Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon takes Barcelona pole

by Jean-Paul Hackett
Qualifiyng | SRO / Patrick Hecq Photography

The title-chasing #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon machine will start today’s season-closing Blancpain GT Series race from pole position, setting up a titanic battle for the Endurance Cup crown.

The #4 crew of Maro Engel, Yelmer Buurman and Luca Stolz began the weekend one point shy of leader Raffaele Marciello but levelled the scores by taking the pole position bonus at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Maro Engel told waiting reporters, “This is the best way to start the day and the best place to start the race from. The bonus point is great, but the big points are in the race, so our eyes are set on that. It was a pretty messy qualifying session, and I think it was hard for everyone out there to get a lap in. In the end, we managed to pull through, so I’m happy with pole.”

Second on the grid will be the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT crew of Chris Mies, Alex Riberas and Dries Vanthoor, who remain in contention for the Endurance Cup title. Mies and Riberas can also challenge Marciello for the overall crown, but will almost certainly need to win today’s race to do so.

The #43 Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing car will start third, extending Maxi Buhk and Maxi Goetz’s outside shot at the title. Alvaro Parente completes their line-up in Barcelona.

Qualifying was particularly successful for the German marque. Marciello’s #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP Team car will start from fourth after a fast lap from the Italian – the fastest of all three qualifying sessions – vaulted his crew up from eighth. The new Sprint Cup champion will be assured the overall title should he finish where he starts, with Dani Juncadella and Tristan Vautier joining him in the #88.

For the fifth Endurance race in succession, Silver Cup pole went to the #54 Emil Frey Jaguar, which is contesting its final Blancpain GT Series event this weekend after seven years of service. The bonus point also helps the #54 crew of Mikael Grenier, Adrian Zaugg and Alex Fontana’s outside shot at the class title.

Jaguar driver Mikael Grenier said, “We were hoping for a top-10, but Silver Cup pole was our main objective. We’ve been on pole for all of the races this year. Obviously, for the team, it’s a bit of a sad day with this being the last race for the Jaguar, which has been the trademark of Emil Frey Racing for many years. We’ll try to finish on a high, and we’re quite confident for the race.”

Pro Am pole went to the #42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG of Nick Leventis, Chris Buncombe, Lewis Williamson, who extended their class points advantage. P1 in Am Cup went to the #89 AKKA Mercedes, which will start a remarkable 25th overall thanks to Fabien Barthez and Eric Debard.

“It’s nice to get the extra point for pole and so far the weekend is looking good for us,” said Leventis. “It’s been a tricky qualifying session here, as it always is, so to come away unscathed is positive. All eyes on the race.”

A delighted Fabien Barthez added, “We had an excellent qualifying session. The engineers did a fantastic job, and Eric set a great time. We know that there is a podium to take at the end and we will do our best to bring back the car after three hours of racing this afternoon.”

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