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24 Hours of Spa ... Six pro-class Porsche 911 GT3 R in the top 20


Spa-Francorchamps, 26 July, 2019

Porsche’s customer teams have delivered a strong performance at the first qualifying session of the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps: All six vehicles in the pro-category have qualified for Friday’s Super Pole, in which the fastest 20 cars fight for the top grid spots for the 24-hour marathon in the Ardennes.

Per vehicle, each driver had 15 minutes in the qualifying to attempt a flying lap. At the end of the session, the average was calculated from the best time of each driver in a team. The best Porsche 911 GT3 R was the No. 998 vehicle fielded by Rowe Racing, with Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and his works driver teammates Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) posting fifth. Driving for KÜS Team75 Bernhard, Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) planted the identical No. 117 racing car on ninth.

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Klaus Bachler (Austria), Andrea Rizzoli (Italy) and Zaid Ashkanani (Kuwait) qualified their No. 54 nine-eleven on eleventh for Dinamic Motorsport. Rowe Racing’s two other Porsche 911 GT3 R with the starting numbers 99 and 98 also qualified for the Super Pole on Friday with positions 16 and 18. Achieving 20th, the 550+hp GT3 R vehicle campaigned by GPX Racing made the solid team performance perfect for Porsche.

A total of 248 drivers tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 72 vehicles. Eleven manufacturers are represented at the Ardennes marathon, which is considered the largest and most important GT3 event in the world.

Ferrari is taking part in all classes and with cars that compete in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, whose seventh round is held here, and the third round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the SRO-organised championship based on long-established endurance races.

Fans are eager to see championship leaders Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina and Mikhail Aleshin in the 488 GT3 of SMP Racing. The three drivers secured a commanding victory at Silverstone and completed the Paul Ricard 1000km in second place, thus gaining a four-point lead in the standings heading into the 24 Hours of Spa. Eyes are also on the Ferrari 488 GT3 of AF Corse crewed by the trio of official Competizioni GT drivers, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Sam Bird. The 24 Hours of Spa will be a first for this crew and Sam Bird’s third race behind the wheel of the 488 GT3 after the 24 Hours of Daytona of 2017 and 2018, both in the colours of Scuderia Corsa. The attention of the media and fans is also focussed on the Ferrari of HubAuto Corsa with Nick Cassidy, Nick Foster and Daniel Serra who triumphed in the California 8 Hours. The Brazilian returns to the wheel of a Prancing Horse car after accompanying Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Silver Cup
Winner in the Pro-Am class in the last edition of the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the 488 GT3 of Rinaldi Racing is looking for an encore in the Silver Cup. The German team will also have David Perel, who won the AM class of the Belgian marathon in 2017 and the Pro-Am in 2018 and who, if successful, would be the first driver to achieve such a result. Together with the South African, Rinat Salikhov, Denis Bulatov and Indy Dontje will drive the only Ferrari in the Silver Cup.

Several Ferraris could play a leading role in a class that looks set to be very hard-fought. These include the 488 GT3 of Scuderia Praha, crewed by Jiří Písařík, Josef Král and Matteo Malucelli, newly crowned champions in the A6 Pro class of the 24H Series. The experienced Italian driver Gabriele Lancieri who has raced in both GT and single-seaters will join the trio that triumphed at the Belgian event.

Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini will be able to count on the performance of Finnish driver Toni Vilander in the no. 52 of AF Corse – the only car in the Pro-Am class that also races in the Intercontinental GT Challenge – to mount an attack on the class leadership, courtesy also of the extra points offered by this race. The Tempesta Racing quartet with Jonathan Hui, Chris Froggatt, Eddie Cheever III and the super-fast Giancarlo Fisichella, have the same goal just eight points off the head.

Rinaldi Racing will have two entries among the 11 crews taking part in the class, with Alexander Mattschull, Manuel Lauck, Hendrik Still and Christian Hook in car no. 33, after a one-two in the Misano round of the Blancpain GT Sports Club. Pierre Ehret, Martin Berry, Jose Manuel Balbiani and Rory Penttinen, will drive the no. 488. The third 488 GT3 to start, for the Austrian team HB Racing, will be crewed by Florian Scholze, Philipp Wlazik, Jens Liebhauser and Thomas Neubauer, who drives in the Ferrari Challenge Europe.

The schedule Friday, 26 July 18:15 – 18:45 hrs: Warm-up 19:05 – 19:35 hrs: Super Pole Saturday, 27 July 15:35 – 16:15 hrs: Start ceremony 16:30 hrs: Start Total 24 Hours of Spa The 24-hour race can be viewed via live stream on www.blancpain-gt-series.com Qualifying quotes Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R“We’ve achieved a very good result with six cars in the top 20 in a very strong field. This means our vehicles make up almost 30 percent of the Super Pole grid. If we want to succeed in this session, everything has to come together perfectly. You have just one lap where the tyres have to work at their peak.” Klaus Bachler (Porsche 911 GT3 R #54)“We encountered a lot of traffic out there, but the car ran really well and the balance is great. Qualifying on eleventh for the Super Pole is a good result. Anything is possible now and I’m excited for tomorrow.” Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #20)“It was tricky to turn a decent lap with so many cars on the track. But we’re all in the same boat. You also need a bit of luck and we had that today as the 20th.” Dennis Olsen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #99)“All of the pro-class Porsches including the three Rowe Racing cars are in the Super Pole, and that’s an outstanding result. In this qualifying, where the best lap of each driver counts, teamwork is the key factor. And that worked perfectly with all Porsche squads.” Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 GT3 R #998)“We all found it great to work with the new team. The fact that we’ve made it into the top 20 with all three Rowe Racing vehicles shows that the chemistry is right. Not everything ran perfectly, but it was a good start to the race weekend.” Sven Müller (Porsche 911 GT3 R #98)“The qualifying wasn’t easy. With 72 cars, it’s difficult to get a free run. Mathieu finally managed it and his hot lap put us in the top 20. We now want to optimise our car during the night practice so that we have a consistently fast car for the Super Pole and, above all, for the race.” Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #117)“We were determined to reach the Super Pole but it was tough. I didn’t manage to turn a perfect lap because of all the traffic. Timo, however, did a great job and we’ll be back to attack tomorrow.”