The number 51 Ferrari 296 GT3 will start from second position at the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours, the endurance race now in its 75th year and the most high-profile round of the GT World Challenge Europe championship Endurance Cup. The result was achieved courtesy of the AF Corse - Francorchamps Motors car, thanks to the excellent lap time produced by Alessio Rovera in the Super Pole. The official Prancing Horse driver stopped the clock at 2:16.996, allowing the crew, also featuring Robert Shwartzman and Nicklas Nielsen, to start from behind the number 20 Porsche, which set the benchmark time with a margin of just 0.116.
Super Pole. The 30-minute qualifying session was held mid-afternoon in dry track conditions with air temperature hovering around 18°C. After a Thursday qualifying session hampered by rain, when the combined time registered by Rovera, Shwartzman and Nielsen - twelfth overall - had allowed the number 51 car to make the cut for the Super Pole, it was the Italian driver, born in 1995, who climbed into the cockpit in a bid to secure the best marker. The driver from Varese – who is also competing in the FIA WEC this season in the number 83 488 GTE in which he won the 6 Hours of Spa in April – achieved his aim on the first flying lap, becoming the first driver to break the 2:16 barrier on the legendary Belgian track.
Ferraris at the start. The 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps gets underway on Saturday 1 July at 4.30 p.m. Starting from 33rd and 34th place will be the two AF Corse team entries: the 296 GT3 number 50 of Julien Piguet, Simon Mann, Nicolas Varrone and Ulysse De Pauw and the 488 GT3 Evo 2020 of Lilou Wadoux, Louis and Jef Machiels and Andrea Bertolini, entered in the Bronze class. At the green flag, starting from 40th place will be the ST Racing with Rinaldi-run 296 GT3 entrusted to Samantha Tan, Jon Miller, Isaac Tutumlu and Leonard Weiss (Pro-Am); seven grid places further back will be the number 71 Ferrari of AF Corse - Francorchamps Motors, crewed by official drivers Antonio Fuoco, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra.
Alessio Rovera: “I am really satisfied with the performance in the Super Pole. Previously we had struggled during free practice in terms of pace and to find the best set-up. This afternoon, on the contrary, we were able to race two laps in ‘clean air’, without traffic, in which I was able to push our 296 GT3 to the limit, which, particularly in the second sector where you need a lot of downforce, was able to make the difference. I felt comfortable and was able to give it everything. I was just a tenth of a second shy of pole position, but I think I know where I dropped that time, so I feel calm. Thanks to the whole team, who did a great job. The track at Spa? I personally feel very comfortable on this historic track and I feel confident ahead of the race.”
Robert Shwartzman: “Starting from second position in a race like this, with a 70-car field, is undoubtedly an advantage: Alessio drove an excellent lap taking full advantage of the features of our 296 GT3. Looking ahead to this, which will be my first 24-hour race, our goal is to be in the battle with the frontrunners, making it through to the final stages with a chance of winning. That, after all, is our team’s ambition in every event of this championship.”