Toyota Gazoo Racing went for a different strategy in qualifying, holding the cars in the garage for the first five minutes of the session. This put them out of sync with the rest of the grid and was their tactical decision to try and get some clean track to set a good lap time. It is a risk, but one that paid off for the #7 team as Mike Conway set a staggering 1:39.517; the first sub 1m40s lap that had been set all weekend. Porsche LMP1 Team tried but even with their two lap average to Conway’s one lap the gap was around three tenths.
It was once Jose Maria Lopez had set his lap time, giving the Toyota a 1:39.646, that the Porsche duo in the #1 car – Nick Tandy and Neel Jani – decided to put on a third set of tyres and try to challenge for pole. Jani’s lap time was astounding as so gave Porsche the confidence that if Tandy could improve by a few tenths pole could be theirs. A clean lap from the Brit saw Porsche claim pole position for their final WEC LMP1 outing.
Glory went to Signatech Alpine for the last race of the season. A great lap from Andre Negrao put the car in a position where the duo of Thomas Laurent and Ho Pin Tung had no answer and were not able to close the four-tenth gap. Pushing hard, the #26 G-Drive Racing claimed third place after a mixed few days of practice. It looks to be a tough fight at the front for tomorrow’s race, with the pace extremely close.
It did not go the way for the LMP2 Trophy leading Vaillante Rebellion who will have to settle for a P6 start on the grid tomorrow. It is all to fight for as the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car starts second on the grid. It seemed that both Rebellion cars had an issue in qualifying as David Heinemeier Hansson struggled to stay with in the track limits and keep a lap time. He managed to in the end but could only place the #13 eighth. after such a strong start to the weekend it’s not what the team expected today.
AF Corse had the pace advantage in the evening’s qualifying session. Davide Rigon put the #71 on provisional pole as the first driver out, managing to out-pace a rapid Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK. Although the second drivers tried, there was not a lot of position changes in the class. Jonny Adam remained the brilliant form that he;s been showing all weekend to demote Priaulx and Harry Tincknell to third, claiming a front row start for tomorrow’s race.
In terms of the championship battle, Bird and Rigon did the sister Corse a favour by preventing either the #67 Ford or the #91 Porsche GT Team cars from gaining any points on the #71. However, the #71 qualified fourth, with the #67 team ahead of them. They currently have the advantage over the other two championship contending cars, being further up the grid than the other two. Rigon also put himself a point closer to the championship battle that he is still mathematically a part of. It makes his slim chance of taking the driver’s title a little wider as they head into the final race of the season.
It was a battle between #98 Aston Martin Racing and #61 Clearwater Racing as the five Am cars took to qualifying. The #86 Gulf Racing car did not partake in qualifying as the damage to it was too severe from the fire earlier. It will start from the back in tomorrow’s race.
Paul Dalla Lana put in a brilliant lap that saw the #98 claim another point in it’s advantage over the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. Now 11 points ahead, so long as the #98 team can finish ahead of the #77 they will finally take the championship they have been so close to claiming for the last three years. The Clearwater Ferrari splits the two championship contenders for second. It still stands a mathematical chance of taking the Am title tomorrow evening but would need both the #98 and #77 to not finish if it were to exploit that chance.