Blancpain GT Sports Club Overall points leader Anthony Pons converted his Qualifying Race pole position into a crucial win at Circuit Paul Ricard aboard the #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3. Artega Rennsport’s Klaus Dieter Frers achieved the same feat in the Iron Cup class with his #3 Ferrari 488 GT3, thus closing the gap to title rival Stephen Earle in the category reserved for drivers aged 60 and over.
Although pole sitter Pons led from start to finish, the Frenchman was pushed all the way to the chequered flag and had to hold off a charging Daniele Perfetti on AKKA-ASP’s sister #89 Mercedes-AMG GT3, which had taken part in Saturday’s Paul Ricard 1000km.
22 Blancpain GT Sports Club runners and riders lined up on the grid under blue skies and glorious weather conditions, with Pons leading away at the start. Although the Frenchman managed to keep the top spot at the first corner, he still had to fend off the fast-starting #963 Autovitesse Garage R.Affolter Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Cédric Leimer, the Swiss ace having sprung from fourth up to second on the opening stages.
Having also enjoyed a strong getaway from seventh, AF Corse’s Alex Demirdjian and his #22 Ferrari 488 GT3 was already hot on Perfetti’s heels for P4. The Lebanese driver tried a move on the inside of the Mistral Straight chicane but he ended up overshooting the corner and collecting the hapless Patrick van Glabeke in the #488 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3. The Belgian driver had to retire on the spot, but Demirdjian was able to continue for another couple of laps until the flapping door of his Ferrari prompted the race officials to show him the black-and-orange flag.
A spin at Signes corner dropped second-placed Leimer down the order, while Demirdjian eventually had to withdraw. He would be excluded from the event post-race for causing a collision. The fast-paced sequence of events promoted Perfetti up to P2. The former British GT champion, who had enjoyed a perfect Blancpain GT Sports Club weekend at Paul Ricard 12 months ago, immediately set about chasing his race-leading team-mate.
From over five seconds, the gap to Pons kept decreasing but the championship leader held his ground to take the chequered flag 1.3s ahead of Perfetti. Mauro Ricci made it a dominant 1-2-3 finish for AKKA ASP with the #87 Mercedes-AMG GT3, while Boutsen Ginion’s Karim Ojjeh came home fourth in the #2 BMW M6 GT3.
Having started from pole in the Iron Cup category, Klaus Dieter Frers claimed his second win of the season after Misano. The German ace drove a strong race to head class points leader Stephen Earle, while AF Corse’s Louis-Philippe Soenen secured a third consecutive podium finish with third place in the #50 Ferrari 488 GT3.
Anthony Pons #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a tough race, especially with my team-mate Daniele [Perfetti] pushing me again like in Misano. He was coming back very strongly but I did not do any mistake and it feels good to grab first place. I think Daniele will make my life very difficult again in the afternoon. He is a very fast and experienced driver so I know it will be tough again in the Main Race.”
Following his Qualifying Race win this morning, Anthony Pons will start this afternoon’s Main Race from pole position, with team-mate Daniele Perfetti alongside. The 40-minute contest, which awards more points than the morning event, gets under way at 15:35, Paul Ricard Time. You can follow it LIVE on our official website and Facebook page, as well as on Motorsport.tv.
Image 1: Blancpain GT Sports Club Overall points leader Anthony Pons led the Paul Ricard Qualifying Race from start to finish but the Frenchman had to dig deep in the #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Image 2: The Iron Cup podium after Sunday's Blancpain GT Sports Club Qualifying Race with, from left to right, Stephen Earle (#111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3), Klaus Dieter Frers (#3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3) and Louis-Philippe Soenen (#50 Ferrari 488 GT3).