It appears that the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 success ballast is working as intended, as all three non-hybrid LMP1 cars qualified ahead of the two Toyota Gazoo Racing entries for the 2019 4 Hours of Shanghai. A tighter battle in GTE Pro saw Porsche GT Team secure class pole position by just 0.018s.
Toyota had expressed concerns about their competitive pace due to the success ballast ahead of the Chinese event, and even though their pace looked strong in second practice yesterday, the 2.7s time reduction per lap really hindered the Japanese team in qualifying.
Finishing with their fastest car 1.3 seconds off the pace of the pole sitter meant that both Toyotas will start at the back of the LMP1 grid, the lowest either car has started since the start of the Super Season last year.
For what became a battle of the non-hybrids for pole position, the advantage never fell from Rebellion Racing‘s hands as Gustavo Menezes and Bruno Senna drove to the front spot on the grid with an average of 1:45.778. The Rebellion was in a class of its own, leading the field by 1.2 seconds.
The pace of the Team LNT cars was good, but they only held on to second and third by a tenth of a second over the Toyota duo. This could mean that the Japanese team find themselves in position to race for a podium against the Ginetta cars tomorrow if their race pace differences are similar. The #6 Team LNT car in the hands of Charlie Robertson and Mike Simpson claimed the second spot on the front row.
Retaining their dominant pace, the Cool Racing duo of Nicolas Lapierre and Antonin Borga secured the team pole position in LMP2 with a cumulated lap time of 1:48.649. However, they had to fight for it, as the Jackie Chan DC Racing duo pushed them until the chequered flag, finishing just a tenth down on the cumulative pole position lap time.
Phil Hanson and Filipe Alburquerque put the United Autosports entry third on the grid, beating out the JOTA #37 and High Class Racing #33 to round out the top three. The top five were covered by just over a second at the fall of the chequered flag, meaning it could be anyone’s race tomorrow. The pace they have shown throughout the weekend, however, puts the advantage in Cool Racing’s hands.
It was one of the closest qualifying sessions in GTE Pro, with the entire field covered by just six tenths of a second. Reigning class champions Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen led the way with a 1:59.579, but the pressure was immense from the duo of Aston Martin Racing cars, who filled out the top three.
Ending with the top three covered by two thousandths of a second, the race is lined up to be a close one tomorrow. The Aston Martin of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin has finished twice on the podium, but has yet to secure victory this season, and it is certain the duo will be pushing hard from third on the grid tomorrow to change that statistic.
The AF Corse pair followed behind the British outfit, with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi fourth on the grid, just a second off the pole sitters. The sister car was a further three tenths back, taking fifth.
In complete opposition to the sister car, the #91 Porsche of Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni sat at the back of the GTE Pro field with a 2:00.224.
GTE Am saw another Porsche take pole position with Matteo Cairoli and Egidio Perfetti putting the Team Project 1 first with a 2:00.824. They led #98 Aston Martin Racing and #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing across the line to complete the top three. All three cars were covered by eight tenths of a second.
It is interesting to note that the GTE Am pole position time was only six tenths off of the slowest GTE Pro time.