The AF Waltrip Ferrari 458 of Pierre Kaffer, Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow claimed pole position(2:11.768) for the second running of the Gulf 12 Hours at the spectacular Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
While it was Kaffer who set the pace in the #11 crew, Popow did a strong job to lap close to the times of his accomplished team mates bearing in mind that flight complications saw him arrive at the circuit late, having missed both free practice sessions on the opening day.
Unique to endurance events, Gulf 12 Hours qualifying times reflect an average set by all drivers in each car, meaning that the grid is likely to mirror race performance. That being the case, with less then one second covering the top seven crews in the GT3 class, another hugely competitive battle is in prospect.
Second position on the grid went to the inaugural Gulf 12 Hours runners-up Kessel Racing (2:11.963) in the form of Philipp Peter, Daniel Zampieri and Michael Broniszewski.
Defending first race victors AF Corse occupy the second row of the grid with their closely-matched Ferraris. Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander and Gaetano Ardagna (2:12.077) line up marginally quicker than the sister car (2:12.200) of Stephane Sarrazin, Nicolas Minassian and Enzo Potolicchio. Potolicchio’s performance is also worthy of note, his best time within a second of the best efforts from the French former Peugeot Le Mans works drivers.
AF Waltrip’s other entry starts fifth (2:12.381) as the Ferrari 458 took a clean sweep of the top five positions. The crew of Maurizio Mediani, Michele Rugolo andSteve Wyatt were just 0.07s clear of the Autorlando Porsche 997 GT3 R (2:12.454) driven by the Dutch Bleekemolen brothers partnered by Emilio Di Guida. Porsche Supercup Champion of 2008-9, Jeroen Bleekemoelen, actually took the honours for overall quickest lap of the day at 2:10.811.
That time was very nearly matched by Ivan Bellarosa (2:10.949), who had taken pole for the first Gulf 12 Hours last january in the nimble Wolf GB08. Bellarosa is joined by the youngest driver in the race, 16-year-old Alessandro Latif, and local driver Juma Ali Al Dhaeri, and starts 11th.
The two McLaren MP4-12Cs in the race line up eighth and 10th, although the ASM car was close to the quickest times with works drivers Rob Bell and Alvaro Parente at the wheel (2:11.237), as was the MRS Molitor car when piloted by the experienced Philipp Eng (2:11.029)
Heading the GTX class is the Ebimotors Porsche Cup car (2:19.762) of Matteo Beretta, Giacomo Scanzi, Roberto Silva and Nicola Benucci, while the Yas Marina Circuit Aston Martin driven by locals Saeed Al Mehairi, Abbas Al Alawi and Hasher Al Maktoum was quickest among GT4s.