Front Row Lock Out for Toyota whilst Ferrari Challenge Porsche

by Alice Holloway
LMP1 Pole sitters, Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima

Toyota Gazoo Racing was unstoppable once again for the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji, locking out the front row. The #8 in the hands of Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima took pole position with an average lap time of 1:25.013.

This lap time put them around 0.8 seconds up on the sister car, reinforcing the statement that Kamui Kobayashi said on Friday, when he felt the Success Ballast gave the #7 car a 0.8 second deficit, rather than the 0.4 that was on paper. However, the gap between the two cars would have been closer had Kobayashi not lost his fastest lap time due to exceeding track limits.

His 1:25.125, with Jose Maria Lopez‘s 1:25.639, had put them four tenths off the #8, but once Kobayashi had this lap time deleted he was unable to go any faster than 1:25.968. This was partially due to a spin in the #6 Team LNT by Charlie Robertson which brought out the red flags with three minutes to go.

Rebellion Racing kept up their pace, ending best-of-the-rest in third. They were seven tenths up on the fastest #5 Team LNT. The #6 failed to set an aggregated lap time due to Robertson’s spin, meaning that Robertson, Michael Simpson and Guy Smith will start from the back of the grid in tomorrow’s race.

LMP2 Pole sitters Gabriel Aubry, Will Stevens and Ho-Pin Tung
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The advantage was with Nyck de Vries after the first run of LMP2 qualifying laps, with his 1:28.332 setting a benchmark for all the other LMP2 drivers to try and beat. Sadly, Frits van Eerd‘s second lap time for the car was around five seconds slower than the rapid time de Vries had set, dropping the car down to seventh in class.

Class glory went to the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car, and it was nearly a JOTA one-two as the #38 JOTA Sport was second in class when the red flag came out for the #6, but Filipe Albuquerque was a man on a mission when the session restarted. He managed to jump the #38 in the final three minutes, improving his lap time to a 1:29.984 and bringing the #22 Untied Autosports‘ aggregated time to 1:29.787. This was half a second off pole.

GTE Pro Pole sitters Gianmaria Brumi and Richard Lietz
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Porsche GT Team kept up their clean sweep, alike Toyota, at the top of the class, claiming GTE Pro pole position for the second round of the 2019/20 season. They left it to the wire, however, as Gianmaria Bruni‘s time was only good enough for third on the grid after the first drivers had been out.

Richard Lietz also looked like he couldn’t beat the time of AF Corse‘s James Calado and Alessandro Pier-Guidi when he first hit the track, so headed out for a second lap to see if he could find anymore time around the Fuji Speedway circuit. He made a staggering 0.6-second improvement and claimed pole by just 0.04 seconds.

It was three different manufacturers in the top three of Pro, showing that there is a similar pace across the board at the Japanese round. The Dane Train of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen rounded off the top three with their Aston Martin Racing #95. With Thiim’s 1:37.178 being the fastest lap time set by a Pro car in qualifying, the Aston Martin pair were only a tenth off of pole position. If race pace is as close as this tomorrow it could be anyone’s race.

Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina took fourth ahead of the second Aston Martin in the hands of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin. With the slowest lap time of the first runners from Kevin Estre and a spin from Michael Christensen causing damage to the rear of the car, their qualifying session end in disaster. They will start at the back of the GTE Pro grid tomorrow.

GTE Am Pole sitters Ben Keating, Felipe Fraga and Jeroen Bleekemolen, WEC 2019
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Although the #90 TF Sport looked to be the car to beat throughout practice, it was the #57 Team Project 1 that took Am glory and the additional pole position point. Felipe Fraga went out first for the team and set a lap time that had him third fastest in class. Following on from his team mate, Ben Keating pushed hard to find the extra lap time. Barely a tenth separated them from the chasing #90, who will start P2.

The Silverstone-winning #83 AF Corse rounded off the top three, 29-thousandths of a second off the TF Sport, with the #98 works Aston Martin fourth, missing out on a top three position by 0.067 seconds.

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