Lopez Grabs Toyota Pole Despite Mistake

3 Mins read
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing on track
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Continuing the form he has been showing for the past two days, Jose Maria Lopez led Toyota Gazoo Racing to a front row lockout at the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Monza.

Going into the session with a lot of confidence, Lopez started the ten minute qualifying session going straight on at the first chicane and voiding his first lap. It had looked like the #8 car might pick up the advantage, but two laps later Lopez was back to displaying the form he had shown during practice. Brendon Hartley had been the benchmark before Lopez set his time, but the 1:35.889 put the Argentinian six tenths up on the New Zealander. A second attempt brought Hartley 0.062s off the Lopez lap time, but it wasn’t quite enough to remove the #7 from the top stop it has been occupying all weekend.

As the Toyotas fought on the front row, it was Nicolas Lapierre who took third on the grid, ahead of the two Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus entries. Although they had been on similar pace during practice, the Alpine Elf Matmut disappeared down the road come qualifying, leaving the American cars in its wake. Only two tenths off the Toyotas, the Alpine had half a second advantage on fourth-placed #708, 2.2s on the sister Glickenhaus. However, this was not so much down to a pace deficit, but the bad timing of a red flag.

Stoffel Vandoorne was on a hot lap, looking to replicate his performance from FP3, when he got it wrong going through the second Lesmo and ended up in the tyre barrier. He walked away from the incident unscathed, but the red flag was pulled out, catching Richard Westbrook (#709) in the middle of a flying lap. The Brit did not return to the track after the red flag, leaving him fifth overall and in class, but a long way down on lap time, as he never had a second lap run.

Showing form they’ve been hinting at since the start of the season, Charles Milesi gave Team WRT their maiden WEC pole position. In their third race operating as an LMP2 full season WEC entry, this is an impressive feat. His 1:38.323 was set ahead of the red flag, but with the flag coming so late in the session it was going to be difficult for anyone to get out and try to improve. Filipe Alberquerque did try in the #22 United Autosport, but he didn’t have enough to claim the top of the LMP2 class. Not for lack of trying, however, as Alberquerque was only three hundredths of a second off of Milesi’s time.

Ben Hanley took third for DragonSpeed USA on tomorrow’s starting grid, whilst Nyck De Vries was fourth in the Racing Team Nederland (pole for the Pro/Am entries).

#92 Porsche GT Team 6 Hours of Monza pole sitters (left: Kevin Estre, right: Neel Jani)
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Kevin Estre made it a hattrick of GTE poles this season, taking his fourth consecutive pole position ahead of the 6 Hours of Monza. Doing as Lopez did, his first lap was aborted due to going straight on at the first chicane, but his second lap time firmly placed him on provisional pole. The 1:45.412 knocked Alessandro Pier Guidi off of provisional GTE pole and denied Ferrari a home pole position. Second runs didn’t bring improvements, keeping Estre on top.

Porsche managed to break Ferrari’s two-three finishing positions to split the Ferrari duo as Gianmaria Bruni took third on the GTE Pro starting line up. With a Porsche, Ferrari, Porsche, Ferrari starting order, the tactics in tomorrow’s race could get interesting as Ferrari will be chasing their first home win.

The battle for GTE AM pole continued after the chequered flag as both Ben Keating in the TF Sport Aston Martin and Francois Perrodo in the AF Corse were still on their final flying laps when the flag fell. Keating had the advantage and held onto it throughout the lap, taking pole with a 1:47.272, three tenths up on Perrodo to take Aston Martin’s first pole of the season. Ceitlar Racing will line up third tomorrow on the GTE Am grid.

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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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