GruppeM Racing’s Mercedes-AMGs claimed an overall pole positon apiece in qualifying at Buriram earlier today thanks to Patric Niederhauser and Maxi Buhk.
Meanwhile, post-qualifying penalties saw both of GT4’s provisional pole-sitters lose their places at the front. Instead, BMW Team Studie’s Sunako Jukuchou starts this afternoon’s 60-minute race from first in class before GruppeM Racing’s Reinhold Renger leads the pack away tomorrow.
Q1: NIEDERHAUSER BEATS YE TO POLE
Patric Niederhauser beat HubAuto Racing’s Leo Ye Hongli to Race 1 pole position by just 0.104s in the first of this morning’s two 15-minute qualifying sessions, with Martin Rump completing the top-three.
The Swiss driver was only 16th at the halfway mark but jumped up the order thanks to a single flying lap of 1m33.396s. That was just enough to beat Ye, who’d spent the first eight minutes up front after finding space on his out-lap while others squabbled for track position.
The first of Absolute Racing’s Audis was next courtesy of Rump who ended up four tenths down on Niederhauser and 0.175s clear of GruppeM Racing’s Alexander Mattschull, who was fastest of the Pro/Am entries thanks to an impressive late flying lap.
That knocked FFF Racing Team by ACM’s Dennis Lind down to fifth, while Anthony Liu – who looked well set to claim the Pro/Am bragging rights before Mattschull’s late heroics – completed the top-six aboard Absolute’s second Audi.
OD Racing’s Aditya Patel and KCMG’s Edoardo Liberati share row four ahead of Juwon Seo (Indigo Racing) and the returning Marchy Lee (Phoenix Racing Asia).
In GT3 Am, KCMG’s Naoto Takeda beat AMAC Motorsport’s Andrew Macpherson to class pole.
In GT4, Reinhold Renger’s practice pace translated into pole on the timesheets before a penalty for pitlane speeding saw all lap times set before the infringement deleted.
It’s therefore BMW Team Studie’s #81 M4 driven by Sunako Jukuchou that inherits pole position. The Japanese driver heads up a front row also featuring Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Frank Yu, who originally qualified fourth but starts second as a result of Renger’s penalty and Team iRace.Win losing their provisional third place due to a technical infringement found at the end of the session.
Charvanin Bunditkitsada lines-up third in the JWD-Unixx Racing Porsche ahead of Team Studie’s second BMW driven by Ken Urata.
Q2: LATE FLYER HELPS BUHK EDGE OUT SLADE
HubAuto Corsa’s Tim Slade looked odds on to claim Race 2 pole position before a late flying lap gave Maxi Buhk top-spot by less than a tenth.
Absolute Racing’s Adderly Fong and Buhk both held provisional pole early on before Slade lapped 0.2s faster than the Mercedes-AMG. A red flag shortly after – required to retrieve Daisuke Ito’s ARN Racing Ferrari from the gravel – ensured just six minutes remained when the session went green again, giving drivers little time to improve.
Indeed, it looked as though Buhk had missed his chance when a first attempt fell short, while Fong’s subsequent improvement initially pushed the #888 Mercedes-AMG down to third. However, the German saved his best until last by unleashing the fastest time of the weekend – 1m32.852s – after the chequered flag had flown.
Slade was forced to settle for second, albeit by just 0.082s, while Fong ended up 0.354s shy of pole in third.
Sepang pole-sitter Josh Burdon made it an all-Absolute Racing second row after lapping a tenth shy of his team-mate Fong. The Audi pairing finished just ahead of HubAuto Corsa’s second Ferrari driven by Nick Foster and Markus Pommer’s #999 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG.
ARN Racing qualified seventh despite Ito’s gravelly excursion, just 0.048s clear of fellow Super GT star Tsugio Matsuda whose KCMG Nissan had looked like a strong top-four candidate throughout practice. Martin Kodric’s FFF Racing Lamborghini and KCMG’s second GT-R NISMO GT3 of Florian Strauss completed the top-10.
Marco Mapelli and Darryl O’Young, who originally qualified 11th and 14th, respectively, were also handed post-qualifying penalties that saw their fastest times removed.
The Am Cup spoils this time went AMAC Motorsport’s way thanks to Ben Porter who beat KCMG’s Takuya Shirasaka to pole.
Elsewhere, Team iRace.Win’s post-qualifying disqualification saw Gilles Vannelet lose his provisional pole to GruppeM’s Renger, who originally qualified second. The Mercedes-AMG, driven solo this weekend by the German, set a best lap of 1m44.014s to claim top-spot by just 0.060s from Takayuki Kinoshita’s #81 BMW Team Studie-run M4.
The Japanese squad’s second M4, driven by Max Chen, starts third alongside Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem’s JWD-Unixx Racing Porsche, which was once again fastest of the single-event Thai GT4 entries.
This afternoon’s 60-minute race begins at 14:30 local time. Watch it live on Blancpain GT Series Asia’s Facebook page and website, as well as SRO’s GT World Youtube channel.