first flying laps of the session had been logged. However neither he, nor co-drivers Markus Palttala or Lucas Luhr could improve upon that early time, leaving the team eleventh overall at the end of the session, fifth among the Pro Cup entries.

In the class standings the trio were behind the #84 Bentley Team HTP Continental GT3 which Mike Parisy moved up to fifth overall in the closing seconds of the session. His lap of 2:20.675 was one of very few improvements among the top teams in the closing minutes, though Bernd Schneider was able to move up to fourth overall in the Pro-Am category Black Falcon Mercedes he shares with Oliver Morley, Sean Johnston and Maro Engel.

ROWE Racing made sure of a second SLS in the top ten, their #99 seventh overall and third in Pro Cup ahead of the #59 Von Ryan Racing McLaren of Bruno Senna, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Alvaro Parente, who set the 2:20.253 that had them heading the session after only twelve minutes.

The second of the 650S GT3 in the race – that of Silverstone winners, Rob Bell, Kevin Estre and Shane van Gisbergen had its session curtailed by an off that forced it into the pits for repairs to right-rear damage.

The session was briefly stopped in order for the Am Cup Akka ASP Ferrari to be removed to a place of safety from the tyre wall at Blanchimont.

Emil Frey Racing’s G3 Jaguar was an impressive fourth fastest in the Pro-Am ranks. With Jonathan Hirschi at the wheel in the early stages of the session the all-blue machine was among the fastest, the Swiss driver matching Parente and Farfus in the early laps.

British outfit Team Parker Racing were fastest by more than two second in the Am Cup class (Credit: Tom Loomes Photography)

British outfit Team Parker Racing were fastest by more than two second in the Am Cup class (Credit: Tom Loomes Photography)

Team Parker Racing were the best team from the Am Cup class, Callum MacLeod in their Audi R8 LMS Ultra to take eighth fastest overall with a best lap of 2:21.148 making them nearly 2.5 seconds faster than their nearest rivals in the class – Boutsen Ginion Racing’s #15 crew who were only 46th fastest.

The defending race winners, carrying the #1 plate on their Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8, were thirteenth fastest while the leaders of the Blancpain Endurance Championship’s Pro Cup points – Alex Buncombe, Katsumasa Chiyo and Wolfgang Reip – where only 45th quickest in the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN run GT-R.

The preparations for the 2015 Total 24 Hours of Spa continue with the Pre-Qualifying session at 5:40pm local time (4:40pm UK time).

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