Ben Hanley has taken LMP2 pole position for the opening race of the 2017 European Le Mans Series. In the LMP3 field, #9 AT Racing clinched class pole from the pace-setters from the morning practice session United Autosports. Aston Martin dominated once again in LM GTE and took a competitive one-two to start the race tomorrow.
Qualifying took place in three ten-minute sessions with LM GTE taking to the track first. It was clear from the start of the first qualifying session that Aston Martin was going to be the car to beat. After having an odd final practice session, it was the #90 TF Sport that took pole ahead of the #99 Beechdean AMR. Nicki Thiim set a lap of 1:59.269, just out of reach of the sister Aston Martin V8 Vantage driven by Ross Gunn. Gunn finished 0.198 seconds off the lap time of Thiim but an impressive 1.325 seconds clear of third-placed Matthew Griffin.
The LM GTE field could not keep up with the Aston Martins as they disappeared into the distance, but the remainder of the field had a tight fight for positions. There were six-tenths between the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari and the #77 Proton Competition Porsche that lines up behind it. The #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari led home the #66 JMW Motorsport to finish off the LM GTE grid.
Denmark’s Mikkel Jensen took pole position in LMP3 for #9 AT Racing on their debut race in the LMP3 class. Sean Rayhall had been on provisional pole for #2 United Autosports but the quick lap from Jensen saw the American having to settle for second on the grid by 0.121 seconds. The second United Autosports Ligier lines up third, unable to close the four-tenths of a second gap to the leading pair.
LMP2 saw the most action of the qualifying session. Five minutes through the session, the #40 Graff, driven by Richard Bradley, brought out the red flag, stalling the session. The ORECA/Gibson went off track at Chapel Curve after what looked like a front right failure. The car snapped on Bradley, spinning off the track and getting stuck in the gravel trap.
At the same time, the #22 G-Drive Racing entrant also had a mysterious off. Due to the red flag delay, the team was able to get the #22 back to the garage and perform a quick check and repair on the car so that it was ready to get back out on track when the session restarted. Unfortunately for Bradley, there was nothing to be done for the #40. Although it did manage to get back to the pits on its own power, the session was ended for the team and the car finished 28th overall, at the back of the LMP3 grid.
After the restart it was Hanley who took pole position, putting in a lap time of 1:44.040. This gave him over two-tenths advantage on second-placed Filipe Albuquerque in the #32 United Autosports. The top three was rounded off by Enzo Guibbert who was 1.1 seconds off the pace in the #39 Graff.
The #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse did not have a very good qualifying session at all. The car failed to set a competitive lap time and ended up qualifying 32nd overall, meaning it will start within the LM GTE pack for tomorrow’s race. With only two laps set and a fastest time of 1:59.927 it is clear that there was an issue with the car.