DragonSpeed claimed pole position for the second round of the European Le Mans Series in a tense qualifying session at Imola.
The American outfit secured its first-ever championship pole when Nicolas Lapierre produced a 1:33.780s lap halfway through the 10 minute shootout. The Frenchman will share the #21 Oreca 05-Nissan with Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman in Sunday’s four hour race.
Lapierre led from the start, but was under constant pressure from the 13 other LMP2 cars behind.
Thiriet by TDS Racing’s Mathias Beche was on course to beat the DragonSpeed car, but a tangle with the Race Performance Oreca of James Winslow nullified his final flying lap.
Nevertheless, Beche was still able to qualify second quickest thanks to a 1:33.815 time set earlier in the session.
Third on the grid will be the Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JSP2 driven by Paul-Loup Chatin, who led the two free practice sessions but just missed out in qualifying. The French driver finished 0.035 seconds behind Lapierre, and will share the second row with Krohn Racing’s Olivier Pla.
Rounding out the top five was the G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S-Nissan of Giedo van der Garde, who pushed hard but could not find a way past the stronger closed-cockpit prototypes. Van der Garde’s 1:34.024s lap was still enough to put him ahead of the Eurasia Motorsport Oreca 05 driven by Tristan Gommendy, who set a time of 1:34.070s.
Two other cars came within a second of the pole time; these were the Greaves Motorsport and So24! by Lombard Racing entered Ligier JSP2s.
United Autosports took pole position for the first time in the LMP3 category after Wayne Boyd paced the 20-strong field of Ligier JSP3-Nissans.
Boyd’s 1:39.256s lap held out as the quickest despite a late challenge from Eurointernational driver Giorgio Mondini.
The Italian managed to split the two United Autosports cars with a 1:39.401s marker, but that wasn’t enough to disrupt Boyd at the top of the order.
Co-championship leader Alex Brundle qualified third after Mondini interrupted the provisional front-row lockout, finishing 0.367 seconds off the pole time.
Fourth on the grid will be the #10 Graff entry, after Sean Rayhall breached the top five with a late 1:39.934s lap, while Dino Lunardi qualified fifth for Duqueine Engineering.
Porsche stole Ferrari’s thunder in the LMGTE category as factory driver Wolf Henzler snatched pole position from Andrea Bertolini.
Bertolini, driving the JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia, led the two free practice sessions but could not depose the Proton Competition man in qualifying.
Henzler’s 1:41.269s time was enough to edge out Bertolini by just 0.041 seconds.
Third on the LMGTE grid for Sunday’s race will be the second Proton-entered Porsche 911 RSR of Klaus Bachler, who was 0.087 seconds short of confirming a front row lockout for the German team.
Ferraris reserve the next three places on the grid, with AT Racing ahead of the two AF Corse entries. Aston Martin Racing completes the class grid with the Beechdean-liveried #99 Vantage.
The #60 Formula Racing Ferrari 458 Italia did not take part in LMGTE qualifying after a practice crash on Saturday morning. The team confirmed that driver Christina Nielsen escaped without injury, but the car was damaged beyond repair for Sunday’s race.
Round two of the 2016 European Le Mans Series gets underway tomorrow (May 15) at 14:00 local time.