Toyota Clinch First Pole of 2019/20 WEC Season

by Alice Holloway
Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway (left to right) celebrating pole position.

The rain held off for the FIA World Endurance Championship 4 Hours of Silverstone qualifying to see Toyota Gazoo Racing overcome their additional weight penalties and secure the first pole position of the season.

Off the bat, the #7 crew looked to be in the strongest position, with Mike Conway laying down a benchmark of a 1:36.038. He remained at the top of the order as he handed over to team mate Kamui Kobayashi.

The pair made it look easy, going out and setting one flyer each to lock in their pole position aggregated lap time of 1:36.015. Kobayashi set a sensational 1:35.992 that no one could get close to, happily gaining the #7 crew the additional pole position point ahead of tomorrow’s race.

“[I] left a bit on the table at turn 13 [in my lap] I think, but all in all was a decent lap and enough to secure pole.” Conway said after the chequered flag. “We weren’t sure what Rebellion were going to come up with. They’ve been looking good all weekend and they’re very strong through sector two and three. It’ll be close I think tomorrow.”

Rebellion Racing did show a good fight during qualifying today, but they didn’t have enough to upset Toyota’s one-two, carrying on their trend from last season. The gap between them and third-placed #3 was half a second, with the sister car half a second down on them.

Although Toyota may have taken the win in the pole battle, the closer race pace between the two manufacturers suggests that it will still be all to play for on track come tomorrow afternoon.

Toyota on track at Silverstone during WEC qualifying
Credit: Race Photography

It had looked like United Autosports were due to continue their clean sweep into qualifying, but the Dutch duo of Job van Uitert and Giedo van der Garde had a different plan. The average lap time of 1:40.948 gave them a seven-tenth buffer over the American outfit at the chequered flag. van Uitert’s 1:40.850 was a clear two tenths faster than any of the other LMP2 drivers could set (his closest competitor being his team mate with a 1:41.047).

There were only three tenths between second and third placed #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing, with Phil Hanson and Gabriel Aubry setting lap times within a one hundredth of each other. Reigning class champions Signatech Alpine start their defence from fifth on the grid tomorrow, just being beaten by the Cool Racing duo of Nicolas Lapierre and Antonin Borga for fourth.

AF Corse remained dominant in LM GTE Pro, locking out the front row ahead of tomorrow’s race. James Calado and Alessandro Pier-Guidi briefly felt the pressure from the sister car when Davide Rigon went faster than Calado by one hundredth of a second, but Pier-Guidi’s 1:54.019 was a clear four tenths faster than new-to-WEC-qualifying Miguel Molina, and gave them the advantage.

After a difficult morning, the Aston Martin Racing cars made a resurgence. Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin did enough to take third on the grid, but a deleted lap time due to exceeding track limits pushed the sister car down to fifth.

Gianmaria Bruni suffered a scare in the #91 Porsche GT Team after a puncture cause the front left wheel cover to blow off the car. Coming into Abbey, an unknown issue caused the car to pirouette off track, picking up the puncture. The damage was only revealed as Bruni headed into the braking zone for Stowe and the front wheel cover came off the car, taking out the wing mirror as it did. The incident pulled the red flag out for ten minutes whilst the debris was clear. Porsche took the chance to fix the car, losing no time out on track.

Bruni and Richard Lietz start P4 despite the incident, with the sister Porsche at the back of the class in sixth.

Damage on the Porsche 919 RSR during Silverstone qualifying.
Credit: Race Photography

Drivers Nicklas Nielsen and Ross Gunn put on the show for the first half of Am, laying down the benchmark with some stellar lap times. Nielsen led the way with a 1:55.054 before the driver swap, with Gunn just three-tenths off the leading lap time.

However, the remaining Pro drivers were in the second half of the session, shuffling the order as expected. Gunn’s time helped secure the new #98 Aston Martin line-up P3 on tomorrow’s grid, behind the #56 Team Proejct 1 Porsche and the pole-sitting #90 TF Sport.

After earlier engine issues that cause the car to stop out on track in final practice, the second #57 Team Project 1 car has been withdrawn from the race and did not take part in qualifying.

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