Aston Martin beats Ferrari to poles in thrilling LMGTE session

470_WEC_SPA_AMR#98_GDFor the second consecutive year, Fred Makowiecki’s name will be marked in the record books as having claimed the LMGTE Pro pole position at Spa-Francorchamps. However, unlike in 2012, the Frenchman’s pole will this year be shared with Bruno Senna – courtesy of the new qualifying format introduced at the start of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. The pair, driving the No.98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 set an average time of 2:19.811, the time being taken from the average of the four best lap times (the best two of each driver) set during the 30-minute session.

Senna, obviously still buoyant from his class win at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, was very impressive at the start of the session and showed that, together with their team mate Rob Bell, they will be a force to be reckoned with in the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps tomorrow.

The introduction of the new qualifying format produced plenty of excitement towards the end of LMGTE qualifying as AF Corse Ferrari’s Gianmaria Bruni put in a series of flying laps to try and steal pole position from the Aston Martin. Bruni’s team mate, Giancarlo Fisichella, has put them in the ballpark at the start, and Bruni knew that he had to produce some of the best laps possible in order to better their average, keeping everybody on the edge of their seats right to the chequered flag. The No.51 F458 Italia used every inch of the track in trying to achieve pole, rising from fourth place to second in class, but ultimately fell short by 0.12 seconds as the Roman duo’s average of their best four laps was 2:19.937.

Lining up behind the Ferrari will be its sister AF Corse car, the No.71 of Toni Vilander and Kamui Kobayashi. The Finnish-Japanese combination both put in an excellent effort to set an average of 2:20.089 – stealing third place from a hard charging No.97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner-Stefan Mücke by just 0.018s. Behind these four were the No.99 Aston Martin (Richie Stanaway-Pedro Lamy) with an average of 2:20.241and the No.91 Porsche AG Team Manthey 911 RSR (Bergmeister-Pilet) just two thousands of a second further back on 2:20.243.

In LMGTE Am it was equally exciting as Allan Simonsen, paired with Christoffer Nygaard, clinched pole position after many different cars had taken their turn at the top of the time screens. The No.95 Aston Martin Vantage achieved an average of 2:21.265, just three hundredths of a second ahead of the No.81 8Star Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia of Matteo Malucelli and Rui Aguas. In third place was the No.96 Aston Martin Vantage of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall with an average of 2:21.549.

LMGTE Pro -Qualifying Result
18 98 Aston Martin Racing B. SENNA / F. MAKOWIECKI Aston Martin Vantage V8 GTE Pro +19.850 2’19.811
19 51 AF Corse G. BRUNI / G. FISICHELLA Ferrari F458 Italia GTE Pro +19.892
20 71 AF Corse K. KOBAYASHI / T. VILANDER Ferrari F458 Italia GTE Pro +20.128

LMGTE Am Qualifying Result
25 95 Aston Martin Racing C. NYGAARD / A. SIMONSEN Aston Martin Vantage V8 GTE Am +21.304 2’21.265
26 81 8 Star Motorsports R. AGUAS / M. MALUCELLI Ferrari F458 Italia GTE Am +21.334
27 96 Aston Martin Racing S. HALL / J. CAMPBELL-WALTER Aston Martin Vantage V8 GTE Am +21.588

Bruno Senna, No.98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, LMGTE Pro: “We’re really happy with qualifying. We put in a very strong performance, which was helped by lots of running in practice to understand the car. It’s great to be in front in Spa. I love this circuit and I normally do well here so I’m really enjoying it.”

Fred Makowiecki, No.98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, LMGTE Pro: “Yes, it was a great qualifying session. It’s really close between all the teams here so we will have a really nice race where we’ll have to push to the max. We have good set up and the car feels really comfortable for the race; it should be good for us.”

Christoffer Nygaard, No.95 Aston Martin Vantage V8, LMGTE Am: “The car feels great here; it definitely suits Spa and Silverstone. But, it’s a long race. We have three good drivers but we all need to do a good job on the day.”

Allan Simonsen, No.95 Aston Martin Vantage V8, LMGTE Am: “It was a fantastic session and everything went to plan. We were lucky to get some clear laps and put the car on the front row for the race. The aim is to get a good start, like at Silverstone.”

The cars will be back on track tomorrow morning at 09:00 for a 20-minute warm up session.

(Image: Gerlach Delissen)