The #107 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3, piloted by Jordan Pepper, Steven Kane and Jules Gounon, took overall pole position for the Paul Ricard 1000kms, Round Three of the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, after setting an average lap-time of 1:53.338, .053 seconds, on average, quicker than the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 with the driver line-up of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman who averaged 1:53.391.
Completing the top three on the overall grid will be the #55 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Silver Cup entry, piloted by Steijn Schothorst, Pieter Schothorst and Mattia Drudi, who lapped the 5.842 km circuit in 1:53.471.
Topping the time sheets in the Pro-Am Cup category was the #97 Oman acing with TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 driven by Salih Yoluc, Ahmad Al Harthy and Charlie Eastwood who lapped in an average of 1:54.185. The #74 RAM Racing Mercedes was second quickest in class with an average lap-time of 1:54.185.
Pole position in the Am Cup class was taken by the #188 Garage 59 Aston martin driven by Alexander West, Chris Harris and Chris Goodwin.
As the three 15-minute sessions got underway it was announced that the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team Akka ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 would be carrying a penalty into the six-hour race due to an engine change following a cracked oil sump. As the session dew to a close the penalty was confirmed as a pit-lane start, effectively relegating the #88 car to the back of the grid.
Additionally a penalty was incurred by the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, piloted by Andrea Rizzoli, Zaid Ashkanani and Klaus Bachler, for speeding in the pit-lane in an earlier session. The winners of Round One at Monza will incur a five-place grid penalty at the start.
The first 15-minute session got underway in perfect conditions with Jordan Pepper, at the wheel of the #107 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3, setting the early pace with a 1:53.668. Track limits were being strictly adhered to, due to the wide run-off areas at Circuit Paul Ricard, with a number of entries seeing early lap-times cancelled.
Alex Lynn, driving the #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR Gt3 sustained damage to the front-left corner going wide over the kerbs, a move that also resulted in the lap-time being disallowed due to track limit infringements.
The first session ran uninterrupted and, as Qualifying 1 drew to a close, it was the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, with Klaus Bachler at the wheel, who headed the time-sheets with a 1:53.241 set on Bachler’s fifth lap of six. Raffaele Marciello, driving the #88 Mercedes, was second quickest with a 1:53.426. The current Endurance Cup drivers standings leaders, the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, were tenth quickest with a 1:53.844 set by Dennis Lind.
The second session also run without interruption with Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Principal Andrea Calderelli, driving the team’s #563 Lamborghini, setting the quickest time with a 1:53.334 in his sixth lap. Quickest of the Silver Cup entries was the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 driven by Denis Bulatov. Zaid Ashkanani’s 1:53.693 in the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche meant that the #54 sat on provisional pole, ignoring its five-place penalty with the Stolz/Engel/Buurman-crewed #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes was second quickest on average.
It was in third session, however, where the time really started to tumble. Jules Gounon set the quickest time of the three sessions with a 1:52.671 on his third lap in the #107 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 he shares with Jordan Pepper and Steven Kane.
As the session drew to a close the average lap-times of the top 17 of the 49-car grid were less than half a second apart, demonstrating the effectiveness of the series organiser’s Balance of Performance adjustments.
The crew of the #107 Bentley Team M-Sport entry was delighted at their first pole position in the new-generation Bentley Continental GT3.
“You have those days where everything goes together and it’s not often and it’s one year since were at Le Castellet last year when we had a lot of bad luck,” said Jules Gounon. ”Honestly it feel’s amazing. Jordan did an amazing job in Q1 and Steven was amazing also and I just had to try to finish the job. The Bentley is amazing and it’s feels really good to be on pole!”
The Paul Ricard 1000kms get underway at 18:00 local time on Saturday June 1.