Maiden Pole for Alpine In Nail-Biting Qualifying

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Pole sitter, #36 Apline Elf Matmut at the 8 Hours of Portimao
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Alpine Elf Matmut have taken their first FIA World Endurance Championship pole position at the 8 Hours of Portimao after a nail-bitingly close fight against the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercars. This is the first time an LMP1 car has outqualified the new Hypercar.

In what had been promised a tight fight between the Hypercars and the LMP2s for overall pole position turned into a one-way fight as the Hypercars found the pace they had been missing. Nine tenths stretched between the top three and the LMP2 cars, laying ruin to all the predictions through practice.

Toyota were quick out of the gates, with Mike Conway chasing down Matthieu Vaxiviere for the top spot. Vaxiviere laid down the initial benchmark with Conway a couple of tenths off his pace. Brendon Hartley in the sister Toyota seemed to be struggling to find his grove with his first lap time placing him down in fifth, but it was the second attempts that mixed up the top three.

Hartley shot up the time board with a 1:30.458, claiming provisional pole with the clock ticking down. Vaxiviere had not been intending a second run, but seeing Hartley climb drastically up the timing board and Conway out for his second lap, the Alpine took to the track. Conway failed to improve, staying third with his 1:30.540, but Vaxiviere clinched pole by 0.094s.

The final Hypercar of Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus in the hands of Richard Westbrook managed to make an improvement on his second run, but with a 1:32.167 he was 1.8s off the pace of the Hypercar class and will start tomorrow’s race 11th overall mixed in with the LMP2 field.

It was a battle of the JOTAs for LMP2 pole, with Tom Blomqvist beating out Antonio Felix Da Costa due to the Portuguese driver not being able to improve during his second run. Blomqvist found a couple of tenths on his second lap to take pole with a 1:31.210. Job van Uitert was third in the Racing Team Nederland car, taking pole for the Pro/Am LMP2 class.

Paul di Resta had been looking to continue his strong performance from practice, but a track limits violation saw his first lap time deleted. He managed to set a 1:31.598 on his second attempt, taking fourth ahead of Robin Frijns in the #31 Team WRT.

GTE pole sitters, #92 Porsche GT Team (left: Michael Christensen, middle: Kevin Estre, right: Neel Jani)
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

It the battle of Porsche versus Ferrari, it was Porsche who came out on top. Kevin Estre made it two poles in a row putting the #92 in GTE pole position. The Frenchman set a 1:37.986 to put him three tenths clear of second-placed James Calado in the #51 AF Corse. The class qualified Porsche, Ferrari, Porsche, Ferrari as Gianmaria Bruni outpaced Daniel Serra to take third in class.

Dempsey-Proton Racing and Team Project 1 have been seen at the front of the Am class throughout practice sessions, so it only seemed fitting that they be the two to battle it out for pole position. The front spot swapped hands constantly throughout the ten minute qualifying session, but as the chequered flag fell it was Matteo Cairoli ahead of Matt Campbell for a Porsche one-two. Cetilar Racing completed the Am top three.

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The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional, Alice is a freelance digital communications manager, video editor and graphic designer at OrbitSphere. She also runs and manages her own YouTube channel - Circuit The World - with videos on gaming, travel, motorsports and reviews.
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