Local knowledge steels the edge for the #97 in GTE Pro Qualifying

Friday, August 14, 2020

You wouldn't have thought that many of the drivers presently competing in the World Endurance Championship's return to racing at Spa Francorchamps this weekend have been 'starved' of any kind of recent competitive track action as the GTE Pro and Am classes again showed off the excitement of road car derived race cars competing at the highest level.

The Lone Star Le Mans from the Circuit of the Americas, Texas back in late February 2020 was the last time this Championship competed and by the end of that six hours of racing we had the driver crews three of the four full season Aston Martin Racing Vantages on the podium, including two class wins for the #95 Nicki Thiim/Marco Sorensen GTE Pro car and the #90 TF Sport GTE Am car of Salih Yoluc/Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam.

Track activity at Spa got underway yesterday under the expected level of social distancing and personal hygiene that the global pandemic had now demands of us all. Sadly for this event and like many others around the world at the moment, it is being conducted behind closed doors with teams, organisers and media limited on numbers who can attend. The UK based teams now have a period of self isolation to look forward to upon their return to the country courtesy of HM Government!

Not maintaining the level of attention that any top flight series demands does of course lead to some teething problems on track and for TF Sport's Salih Yoluc, he felt the full force of Race Controls handle on track limits as he was first warned, had a 5 minute stop and hold and then get a black flag for consistent breaches of track limits during Free Practice 1 only to go most of that all over again in FP2.

Other than that issue, all seemed to go to plan for both the factory team and their three green and yellow machines as well as TF Sport and their vibrant #90 car as times improved throughout the three Free Practice sessions and despite the dramatic changes in temperatures between the heat of Thursday and those of today for FP3 and Qualifying.

The #97 GTE Pro of local driver Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn appear to have the edge of their class stablemates within the #95 Dane Train, marginally beating them in two of the three Free Practice sessions before edging them out by just 0.008 of a second in this afternoons GTE Qualifying to claim their first WEC pole position with the #95 alongside on the front row for the start of tomorrows six hour race. How the two Porsches and two Ferrari's ultimately perform in the race is another story as we all know far too well as the #92 Porsche was originally quicker only to be penalised for abuse of track limits!

Whilst Yoluc was having his own 'little issues' earlier in the weekend, we mustn't forget that the #98 AMR car was also running with a revised line up from last time they competed in the WEC as Darren Turner has stepped aside to allow Augusto Farfus into the car to race alongside Paul Dalla Lana and  Ross Gunn who still counts as a Silver driver don't forget in this Championship.

This crew exchanged places with the #90 crew throughout Free Practice sessions only to edge them out in bragging rights by qualifying P4 in class as opposed to the #90's P6 starting position.

Spa wouldn't be Spa without weather coming into the race equation somewhere as despite the warm, sunny weather to date, some meteorological websites are forecasting a significant risk of thunderstorms and rain during the 6hrs of Spa possibly leading up to another eventful final hour.

Race starts at 13:30hrs local TOMORROW!

Best of luck to all cars - make it a good one to take into Le Mans - make it a safe one too!

Photo credits - AMR / WEC / TF Sport

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