As expected, Toyota Gazoo Racing took a competitive pole position for the first round of the World Endurance Championship. G-Drive Racing took the honours in LMP2 with the pole sitter changing constantly until the last moments of the session. LM GTE Pro saw Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK continue the form they showed in free practice to take a comfortable class pole, whilst Aston Martin Racing was on top of LM GTE Am for qualifying.
The two twenty minute qualifying sessions passed by with little incident as the teams went out to set the fastest laps they could. The LM GTE cars took to the track first for their qualifying session, leaving the track nicely rubbered in for the LMP cars to fight for overall pole.
Ford looked strong from the outset, with Andy Priaulx taking provisional pole after the first drivers in each car had set a lap time and Harry Tincknell made it look easy setting a time that gave the #67 Ford pole position in class by eight-tenths of a second. It looked close for a while, with second-placed #71 AF Corse challenging for provisional for a while. The #95 Aston Martin Racing rounded off the top three in Pro with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorenson.
The first half of the Am qualifying belonged to the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE. Even after having a couple of their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits they had the fastest lap before the second driver’s participated in the session. Aston Martin had been in contention in the first half of the session with Pedro Lamy‘s time, but it was Paul Dalla Lana that managed to get the team back on top with the aggregated time of 1:59.562.
Porsche seemed to lack today when they had such strong pace during Friday’s practice sessions. Neither of the Pro cars made anywhere on the timing board, taking the last two spots in the Pro class for race start tomorrow. It was a bit of a better story in Am as the #77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 919 RSR ended third in class. However, the #77 was over a second slower than second-placed #61 Clearwater Ferrari and just under two seconds off the pole sitter’s pace. Porsche will have to study their data this evening to try and work out why their GT cars were so far off the pace that they dominated yesterday.
The closest fought class was LMP2. The leader in class was constantly changing as drivers set lap times within a couple of tenths of each other. At the halfway point, it was #28 TDS Racing on provisional pole with a 1:43.752 as the lap time to beat.
When the second drivers joined the fray, the field was once again jumbled up. An excellent combined lap time from Alex Lynn and Pierre Thiriet saw them with an average of 1:44.387 and the first LMP2 pole position of the 2017 season. Lining up behind the #26 G-Drive is last year’s class champions #36 Signatech Alpine for the race tomorrow, with #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing completing the top three.
The overall pole position was, unsurprisingly, taken by Toyota with the #7 car. It was an impressive showing from the #7 crew as Kamui Kobayashi took the fastest lap of the entire weekend with a 1:36.793. Mike Conway‘s job was made very easy with such a fast lap time set by his team-mate. There was a brief scare for the team when Conway’s first time was deleted due to exceeding track limits at Copse Corner but the Brit was able to set another lap before the chequered flag.
Porsche ended 1.3 seconds off the pace of the #7 Toyota with their faster car, the #1. There seemed to be no chance for the German team to bring down that gap and both LMP1 cars were returned to the pits around three minutes before the end of the session. Running the low downforce aero kit this weekend seems to have affected the Porsche’s fast lap times significantly. However, the long stint lap times of both Toyota and Porsche seem to average around the same pace, so there will hopefully be a close on track battle tomorrow for the 6 Hours of Silverstone.