Text & Images: Rick Kiewiet
Toyota answered the question whether or not the competition could profit from the dropped fuel-flow limitations for non-hybrids. The answer was: no. Qualifying records in all four categories were broken, showing that the low temperatures (8 celsius today, a mere 5 tomorrow...) have more effect on engine performance than grip levels. In WEC, the two fastest drivers' times of one car are combined to one qualifying time.
The no. 7 TS050 took pole by the hands of Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi. This hardly came as a surprise as they were fastest and second fastest in FP 3 as well, earlier on the day. Buemi and Nakajima in the no. 8 sister car put in a second best time, slightly less than 5 tenths behind. Orudzhev and Sirotkin set the no. 17 SMP Racing car on p3, remarkably within a second from pole, Orudzhev even being faster than Nakajima in no. 8 Toyota. The top-3 was almost a second clear of the rest of the field, led by the no. 3 Rebellion car.
Last years' winners G-Drive racing took pole in the LMP2 class, where Jean-Eric Vergne almost broke the 'magical' 2.00.00 barrier, missed by only 0.003s. Debutant Dutchman Job van Uitert managed a great laptime as well, combining to a qualification time over 5 tenths quicker than the rest, and quicker than any LMP2 entry ever. The top 3 further consisted of only Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca's, the no. 38 car of Tung, Aubry and Richelmi 3 tenths quicker than Heinemeier-Hansson, King and Will Stevens in the no. 37. The championship leading no. 36 Alpine didn't get further than 5th place on the grid.
Qualy in GT Pro was extremely close. A Ford, an Aston Martin and a BMW went for it, Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx putting in the fastest combined time in their no. 67 Ford GT and start from Pole. Only 0.067s behind was the no. 97 Aston Martin of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin, in turn followed at 0.025s by the BMW M8 GTE of Augusto Farfus and Antonio Felix da Costa. Fun fact: if only the fastest lap of one car would count, the top-3 would be exactly the other way around: the no. 82 would be on Pole, followed by the Aston and the Ford. The sister cars of the top-3 ended at a respectable distance, followed by the two Porsche's and the two Ferrari's. Still, all 10 cars were within 1.3 seconds from each other.
A first in the GT Am class as the no. 90 TF Sport Aston Martin, from the same team also active in our Britsh GT championship, took its first Pole in the WEC today. An amazing lap by Charlie Eastwood, who drove his first WEC qualifying today, did the trick. Matteo Cairoli in the no. 88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche drove the fastest lap overall in class, but had to settle for second. The top-3 was completed by the championship leading Project 1 racing Porsche.
Full results are found here.