As expected, today’s WEC qualifying session ended with a 1-2 for Toyota, ahead of tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Silverstone. Jose Maria Lopez, and Mike Conway set pole position in the #7 TS050 with an average lap time of 1:36.895 and a fastest lap of 1:36.769 set by Conway. It is the third consecutive pole position for Toyota and the fist pole for the #7 this season.
The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 shared by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso finished four tenths behind the pole sitting car (1:37.306).
“I didn’t get the best start, tried to be a bit greedy on the start of the lap and had a big moment coming in to the last corner so knew at that point I’d be down half a tenth or two, and then in turn four again had another moment so at that point knew I had to abort and go again,” Conway said. “Luckily the tyres were still there.
“Jose jumped in and did a mega lap as well which was pretty good given the used tyres we didn’t change for new. Really pleased with the extra point as well that all add up”
The first of the non hybrid cars was the #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 – AER driven by Mikhaeil Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and Jenson Button (1:38.932). The gap between the hybrid and the non-hybrid cars grew to two seconds. The other SMP Racing – the #17 BR Engineering BR1 – AER (1:39.070) driven by Stéphane Sarrazin and Egor Orudzhev completed the top four overall.
Behind, the two Rebellions, the #3 R-13 (1:39.247) followed by the #1 (1:39.613) will start fourth and fifth in the category.
In LMP2 meanwhile, the Jackie Chan DC Racing dominated the session and locked the front row in the category. Jazeman Jaafar, Weiron Tan and Nabil Jeffri set pole in the #37 Oreca 07 with an average time of 1:44.896. The sister car, the #38 shared by Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi, was less than three tenths behind the pole sitting car (1:45.083).
The championship-leading the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut driven by Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrao and Pierre Thiriet led the session momentarily and eventually took third place (1:46.370).
It was an incident packed session for the rest of the LMP2 contenders: Pastor Maldonado took the #31 Dragonspeed in the gravel trap at the beginning of the session. Approximately ten minutes later, Yosjiharu Mori in the #50 Larbre Competition Ligier JS P217 had contact at Becketts with the #29 Racing Team Nederland of Giedo Van Der Garde. Finally, five minutes before the chequered flag, Frits Van Eerd in the #29 went backwards into the gravel at Copse. This incident triggered a very short red flag period.
In GTE, Ford returned to form in the WEC with GTE-Pro pole position, Olivier Pla continuing Stefan Mucke’s early pace in the session to take the top spot for the second time this season.
Their #66 car’s combined average qualifying time of 1:55.727 held off the pair of Aston Martin Vantage AMR’s, which were showing much improved pace. Alex Lynn’s earlier stint in the #97 car was competitive from the green flag, Maxime Martin maintaining its pace to share the front row with a 1:55.805. The #95 Aston Martin of Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim will start third, qualifying three tenths behind.
The Fords had shown strength early on, sitting 1-2 at one point, but ultimately the #67 car of Priaulx and Tincknell will make up the second row in fourth, 1:56.204 their combined best.
Porsche’s fortunes were remarkable only for Gimmi Bruni’s early drama, sitting motionless in the #91 car’s pit until the car eventually engaged drive. The car never quite got into its stride, ending the session at the bottom of the GTE-Pro times. Michael Christensen showed fairly well in his stint, but Kevin Estre could only contribute enough to deliver fifth. The #71 Ferrari was the best of the AF Corse cars in sixth ahead of the BMW pair, the #82 and #81 M8’s seventh and eighth.
In GTE-Am, the Porsche entry was showing well. The Dempsey-Proton cars held steady at the top; the #77 911 RSR of Matt Campbell and Christian Ried the quicker of the crews, shadowed by the #88 sister car of Matteo Carolli and Gianluca Roda, interrupted by Salih Yoluc’s efforts in the TF Sport Aston Martin following Jonny Adam’s solid earlier stint.
But Jorg Bergmeister’s experience with a Porsche changed all that in the final minutes of the session. The factory driver muscled the #56 Team Project 1 911 RSR round in a 1:58.519; an average time of 1:59.001 with team mate Egidio Perfetti showing the potential the new season entry has worked towards through its team’s preparation. Demoting the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche to second, the TF Sport Aston Martin held on for third.