A blistering lap by Fred Makowiecki in the top-15 shootout put the #912 Manthey Racing Porsche on pole for the 2017 Motul Sepang 12 Hours, final race of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. The shootout turned out to be a close-fought affair, with the top-3 cars separated by just two tenths of a second. Alvaro Parente managed to squeeze his #9 K-PAX McLaren in front of the second of the Manthey Racing Porsches, driven by Earl Bamber.
No surprises in the hour-long qualifying session, with all GT3-cars going through to the top-15 shootout, together with the two fastest GTC-cars. In the deciding fifteen minutes Alvaro Parente, who had topped most of the free practice sessions, was the first driver of the weekend to break the 2’03-barrier, lapping the 5,542 Sepang International Circuit in 2’02.634. Even though that was quicker than last year’s pole time, it was not enough to claim the front spot on tomorrow’s grid. Minutes later Fred Makowiecki drove the #912 Manthey Racing Porsche to a time of 2.02.634, enough to claim the best starting position for tomorrow’s race.
The second row will be shared the #911 Manthey Racing Porsche – Earl Bamber fell only 0.086 short of making it an all-Porsche front row – and the #11 Singha Motorsport Ferrari, driven by Carlo Van Dam. The two Audi Sport Team Phoenix cars, with Intercontinental GT Challenge title contenders Laurens Vanthoor and René Rast, had to be happy with sixth and ninth.
In the GTC class Peter Kox shook the #26 B-Quik Racing Audi by the scruff of its neck to put it on class pole. The Dutchman was over a second quicker than the #67 GDL Racing Team Asia Lamborghini. The fight for the pole in the MARC division was a lot closer, with Jake Camilleri (#93 Mazda 3 V8) edging in front of the #91 Focus V8.
There was another fraternal duel between the two Ginetta cars for pole position in GT4. Even though he had a fast lap time cancelled, Dan Wells still managed to claim the very first GT4-pole in the history of the Motul Sepang 12 Hours, putting the #69 Ayelzo Ecotint G55 just two tenths in front of the #55 sister car of Simpson Motorsport.
The #65 Viper Niza Racing SEAT might be an unfamiliar sight on the Asian racing scene, but Takuya Shirasaka used the car to its fullest extent to claim the TC-pole, even beating some GT4-cars. In the Touring Car-division the #77 Jim Hunter Motorsport Subaru could not complete the whole qualifying session due to technical issues, but before that team boss Jim Hunter had managed to put his Impreza in front of the other cars in class, even though he only had 0.04 in hand over the #7 Team ST Powered Honda Civic.
The start of the Motul Sepang 12 Hours will be given on Saturday noon (UTC +8), so just after midnight we will know both who will be the winner of the 2017 edition of the Asian endurance classic and who will be the champions of the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge. The race will be streamed live on both the Intercontinental GT Challenge and Motul Sepang 12 Hours websites.
Fred Makowiecki (#912 Manthey Racing Porsche, pole): “Our main aim for the first part of qualifying was to get a good set-up for the car in the shootout, and that worked out well. Now we will have to see what the race will bring, because we were a bit behind in the free practice sessions.”
Alvaro Parente (#9 K-PAX Racing McLaren, 2nd overall): “All weekend, the car has been working well over one lap, but today we found something to improve our race pace as well, so we are feeling quite confident. The red flag at the beginning of the shootout caught me out a bit, but congratulations to the Porsche guys, they did a great job.”
Earl Bamber (#911 Manthey Racing Porsche, 3rd overall): “First of all, I think Porsche did a great job. It’s our first time here with this car, and to put it on places one and three on the grid is really good. But this is just qualifying, now we have to put in 30 laps in each stint, so that will be a completely different story. It’s going to be a long, hot race.”
Peter Kox (#26 B-Quik Racing Audi, 1st GTC): “I was caught out by the track limits at first, but I was not alone: some other cars were almost in Kuala Lumpur. I nailed it on the second lap though, and this is great for B-Quik Racing. Team owner Henk Kiks is an old schoolmate of mine and that is how we teamed up. I think it looks ok for the race, but also in terms of the gap towards the GT3-cars. If I can live with that, than I am a happy man.”
Jake Camilleri (#93 MARC Mazda 3 V8, 1st MARC): “It’s the first time for MARC Cars Australia on the Sepang circuit, so it took us some time to get the right set-up. But we’ve got our head around it now and both cars are quite evenly paced. We’re looking forward to the big day tomorrow.”
Dan Wells (#69 Ayelzo Ecotint Racing Ginetta, 1st GT4): “I have to thank the Ayelzo Ecotint Racing team, to be able to race the Ginetta for the first time in Asia. We got the car quite late, so there were some set-up issues during free practice, but once the car got going, we were always the quickest of the GT4 cars. I am very happy with this result, considering this is my first Motul Sepang 12 Hours.”
Takuya Shirasaka (#65 Viper Niza Seat, 1st TC): “The Seat is a very different car, but I feel very comfortable. In Japan we are always surrounded by faster cars, and there are always cars with different speeds, so that is no problem.”
Jim Hunter (#77 Jim Hunter Motorsport Subaru, 1st Touring Car): “I guess we were a little bit lucky, for I am not the quickest driver in the group. I just did a few laps to get into a rhythm and then gave it to Grant Johnson, who is the quickest. But then we had an overheating problem, maybe a gasket blew. It’s the first time we’ve had problems, but I’m sure we can get on top of it.”