The 90-minute Pre-Qualifying session got underway at Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the opening round of the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup with the threat of heavy rain forecast for Sunday morning, meaning that times set during the Saturday afternoon session could be relevant for setting grid positions for the race.
Seb Morris, at the wheel of the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 he shared with Derek Pierce and Rob Smith, set the early pace with a 1:48.956 on his fourth lap with Klaus Bachler in the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R .054 seconds behind on a 1:49.010.
Antonio Forne Tomas, driving the #29 Raton Racing by Target Lamborghini Huracán GT3, was quickest of the early runners in the Am category with a 1:49.682.
The session was red-flagged after 25 minutes when the #444 HB Racing Ferrari F488 GT3, with Florian Scholze at the wheel, had an off-track excursion at the first Lesmo and Denis Bulatov, driving the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari, also went off, sustaining significant damage a few metres further on.
With the session paused, it was Dries Vanthoor, driving the #2 Belgian Audi Club team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, who was at the top of the time-sheets with a 1:48.042, .090 seconds quicker than Markus Winkelhock in the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi.
The clock continued to count down and the session resumed with 51 minutes remaining, only to be red-flagged shortly after when the #99 ROWE RACING Porsche 911 GT3 R went off at the second Lesmo whilst being driven by Matt Campbell. The clock ran down to 32:55 before track running resumed. The #99 car was lifted back on to the circuit and was able to be driven back to the garage.
As cars warmed up fresh rubber, times started to tumble and Marco Mapelli topped the time-sheets on the 17th lap for the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini with a 1:47.926, only to be toppled seconds later by Raffaele Marciello in the #88 Mercedes0-AMG Team Akka ASP Mercedes who put in a 1:47.645.
Mirko Bortolotti joined the session with 25 minutes to go in the #63 GRT Grasser Racing team Lamborghini but a mistake and a lock-up meant that the Italian’s first flying lap was aborted and the #63 car brought back to the pits.
As the session drew to a close, it was Marciello’s time of 1:47.645 in the #88 Mercedes that remained at the top of time sheets, with Marco Mapelli second quickest with his 1:47.926.
Raffale Marciello was delighted at his time but was aware that the real work starts on Sunday with qualifying.
“It was good to put in a lap-time today because you never know what is going to happen tomorrow,” said Marciello. “The car was really good and we did a good job for now but the weekend is starting tomorrow so we will see.”
Teammate Michael Meadows was conscious that the rain forecast for Sunday could make conditions tricky for the morning qualifying sessions.
“We had some practice yesterday (in the rain) and we looked OK so if there’s as much rain as they say there’s going to be, it’s going to be tough for everyone,” said Meadows. “So qualifying could be a bit messy so it’s about starting at the front and seeing what we can do in the race.”
Quickest of the Silver Cup entries was the #22 Jenson Team Rocket RJN Honda Acura NSX GT3 in which Philipp Frommenweiler lapped in 1:48.0450. AKKA ASP Team was quickest in the Pro-Am category with its #87 Mercedes putting in a 1:48.102 whilst the Am Cup time sheets were headed by the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan with a 1:48.943.
Qualifying gets underway on Sunday April 14 at 09:40 local time with the lights going out for the three-hour race at 15:00 local time.