Mirko Bortolotti struck in Q3 of Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup qualifying at Silverstone to claim the top spot for this afternoon’s three-hour race in the #16 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Q1 got started under blue skies at Silverstone, but a chill in the air meant the teams up and down the paddock had to work hard to get warmth in the tyres as the 15 minute first session started to kick into life.
The first to set what could be considered a competitive time was Marco Seefried in the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 with a 2:01.528 to initially put himself to the top of the pile with 51 cars taking to the track – following confirmation that the #77 Attempto Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R would not be starting this race because of the extent of the damage suffered in pre-qualifying yesterday afternoon.
With Q1 getting to the crunch time and the #99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 sitting in first place, a number of incidents saw the red flag come out and end the session early. The first was an incident involving the #44 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin of Devon Modell which stopped at the end of the Wellington Straight with what appeared to be rear-left tyre issues.
That was followed really quickly afterwards by a crash for the #51 Am Cup AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 who seemed to lose the back end coming into Maggots, skipped across the gravel trap and hit the barriers. Taking avoiding action, the #23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GTR hit the kerbs quite hard and suffered a right front puncture. As a consequence of all this, the red flag was called for and – with only three minutes of the session remaining – Q1 was ended early.
Going into Q2 and it appeared the red flags were breeding as one came out with less than five minutes gone as the #42 Am Cup CMR with Sport Garage Ferrari was a touch too keen going through Club Corner and ended up in the gravel trap.
The car didn’t take too long to extricate from its position and as the track went green again, Philipp Eng in the #99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 leapt to the top of the times with a 2:00.278. However, in the space of one minute three different entries would occupy the top spot as Daniel Zampieri in the #101 Attempto Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 came within a fraction of breaking the two minute barrier eventually setting a 2:00.071.
That was quickly beaten by Frederic Vervisch in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS with a 1:59.732 before Eng again showed the pace the BMW has round Silverstone with a 1:59.524. Eng would finish Q2 fastest, especially after he lowered the provisional pole time down to 1:59.483 with just a minute or two left in the race.
Elsewhere in Q2, Monza race winner Shane Van Gisbergen in the Garage 59 McLaren 650S set a 1:59.733 to put himself third in the session and 12th overall for this afternoon’s race.
Moving into Q3 and with mainly the Pro drivers occupying the front-running entries, times quickly tumbled with British GT Championship regular Jonny Adam setting the initial pace. A 1:59.714 put him first for a time, but with track temperature increasing, and the circuit rubbering in, that pole time was never going to last.
Indeed, setting an early marker was eventual Pro-Am Cup pole sitter Franck Perera in the ISR Racing Audi who set a highly competitive 1:58.737. However, as admitted in the post-qualifying press conference, Mirko Bortolotti was on a traffic-free ‘perfect lap’ and a 1:58.469 proved the Italian’s assertion that this was the ‘lap of his life’ in the Grasser Racing Team entry.
Perera would end up second with the ROWE Racing #99 BMW settling for third, a very good result considering the fun and games that could ensue from a 51 car grid on the opening lap.
Joining the BMW on the second row of the grid is Maxi Buhk in the #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG, a 1:59.228 left him three-tenths behind the top three.
In fifth, and taking the crown as probably one of the best looking cars on the grid, is the Emil Frey Racing Jaguar XKR G3 with Albert Costa absolutely storming in the big cat, 1:59.243 was a great return on his exertion behind the wheel.
The second race of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup takes place at 3.00pm UK time today.