GT World Challenge Europe

Perera comes out of nowhere to snatch Blancpain pole at Barcelona

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ISR Racing’s Franck Perera pulled a lap out of thin air to claim pole position for the final round of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup at the Circuit de Catalunya after a traffic hampered session for many of the front runners.

In the final qualifying session of the day, all eyes were on the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS of Enzo Ide and Robin Frijns as they recovered from an average Qualifying 1 and Qualifying 2 to get into the top-17 shootout that is the Qualifying 3 format.

Having only ten minutes to set a quick lap in Q3 meant almost all the cars went out at the very start of the session which seemed to impede the cars that weren’t one of the first out of pit lane.

With other entries setting lap times near enough identical to one another, it is fair to say that Perera’s lap of 1:46.493 – which was a tenth faster than Mirko Bortolotti’s best efforts in the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – caught everyone on the hop.

After the session he said: “It is not so easy to have a perfect lap here in Barcelona. The car moves around a lot, but that is the same for everybody. But we did a really good job today, especially since we focused on the race during the preparation. My aim was to be in the top-four, but since the beginning of the year we have known that if everything works out fine this team can put the car at the front.”

With Perera’s time untouchable, it became a battle see how the championship contenders could position themselves to make the most of the points on offer in the morning’s qualifying race and taking the initiative was Frijns – taking over from Ide’s usual team mate Chris Mies who is competing for the title in the ADAC GT Masters series this weekend – who finished the session in third place with a 1:46.636, only 0.015s behind Bortolotti’s lime green Lamborghini.

While the #33 does have a good position to take victory in the races tomorrow, Frijns said the important thing was the finish: “With Enzo enjoying a 17-point lead in the standings we will not take too many risks in the race tomorrow. We need to survive the start without any damage, and Franck and Mirko can do whatever they want, I do not really mind. I just have to finish in front of the Mercedes-AMG.”

That Mercedes was the #84 of Dominik Baumann and Maxi Buhk who lost the first battle of the weekend as a poor qualifying saw them qualify down in eighth place. It possibly wasn’t anything they did to qualify so lowly, it instead seemed to be the fact that Mercedes in general didn’t have the pole-setting pace of the Audis and Lamborghinis closer to the front. They ideally need podium finishes in both the qualifying race and championship race to put the pressure back on the Team WRT crew.

The Qualifying Race takes place tomorrow at 8.15am UK time.

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