As Orange1 K-PAX Racing conquers Spa-Francorchamps
Italian sets new GT3 qualifying record to seal maiden Lamborghini pole in the Ardennes
Orange1 K-PAX Racing becomes first American team to secure TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa pole
Schiller puts Al Manar Racing by HRT on Silver Cup pole with superb effort in #777 Mercedes-AMG
Andrea Caldarelli surged to a momentous Super Pole at Spa-Francorchamps to give Lamborghini and Orange1 K-PAX Racing the best possible starting spot for the 74th TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.
This represents the first-ever pole position for Lamborghini at the Belgian endurance classic, as well as the first for a team from the United States. What’s more, with a time of 2m16.221s Caldarelli now holds the record for the fastest qualifying lap of the race’s GT3 era.
The Italian was the 17th of 20 drivers to run in the deciding session, placing him among the favourites to secure top spot. But to do so he first had to beat the man who has secured Super Pole at the previous two editions, Mercedes-AMG ace Raffaele Marciello, who delivered a brilliant lap at the wheel of the #88 AMG Team Akkodis ASP.
Marciello ran 12th and lost his first flying lap for exceeding track limits. The second effort began solidly, while a monster middle sector was enough to vault the Swiss driver to the head of the order when he took the chequered flag. With a time of 2m16.375s, Marciello was back on top.
The following five cars could not topple the #88 Mercedes-AMG, while Caldarelli also came up short on his opening lap. The Italian's second attempt looked strong, but pole seemed to be out of reach. However a remarkably consistent lap gave Caldarelli the crucial edge and he crossed the line with a 2m16.221s. Pole was within touching distance.
There was still the small matter of the Iron Lynx Ferrari squad, which finished one-two in last night's qualifying to earn the best running spots for Super Pole. But when the moment arrived the Ferrari challenge wilted, with neither the #51 of Nicklas Nielsen nor the #71 of Antonio Fuoco able to beat Caldarelli. Indeed, neither car was among the top-10 at the end of the session.
Klaus Bachler will start from third in the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche. As is so often the case, this car flew under the radar only to score a superb result. The Austrian posted a 2m16.446s, just two tenths short of Caldarelli's pole time. He will share the second row with Luca Stolz (#2 AMG Team GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG), who like Marciello enjoyed a much better run in Super Pole than yesterday's qualifying.
Mirko Bortolotti (#63 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini) and Kevin Estre (#221 GPX Martini Racing Porsche) will form an all-star third row of the grid, both drivers having made good progress from their running slots. Mattia Drudi was the best of the Audi contingent, qualifying the #12 Team Tresor entry seventh in a quiet session for the Ingolstadt brand.
The Ferrari runners could only manage 11th and 13th for the #71 and #51 cars respectively, though it is worth noting that the Iron Lynx squad won from P13 last year. Two more brands were represented in Super Pole, with Nick Catsburg (#98 ROWE Racing BMW) and Maxime Martin (#95 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin) taking 16th and 17th respectively.
Silver Cup pole was also settled during the session after three cars progressed to the deciding shootout via last night’s qualifying. Running first, Fabian Schiller delivered a very impressive performance at the wheel of the #777 Al Manar Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG to secure ninth overall, beating several big names in the process.
Schiller posted a 2m16.774s, beating the #30 Team WRT Audi of Thomas Neubauer by more than half a second. He could feasibly have gone quicker, but an error on his second lap prevented the German from improving. Konsta Lappalainen completed the Silver Cup trio, rounding out the top-20 in his #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini.
The 74th TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa will get underway tomorrow at 16:45 and will see Orange1 K-PAX Racing chasing a maiden overall victory for the Lamborghini marque. Every minute of the action will be streamed live in English, German, French and Italian on the GT World YouTube channel.
Andrea Caldarelli, #6 Orange1 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini: "Conditions were very different than during qualifying, which was run when it was almost dark. It was like a completely different track, so I took it easy during the first lap to fully understand the grip levels. Then I attacked on my second lap; I knew there was still something out there. Having a lap without any traffic feels amazing! I am really happy to take the first pole for Lamborghini. We have always been very close. It’s still a 24-hour race, but it’s good to start from P1. I think this pole position really goes to all the guys in America and in Sant’Agata. It was a team effort from both sides and it definitely goes to them."