Qualifying for the season-opener of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS at Imola ended in the gravel for the #32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3, but it didn’t matter: Charles Weerts’ spin couldn’t stop him and co-drivers Dries Vanthoor and Kelvin van der Linde from claiming pole position with a combined time of 1m40.322s.


Sunday morning was mostly an Audi affair with WRT grabbing pole and Saintéloc’s #25 Junior Team completing the front-row sweep. Their times were the result of consistent top ten times whereas the #12 Tresor by Car Collection Audi R8 LMS GT3 looked to sail to pole by topping the first session and standing its ground in Q2, but eventually fell short in the final session settling for fourth place, split from its Audi compatriots by the always-competitive #88 Mercedes-AMG Team Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Qualifying 1 saw Christopher Haase in the #12 Tresor by Car Collection Audi R8 LMS GT3 come in at a quick 1m40.246s. Unhindered by slower traffic, the German set his time early and remained unchallenged until a red flag ended the session with just under two minutes remaining. Audi’s strength at Imola was underlined by the #10 Boutsen Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Adam Eteki, slotting in in second place, 0.151s behind Haase. Raffaele Marciello, at the wheel of the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3, managed to finish third at 0.142s behind the leader.

Another red flag, again for a stranded car, halted the second Qualifying session with 7 minutes left on the clock. When action returned, all eyes were on Vincent Abril’s pre-red flag lap of 1.40.325s. Kelvin van der Linde was the first to break the #111 JP Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3’s fastest lap of the session, moving closer to the overall fastest lap by lapping the track in 1m40.286. However, a flurry of hotlaps in overtime saw the #32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 drop back to forth, with Patric Niederhauser (#25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi R8 LMS GT3) setting the session’s fastest lap with 1m40.104s, ahead of Markus Winkelhock (#66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3) and Nicklas Nielsen (Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3). Coming in in fifth, Mattia Drudi’s 1m40.302s was enough to keep the #12 Audi on top of the combined times and still firmly in the frame for pole position.

All things changed in Q3, except for a red flag interruption. The interruption came at the very end of Qualifying for the spun #32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Charles Weerts – at that moment fastest overall and on provisional pole position. With no one else able to improve due to the yellow and then red flag, the Audi secured the first pole of the season. Fastest of the weekend so far, however, was Marvin Kirchhöfer aboard the #38 Jota McLaren 720S GT3, breaking the 1m40s barrier by over half a second (1m39.489s) when no one else had even managed to touch Haase’s Q1 lap. He would quickly be followed into the 1m39s by Jules Gounon (#88 Mercedes-AMG), Frederik Schandorff (#7 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3) and Mirko Bortolotti (#63 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3). Luca Ghiotto, wrapping up Qualifying for the #12 Car Collection Audi, failed to find himself enough clean laps finishing the session in 30th place, which relegated the Audi to fourth on the grid.

The 3-hour season-opening race at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari starts Sunday at 15:00 CEST (14:00 UK). Watch the race live on GT.REPORT/live.


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