The old adage 'there's no place like home' certainly rang true for the Vitaphone team at Oschersleben after its two Maserati MC12s secured a front row lock-out for the latest round of the FIA GT Championship at the teams home circuit.

Michael Bartels powered the #9 car to the quickest time of the day during the opening qualifying session with a best lap of 1min 22.991secs good enough to narrowly edge out the sister car driven by Fabio Babini.

"Both qualifying sessions were very positive, they were like a dream," Bartels said. "We've continued here as we finished at Spa, despite the penalty weight. From the first lap yesterday, the car has been very competitive. We have a lot of ballast on the car, so we've had to work on the set-up to compensate, and that gave us a good base for today.

"It's great to have a Vitaphone front row as it's our home race as a team and for us as a German driver pairing. Also it's important to start from pole as it's quite a narrow track, making it difficult to overtake - hopefully this is the first step for a successful weekend."

Babini was just 0.081secs behind Bartels in the #10 MC12 while the GLPK Carsport Corvette will aim to put the disappointment of disqualification from the Spa 24 Hours to one side from the second row of the grid after Mike Hezemans set the third quickest time.

"Qualifying was close, but not close enough!" he said. "I made a little mistake, and the car snapped away in the first sector. In a perfect world, I could have been a couple of tenths faster, and could be on pole - but this is not a perfect world!

"I am doing all the running this weekend as Bert [Longin] and Anthony [Kumpen] are also racing in the 24 hours of Zolder. Hopefully, one of them will be back tomorrow as I can not do the whole race on my own. We will not be able to catch the Maseratis even though our car is better on braking and on the kerbs, and I have 20kg while the pole Maserati has 90kg. They just have better acceleration out of the corners."

Having topped the times early in the quicker first qualifying session, the GPC Ferrari of Jean-Denis Delatraz and Andrea Piccini had to settle for fourth, with the leading JMB Maserati and the first of the two Konrad Saleens completing the top six.

In GT2/G2, Tim Sugden gave the GruppeM team another pole position with the 14th fastest time overall in the Porsche 996 GT3 RSR, the Brit beating team-mate Mike Rockenfeller to the class pole.

"Qualifying was good - it always is when you are on pole!" Sugden said. "We had no problems here, and we wanted to be quick; we've had so much bad luck in the last few races. We made one or two little changes, we changed the rear bar a little bit and then I went out and had a clear lap."

Behind the two GruppeM cars, the G2 class Balfe Motorsport Mosler was again best of the rest, running untroubled during qualifying on the way to 17th overall.

"Our qualifying was fine - no dramas," Shaun Balfe said. "Jamie [Derbyshire] and I are both learning the track, and Jamie learnt it incredibly quickly. We think we've got good race pace for tomorrow, and the car is handling well. Yesterday, I had the privilege to follow one of the GruppeM Porsche for a couple of laps, and that was enough to realise that it just wasn't going to happen for us this weekend - they are incredibly quick through the tighter corners.

"It's going to be a tough race - we will have to be careful tomorrow. This will be our last FIA GT race for this season, so we will try to make the best out of it."

 

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