Ferrari cheer for home fans at Monza as Blancpain Endurance season bursts into life

The Black Bull Swiss Racing Ferrari team made hay while the sun shone ever so briefly to claim top spot in Pre-Qualifying in otherwise damp conditions at the opening round of the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza.

Morning drizzle gave way to clear skies and a dry track but heavy rain is threatening to arrive in time for tomorrow’s Qualifying session.

Valentino Rossi (pictured), having is first competitive GT outing in the Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia No.46 alongside Alessio Salucci was 16th quickest in the Pro-Am class and 23rd overall. His fastest lap of the day was 1:50.219.

The No.64 Pro-Am Ferrari 458 Italia of Tommaso Maino, Andrea Invernizzi and Mirko Venturi led the pack of 57 cars with a time of 1:48.955. The pole-sitters from last year laid down an early marker that they would again be at the sharp end of the grid in 2012.

Ferrari and Porsche had three cars in the top 10 at the close of the day with 11 brands battling for overall domination in the series in 2012. McLaren, BMW and Mercedes were also stalking the front-runners.

In the Pro Cup class, the Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia No.71 of Stefano Gattuso, Davide Rigon and Daniel Zampieri topped the time sheets with 1:49.240. In the Gentlemen Trophy it was the No.73 Kessel Racing Ferrari 430 Scuderia of Paolo Andreasi, Pablo Paladino and Beniamino Caccla which led the way with 1:52.014.

Friday morning’s Free Practice was officially declared wet after an overnight downpour and persistent morning showers.

A Ferrari one-two was headed by the Black Bull Racing No.64 with Andrea Invernizzi producing a quickest lap of 1:49.225.

Kessel Racing's No.71 Ferrari 458 Italia (Pro Cup) car claimed second spot overall for the session as Daniel Zampieri (ITA) recorded a time just 0.221 slower round the 5.7km track.

Antoine Leclerc (FRA) set the third fastest time of the session in the Pro GT by Almeras Porsche 997 GT3 R No.33.

What they said …

Bert Longin, Marc VDS Racing Team BMW Z4 No.4 (Pro Cup)

“We a brand new car and we have a lot of issues to solve as you can see by our low position in the time sheets. We have a lot to do for tomorrow. I think we have quite a good BOP (Balance of Performance). Monza will be difficult. It’s good that I have a lot of experience because I can stay calm because when you come here as a young driver with all the guns in your hand you see the long straights you can get over-excited.”

Antoine Leclerc (FRA), PRO GT by Almeras Porsche 997 GT3 R No.33 (Pro-Am Cup)

“We went step-by-step in Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying so we are happy with the progress we made throughout the day. We will see tomorrow when the rain comes as it will be very different to drive on this high-speed track. But we are in good shape.”

Ollie Millroy (GB), Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 No.79 (Pro-Am Cup)

“It’s been difficult as none of us got much track time this morning. We had an electrical problem this morning, thought we’d solved it between the two sessions but Joe (Twyman) went out this afternoon and had the same problem again. We haven’t really done a run on new tyres yet. It’s not a sprint race which is what we have to remember. It’s just as important to get pit stops right as it is to find that few tenths of a second. We are fairly confident, we’ll see how we get on tomorrow.”

Stuart Hall (GB), Gulf Racing UK McLaren MP4-12C No.9 (Pro-Am Cup)

“Today has been the first time we have had any consistent running in the car. We are lacking some pace at the moment and will be having a good think tonight about what we need to do tomorrow.”

Pablo Paladino (VEN), Kessel Racing Ferrari 430 Scuderia No.73 (Gentleman Trophy)

“We are very happy. We did the best lap time and tomorrow we hope to finish on the podium. Monza is a fantastic circuit with a lot of history, this is my first time here. I love it, I love the speed, I love the atmosphere. So many cars, so much traffic but its just another challenge, just part of the job.”

How to follow the Blancpain Endurance Series

Television

The series will feature in live broadcast across 22 channels globally with a number of other key broadcasters showing extended highlights in territories such as Europe, Australia, North America and Latin America.

Bloomberg Television will also broadcast highlights worldwide (Americas, Pan Euro, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific). That all adds up to a global audience reach of over 350 million homes.

Motors TV will carry live coverage to viewers in over 20 countries across Europe.

Online

Live streaming of each race will also be shown on the official web site blancpain-endurance-series.com

German viewers can watch on eurovision.digotel.com/gt1/index.html