Engel edges Vanthoor in Super Pole thriller at Spa

26 July 2019

> Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon pip KUS Team 75 Bernhard by 0.017s
> Intercontinental GT Challenge entries lock out top-three positions
> Result: 24 Hours of Spa Super Pole

Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli entries locked out the top three positions in qualifying ahead of tomorrow’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, but it’s Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon that will start up front thanks to Maro Engel who pipped Laurens Vanthoor to pole by just 0.017s.

The German did just enough to overhaul KUS Team 75 Bernhard’s Porsche during his final lap of Super Pole, while Davide Rigon’s SMP Racing Ferrari ensured as many different manufacturers finished inside the overall top-three.

Less than half-a-second covered the top-11 entries, each of which had two flying laps with which to set their time.

Having qualified eighth fastest in yesterday’s combined qualifying session, Team 75 Bernhard’s Porsche was the 12th of 20 cars to set a Super Pole time. Vanthoor’s first lap fell just short of Rigon’s but there was no mistake second time around when the German opened a 0.2s advantage over the rest.

No-one else came close to toppling his time until Engel emerged at the end of the session. The Mercedes-AMG initially lapped only 0.055s slower before snatching pole at the last possible moment courtesy of the weekend’s fastest lap so far: 2m18.588s.

Rigon held on to third by a meagre 0.016s from Nick Tandy’s non-IntGTC-nominated ROWE Racing Porsche, which finished just three hundredths ahead of the HubAuto Corsa Ferrari driven by Daniel Serra.

WRT’s Audis wound up sixth and seventh thanks to Dries Vanthoor and Nico Muller, both of whom are registered to score Intercontinental GT Challenge points tomorrow. Behind, Maxi Buhk (GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG) and Mathieu Jaminet (ROWE Racing Porsche) ensured eight #IntGTC entries featured in the overall top-10.

Further back, Nissan’s only Super Pole contender driven by KCMG’s Katsumasa Chiyo was relegated to 20th after a time penalty.

Bentley failed to make the shootout by just 0.006s, which consigned the best of M-Sport’s Continentals to 21st. BMW and Honda also endured difficult qualifying sessions on Thursday when Team Schnitzer’s M6 led the Bavarian contenders in 31st while Team Motul’s NSX lines up two places behind.

Maro Engel, #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon: “Going into qualifying, I was a little worried that we would not have the pace to fight for pole. But my engineer told me to remain calm, that everything would be alright, and as soon as I did three corners on my first flying lap I knew the car was great. When I heard from my engineer that I was half a second down after my first lap, I tried to squeeze everything out of the car on my second attempt. I am very happy that it worked out. The team gave me great car to drive and I have to thank my teammates as well, because they set some great lap times in qualifying yesterday. Being on pole for this legendary race is fantastic, but once the flag drops it does not count for much anymore. The big aim is to be first on Sunday afternoon.”

Laurens Vanthoor, #117 KÜS Team75 Bernhard: “If you would have asked me to sign up for a front-row position before Super Pole, I would have done it. But, after spending most of the session on pole and only losing it by 0.017 seconds, it's obviously a bit disappointing. I would not be a proper racing driver if I didn't feel that. Maybe I should have gone to the toilet beforehand! But I'm in front of my brother on the grid, and that is actually the most important thing. Seriously though, Porsche is doing well this year and they have made a big effort for this race. Every factory driver is here, and we all want to do well. It will not be easy, because there are plenty of other cars that want to win as well.”

Davide Rigon, #72 SMP Racing Ferrari: “We found that we lost some time yesterday due to the high temperatures, just like the other turbocharged cars, but we managed to qualify in the top-20 thanks to the hard work of my team. My engineer made a perfect choice for the tyre pressures in Super Pole, and I managed to do a good lap. A good starting position is always important, especially here.”

The 71st running of the Total 24 Hours of Spa starts at 16:30 CEST on Saturday. Watch it live on IntercontinentalGTChallenge.com.