Dubai, UAE, 16 November 2018: The Audi Sport Team WRT rookie pair of Charles Weerts and Mike den Tandt will start from the front of the grid in the inaugural Gulf Sportscar Championship as part of the UAE National Race Weekend at Dubai Autodrome as both drivers scored their respective first career sportscar pole position.
In typically hot and sunny conditions, Weerts took to the wheel of the #21 Audi R8 LMS for the first of the two qualifying sessions, with the average lap time from both sessions used to form the grid.
Weerts was immediately on the pace, setting a time of 1m 56.925s on only his second quick lap and 1.6 seconds ahead of closest challenger, the #88 Dragon Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 driven first by Rob Barff.
Neither driver was able to improve further, however, as the #87 GDL Racing Lamborghini Supertrofeo GT3 of Mikhail Spiridinov spun into the barriers at Turn 6 causing a red flag stoppage.
When the session resumed, only the #24 GPX Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Jordan Grogor was able to improve, with a final lap effort of 2m 01.041s.
As the grid switched drivers for the second session, den Tandt used his new set of tyres to their best, setting a quickest time of 1m 57.771s on his first flying lap to maintain the Audi teams position at the top of the timing screens, but was unable to improve further.
Barff’s team-mate Leon Price also set his personal best time of 2m 03.885s early into his stint, with the sister #8 Dragon Racing Ferrari 458 Challenge car of Zaamin Jaffer, teaming up with Josh Price, setting a best time of 2m 05.515s.
With the session averages complete, Grogor’s late Qualifying 1 effort was enough to put him on to the front row of the grid in second, alongside the WRT Audi, with the Barff/Leon Price Ferrari 488 third.
The Josh Price/Jaffer Ferrari 458 Challenge car will start from fourth, with Spiridinov’s single-lap effort in Qualifying 1 good enough to put him fifth. The Knight Connection Porsche 996 RS of Gilles Petit will start alongside in sixth place.
Charles Weerts (#21 Audi Sport Team WRT):
“I pushed hard in my part of the session, but at the same time I wanted to be careful with the tyres because of the opening race this afternoon. The car felt a lot better than in practice yesterday. We improved the balance of the car so it is now generally more stable, so we will keep that set-up for the race.
“It will be the first rolling start of my career when I start the race, but I won’t be taking it easy!”
Mike den Tandt (#21 Audi Sport Team WRT):
“The car is now much easier to drive than in yesterday’s practice, you don’t have to fight it too much. It has more grip and it’s a perfect set-up for the race. I didn’t want to risk anything so respected track limits, and played it quite safe. It’s definitely possible for me to go two or three-tenths of a second quicker with the car. That’s why I’m very happy that we’ve discovered the true pace because I aim to be at least half a second from Charles’ time.”
Jordan Grogor (#24 GPX Racing Ferrari 458 Italia):
“Qualifying went well with the minimum amount of laps. Set-up was not so good but it’s a long race, it’ll be fun and it’s good to be out.
“Running in the middle of the day, the track temperature is very high. So, we are limited on grip, we will race on 100 litres of fuel so that will be a new dynamic, but generally it should be fun and the 458 Italia GT3 is the beauty of GT racing. Managing the strategy and tyres is key.”
Rob Barff (#88 Dragon Racing Ferrari 488 GT3):
“Track conditions were better than in the practice day and the car feels nice. We’re running to European championship Balance of Performance whereas the Audi is running a little more power and lighter than we are. So they will always have a better power advantage. We have made a massive improvement with the car overnight.
“Our performance on paper gives me confidence of a podium finish in the race, the Ferrari 488 GT3 is a fantastic car. We just want to make a good start to limit the losses to the Audi, and they will have a longer pit stop due to the Balance of Performance.”
Leon Price (#88 Dragon Racing Ferrari 488 GT3):
“I think Rob did a great job as that was the quickest he has ever gone on this track. I’m also much happier than I was in yesterday’s practice because changing from the tyre that we’ve been running for three years on to the Pirelli tyre, the car was not set up for this.
“After hours last night and this morning analysing telemetry, we made the changes and the car just clicked today. I feel that there’s easily another second in the tank from me.
“We’re happy, happy to be here at the start of the championship which is the most important thing with some good cars and drivers. It’s shaping up well for the future rounds.
Report: Driving Force Events Limited
Photos: Driving Force Events Limited & Aaron Meriwether