Qualifying for the Circuito de Jerez round of the Iberian Supercars Endurance, the third round of the season, was hotly contested this Saturday. Drivers had to push their cars to the limit to secure the best possible grid position for tomorrow's races.
Everyone was eagerly anticipating the first major competitive clash after the summer break, and their expectations were met. Intense battles in all divisions held the Andalusian crowd's attention right up to the checkered flag in both sessions.
QUALIFYING 1: JOSÉ CARLOS PIRES DICTATES THE SPEEDY BMW LAW
As always, the battle between the GT4 Pro cars was tight, but José Carlos Pires was a slight step ahead of the competition, recording a time of 1'52.638 that proved to be unattainable for his rivals. His brother, Nuno Pires, ended up being the closest to his time, securing second place in the Lema Racing Mercedes AMG GT4, continuing the duel they've been having since the start of the season.
The fight for second place was much more intense and hotly contested, with five cars separated by eight tenths of a second. The Lema Racing driver had to attack to get ahead of Manuel Gião - also in a Mercedes AMG GT4, but from Portuguese team Racar Motorsport - who was just 0.137s off the front row for tomorrow's morning race.
The defending champion watched the Veloso Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4 approach, with Jorge Rodrigues posting a top-level lap that took him up to fourth place on the timesheets and pole-position among the GT4 Bronze competitors.
In this particular fight, the driver of the Ingolstadt-made car beat his most serious opponent, Alberto de Martín, with the Spaniard at the controls of the NM Racing Team Mercedes AMG GT4 securing second place in his division. Paulo Macedo, in a Mercedes AMG GT4 from Lema Racing, wasn't far behind, in seventh place overall, third of GT4 Bronze, just behind Guillermo Aso, who was fourth in GT4 Pro.
Miguel Nabais was perhaps the biggest surprise of the first qualifying session. New to the car, the Speedy Motorsport McLaren 570 driver had never seen Jerez track before, and secured pole-position in GTX, beating Portuguese veteran Fernando Soares by 0.013s, which speaks volumes for the battle between these two drivers.
Spain’s Héctor Hernández imposed his BMW M240i Racing among the Touring cars, and was also the strongest of the TC cars. The Autoworks Motorsport driver benefited from the problems of Iberian TCR reigning champion Daniel Teixeira, who was unable to avoid a spin, to win his category.
Among the weekend's newcomers, Gabriela Correia, in the JC Group Racing Team's Mercedes AMG GT4, set the fastest time, sixteenth, while Miguel Romero, in Monteiros Competição's Ginetta G40, was involved in a lively battle with the Mini Cooper of Alejandro Barambio and Javier Serrano, both from PRM Racing, and the trio finished in that order.
Beatriz Correia, who was making her competition debut in a Cupra TCR, was unable to do any laps due to problems with the gearbox selector on her Spanish car.
QUALIFYING 2: NISKANEN LEADS MERCEDES TRIO
If in the first qualifying session of the day the excitement was the dominant note, in the second the excitement took hold of everyone who followed the evolution of the times on the track.
Several drivers were in command of the timesheets, with the top eight separated by less than a second, demonstrating extraordinary competitiveness.
In the end, Elias Niskanen, despite admitting that he had made a mistake on his lap, was the fastest, beating Nil Montserrat by an unimpressive 0.030s. The Spaniard, from NM Racing Team, took pole-position in GT4 Bronze, lining up on the front row alongside the Finn from Lema Racing, who was the strongest in GT4 Pro.
The young Brazilian Roberto Faria, who is making his debut this weekend in Iberian Supercars Endurance, was third in the timings, placing the Racar Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT4 ahead of the Veloso Motorsport Audi driven by Patrick Cunha, who was second fastest in GT4 Bronze.
Francisco Abreu was involved in the fight for pole-position, but ended up in fifth place, having complained about the traffic on the track, which prevented him from realising the potential of the Speedy Motorsport BMW.
Guillermo Aso, racing alone in the NM Racing Team Stuttgart car, took sixth place ahead of Orlando Batina in the Batina Racing BMW M4 GT4 (F82), who finished seventh, eight-tenths of a second behind Niskanen, after having passed him in first place on the timesheet.
In GTX, André Nabais replicated his brother's pace and took pole-position in the division, with Speedy Motorsport's McLaren 570S once again facing off against Araújo Competição's Aston Martin Vantage AMR, this time driven by Álvaro Ramos, who lost just 0.135s to his opponent. Ruben Vaquinhas, still adapting to the Aston Martin operated by Racar Motorsport, showed progress, securing third place in the GTX division.
Borja Hormigos continued his good progress in the Autoworks Motorsport BMW and was fastest among the Touring cars, also setting the best time in TC. The Spaniard benefited from the absence of Daniel Teixeira, while José Correia was the only TCR representative in the JC Group Racing Team's Cupra TCR. His daughter, Gabriela Correia, had technical problems with her Mercedes AMG GT4 and finished in 22nd place among the two PRM Racing Mini Coopers, with Antonio Albacete the fastest of the Spanish outfit.
Series newcomer Manuel Almeida put in a very creditable performance in the Monteiro Competições-run Ginetta G40, finishing 20th overall.
After today's lively qualifying, tomorrow's races are eagerly awaited, with plenty of on-track battles and excitement expected, and the weather may have its say, as rain is forecast for Sunday.
Both races can be followed live on the competition's social networks and the first one live on A Bola TV at 9.00am.