Endurance RacingGT World ChallengeSportscars

SMP Racing lead a Ferrari front row at Paul Ricard decider

3 Mins read
Credit: SRO Motorsports Group

The #71 SMP Racing car of Sergey Sirotkin, Toni Vilander and Antonio Fuoco will lead a Ferrari one-two in tomorrow’s Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km after producing a strong display. They are joined by the #51 AF Corse Ferrari for the finale of the GT World Challenge Europe season.

The last Saturday of the season got under way with opening practice and it was the French squad, Sainteloc Racing and Dorian Boccolacci setting the fastest time of 1m54.487s. Boccolaci edged out initial pacesetter Maro Engel in the #4 HRT Mercedes-AMG by 0.254s. The #12 GPX Racing Porsche finished the session in third followed by the #66 Attempto Racing Audi and #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG.

The #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini was sixth overall with Sandy Mitchell at the wheel which meant it was also the top car in Pro-Am. Rival Sky Tempesta Racing also showed strong pace with Eddie Cheever III posting the eighth best time overall.

Credit: SRO Motorsports Group

Thomas Neubauer was the quickest Silver Cup runner in the #15 Tech1 Racing Lexus, closely followed by Taylor Proto of the #555 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini. The #108 CMR Bentley was 36th overall and led the Am Cup order thanks to Stephane Tribaudini.

Pre Qualifying was up next and once again Sainteloc topping the time sheets courtesy ofChristopher Haase, who posted a 1m53.969s. They were followed in second by the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari, driven by series newcomer Antonio Fuoco. With Belgian Audi Club Team WRT in contention for a host of titles this weekend, they started to ramp up the pace in as Mirko Bortolotti finished third in the #31 car, one place ahead of Dries Vanthoor in the sister #32 machine. Another of WRT’s entries led the Silver Cup standings after Rik Breukers put the #33 Audi seventh overall, 0.011s quicker than the #15 Tech1 Lexus.

Tom Onslow-Cole ensured that RAM Racing topped the Pro-Am class after a great lap late in the session. The #74 Mercedes-AMG was 19th overall, four places clear of Garage 59‘s #188 Aston Martin. The Am Cup battle was shaded by French squad CMR, Tribaudini once again setting the #108 Bentley’s best lap, beating the rival #26 Sainteloc Audi by 0.207s.

Come qualifying however it was SMP Racing that will lead a Ferrari one-two in tomorrow’s race. The SMP line-up are running two new additions this weekend, with Ferrari GT stalwart Toni Vilander and series newcomer Antonio Fuoco joining Sergey Sirotkin in the #72 car.

They were off the marks quickly as Vilander went fourth quickest in the first qualifying session. Fuoco then delivered an absolutely stunning lap to end the second session fastest overall in his very first outing at this level of GT racing. This left Sirotkin to bring home the result, posting a 1m53.301s in the final segment.

The #51 AF Corse crew secured the Ferrari front row with consistent speed from its trio of drivers. Alessandro Pier Guidi was third in the opening session, while Tom Blomqvist was second in the next run. Come Ledogar completed the job by taking P4 in the final segment. The AF Corse crew are also racing with two changes this weekend, as both Blomqvist and Ledogar have been drafted in to support Pier Guidi’s bid for the Endurance Cup title, with the Italian well placed to overhaul a six-point gap tomorrow.

Credit: SRO Motorsports Group

The competition will be looking to overhaul the Ferrari duo with the #4 HRT Mercedes-AMG starting alongside the #32 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry. Orange1 FFF Racing will lead an all-Lamborghini third row alongside Emil Frey Racing, while the title-contending #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG will start seventh. The championship-leading #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche had a tough day which culminated in 26th position. With six hours of racing ahead however, the Italian squad still have time to rejoin the battle up front.

Madpanda Motorsport captured Silver Cup pole thanks to the two-man crew of Ezequiel Perez Companc and Patrick Assenheimer. The car will start 17th on the grid, two places ahead of Endurance Cup points leader Barwell Motorsport’s #77 Lamborghini.

Pro-Am pole went to Sky Tempesta Racing, edging the #93 Ferrari into the lead of an ultra-close title battle. The British outfit is now a single point clear of Aston Martin squad Garage 59 heading into the decider.

Sainteloc Racing won the Am Cup battle with its #26 Audi, beating the #108 CMR Bentley after the latter failed to set a time in Q3. The remainder of the 40-car grid completed all three sessions in a particularly clean qualifying run.

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