Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon will start Friday’s Gulf 12 Hours from the pole, following a team effort by drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen, Bernd Schneider and Khaled Al Qubaisi in qualifying Thursday at Yas Marina Circuit.
The trio, piloting the No. 3 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, combined for an aggregate time of 2:11.377 around the 3.42-mile F1 circuit, outpacing the competition by 0.062 seconds.
The No. 12 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Thomas Kemenater and Giacomo Piccini had posted the quickest average time, but with only two of its three drivers setting qualifying times, the Swiss entry is expected to be moved to the rear of the grid.
It wasn’t clear sailing for Black Falcon, as five-time DTM champion Schneider had his hands full of the gull-wing beast on his qualifying run.
“It was good until the hotel corner then I had a problem with the brakes because I was running too much on the curbs,” he explained. “I didn’t have a good brake performance. The next lap, the tires were already gone.”
Schneider still managed to set a 2:11.208 lap time, while co-driver Bleekemolen clocked in a 2:10.736. Al Qubaisi’s best was a respectable 2:12.187.
“It shows that we have a really strong chance for the race because we have three drivers that do good lap times,” Bleekemolen said. “I think we can be really happy, although everybody is fighting the rear tires. After a couple of laps, you lose the rear grip.
“I think the Ferrari is taking it a little bit better than our car in the long run, but we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow.”
The No. 11 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Daniel Zampieri, Michael Broniszewski and Cesar Ramos will line up second, with an average of 2:11.439, ahead of the No. 15 Kessel-run Slamstop Racing entry in third.
Bentley made a splash with its new Continental GT3, as it sat on provisional pole through the second of three GT3 qualifying sessions. It will, however, start fourth in the hands of Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Andy Meyrick.
The top five in GT3 was completed by the No. 1 AF Corse Ferrari of Marco Cioci, Steve Wyatt and Michele Rugolo, the latter two who are fresh off winning the Asian Le Mans Series championship in Malaysia last weekend.
Top qualifying honors in CN went to the No. 94 Avelon Formula Wolf GB08 of Alessandro Latif, Guglielmo Belotti and Ivan Bellarosa with a combined average of 2:12.728, while the No. 92 Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G50 GT4 of Lee Mowle, Ryan Ratcliffe and Joe Osborn took pole in GTX.
Twenty-two of the 24 cars recorded laps, with the No. 5 MRS GT-Racing McLaren MP4-12C suffering gearbox issues, and Lamborghini Gallardo LP600+ from Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport having engine problems.
It’s unclear if both cars will make the grid for the race, scheduled for a 9:30 a.m. local start.Gulf 12 Hours, Sports Cars