GT World Challenge Europe

Mercedes-AMG Dominates Qualifying In Hungary

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#88 AKKA ASP Team FRA Mercedes-AMG GT3 - Michael Meadows GBR Raffaele Marciello ITA, Qualifying | SRO / Dirk Bogaerts Photography
Credit: SRO - Dirk Bogaerts

Raffaele Marciello and Nico Bastian secured AKKA ASP Team a clean sweep of pole positions for this weekend’s Blancpain GT Series event at the Hungaroring as Mercedes-AMG equipment dominated qualifying.

Silver Cup ace Bastain will start Saturday’s opening race from the head of the field thanks to a lap of 1m43.198s. The German driver edged out yet another AKKA-Mercedes (the #87 of Nicolas Jamin) to take his first outright pole position by 0.151s.

“I’m very pleased with the lap,” said Bastian. “AKKA are doing a great job. We have done a lot of testing, and it is certainly an advantage to have a base set-up that is already very quick.

“It’s fair to say that the track suits the Mercedes, so this is a combination of hard work, a good car, a good team and not-so-bad drivers!”

Alex Riberas delivered a great lap in his #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine to get among the Mercedes runners in P3. The #1 crew currently leads the Sprint Cup standings and will start the opening race ahead of their closest championship challengers.

Piti Bhirombhakdi topped a competitive Pro Am class in his TP 12-Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3. The Thai racer was 16th overall and will start three places clear of his nearest class rival.

“I am very pleased to be on pole position here,” said Bhirombhakdi. “The team gave us a good set-up, and my time is quite good for the Pro Am class.

“We need to keep pushing for the championship. Our lead has decreased, so we have to stay focused.”

Fresh from his Intercontinental GT Challenge victory at Suzuka, Marciello stormed to pole in the second session. The Italian was favourite to top the times after showing well in Friday’s practice outings and confirmed that pace by lapping in 1m42.688s.

Marciello and crewmate Michael Meadows are yet to win in the Blancpain GT Series this season but have an excellent opportunity to set that straight in Sunday’s race. As the closest championship challengers to the #1 WRT-Audi, the points on offer will be crucial.

“For the Sprint Cup the gap is not so easy to overcome so we will push and see where Christopher [Mies] and Alex [Riberas] are by the end of the race,” commented Marciello.

“In the overall championship, it’s a bit of a different story. It’s important to stay focused, and we’ll see how it goes over the final few rounds.”

Luca Stolz was an eye-catching P2 overall and comfortably secured Silver Cup pole position in his Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3. The 23-year-old German driver is making a one-off Sprint Cup appearance alongside Herbert Haupt this weekend and showed impressive maturity to secure a front-row grid position.

“This was an awesome job by Black Falcon,” said Stolz afterwards. “We did not come to test here, so it was not easy. For me, it’s also quite difficult, because it’s low fuel and excellent tyres, which is a bit different from the Endurance Cup where you always run on high fuel and used tyres. Overall I think we did an excellent job to get P2, but the main focus is the Silver Cup.”

Mirko Bortolotti rounded out the overall top-three with a stellar lap aboard his Grasser-Lamborghini. He was just over a tenth faster than Carlo van Dam, who completed an excellent qualifying session for the TP 12-Kessel crew by taking fourth overall and a comfortable Pro Am pole.

“It wasn’t a bad lap actually,” said Van Dam. “Looking at last year we weren’t very competitive here, but we’ve done better preparation this time.

“We worked on set-up as I’m only in the car five times a year and it’s a very competitive field. The car went well and to be there in P4 is very good, but obviously, we focus on Pro Am, and we’re looking good at the moment.”

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