> Gounon’s Pre-Qualifying time hands Mercedes-AMG early advantage
> Result: Pre-Qualifying
Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP will start the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour from pole position thanks to Jules Gounon’s fastest time in Pre-Qualifying after heavy rain washed out both Qualifying proper and Superpole this afternoon.
AF Corse’s #71 Ferrari starts alongside thanks to Nicklas Nielsen who pipped AF Corse team-mate Miguel Molina to second place in the dry and sunny morning session.
Indeed, the contrast between before and after lunch could not have been starker, bright skies being replaced by ominously dark clouds, heavy rain, thunder and lightning.
Qualifying was initially delayed before cars ventured out once the rain eased. But respite from the weather proved short-lived and it was soon apparent that Q1 could not continue. Qualifying was cancelled entirely soon after.
Rain continued to fall as the afternoon progressed, which left no opportunity for deep puddles to drain and track conditions to improve sufficiently. Thus Superpole, which should have featured Pre-Qualifying’s top-eight drivers each setting two timed laps, could not take place either.
That left AKKA ASP in the box seat courtesy of its morning benchmark. The car shared by Gounon, Raffaele Marciello and title contender Timur Boguslavskiy should be considered a worthy pole winner after it also topped both test sessions and Free Practice on Thursday.
Equally, Gounon’s Pre-Qualifying time – 1m42.465s – was the fastest of the week so far as well as 0.449s quicker than Nielsen in second.
Mercedes-AMG also start fourth thanks to SunEnergy1’s Mikael Grenier who beat both factory Audis en route to fastest Pro-Am time.
Speaking of Audi, their title contending crews completed the top-six despite Sainteloc’s example stopping on the start/finish straight with 20 minutes of Pre-Qualifying left to run. Patric Niederhauser and Markus Winkelhock are one place in front of Christopher Haase, although all three are just two points behind Come Ledogar/Alessandro Pier Guidi and Nielsen in the IGTC drivers’ standings ahead of what promises to be a winner-takes-all showdown on Saturday.
Boguslavskiy, meanwhile, needs help from elsewhere if he is to overturn a 15-point deficit.
Sainteloc’s Silver Cup crew start seventh, one place clear of High Class Racing’s similar Audi which goes head-to-head with SunEnergy1 for Pro-Am honours tomorrow.
The final round of 2021’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli campaign goes green at 13:00 SAST (GMT +2) on Saturday. Viewers around the world can watch live and for free on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel, while SuperSport is showing the race in its entirety across South Africa.
FUN FACT: This is the first time that Pre-Qualifying has been used to determine a grid in one of SRO Motorsports Group’s halo series. Although essentially another Free Practice session in all but name, it allows drivers to officially qualify and organisers to set a grid without Qualifying or Superpole being completed. The term has been a mainstay of SRO-run series since 2010’s FIA GT1 World Championship.