Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM locks out Gulf 12 Hours front row

Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM locks out Gulf 12 Hours front row

Engel/Auer/Goetz start on pole despite Gounon’s fastest time
0.023s covers the top two on average
Audi Sport Team Tresor pips AF Corse to third

GruppeM Racing will start Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli’s 2022 season finale from the front row after its Mercedes-AMGs went toe-to-toe in Gulf 12 Hours Saturday evening.

Lucas Auer, Maro Engel and Maxi Goetz beat their factory team-mates Jules Gounon, Dani Juncadella and Raffaele Marciello by just 0.023s on average times despite Gounon setting the fastest individual lap in the third 15-minute session.

Pole position capped a remarkable day for the #98 crew after GruppeM’s mechanics worked through the night to rebuild a car that sustained heavy damage during Friday’s third test session. 

But Engel and Auer had both hinted at the entry’s potential by topping Saturday’s two practice sessions before setting identical times during their qualifying segments. Goetz then went a tenth-and-a-half quicker than both of them to hold off a spirited challenge from the sister machine and Gounon in particular.

Marciello was fastest in Q1 when a brief red flag period halted track action with four minutes left on the clock. But instead of running again the Italian opted to remain in the pits while others, including Engel – who was yet to set a representative lap – headed back out. The German immediately dipped two tenths under his team-mate’s best to establish an ultimately unassailable advantage.

That was despite the combined efforts of Juncadella – the Spaniard lapped 0.001s faster than Auer in Q2 – and Gounon who set the evening’s fastest time of all. His 1.51.200s was 0.160s faster than Goetz could manage but not quite enough to move #89 ahead on average.

Still, its trio are well placed to seal the Intercontinental drivers’ championship tomorrow when first or second place will be enough to share the title between. Finishing any lower, and barring Luca Stolz winning, will see Juncadella crowned on his own.

Behind, Kelvin van der Linde recorded the third fastest individual time to move Audi Sport Team Tresor up to third overall and ahead of both AF Corse Ferraris. Alessandro Pier Guidi’s benchmark Q2 time briefly threatened to upset the Mercedes-AMG pole party, but the #71 488 ultimately dropped back to fourth when Van der Linde – aided by his co-drivers Mattia Drudi and Dennis Marschall – saved his team’s best for last.

#50 finished fifth and two tenths slower than its factory Ferrari counterpart, while Al Manar Racing by GetSpeed’s crew – featuring title contender Stolz – ensured three Mercedes-AMGs qualified inside the first half-dozen. 

Sainteloc’s Audis completed a top-eight solely comprising IGTC entries, while Porsche’s best placed Intercontinental nomination – Herberth’s #69 Pro-Am car – qualified 14th overall.

The Gulf 12 Hours gets underway at 10:00 local time (GMT +4) today. Watch it live on the GT World and Gulf 12 Hours YouTube channels.

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