On a dry track in the emerging sun the FIA World Endurance Championship commenced its 20-minute Qualifying session with the GTE session. With 10-minutes of the session complete Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford GT sets a blistering single lap of 1:55.858 a full clear second faster than the second placed car. Harry Tincknell took over from Andy, and continued to blow the field away with a qualifying average (1:56.202) just over 8-tenths faster than second in -Pro category #71 Ferrari 488 GTE of Davide Rigon & Sam Bird. Third was the #95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen & Richie Stanaway.
The GTE-Am category pole was taken by those hardy perennials from Aston Martin #98 of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Matthais Lauda. The #54 Silver Ferrari 488 from Spirit of the Race took second and the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche RSR concluding the variety in third.
In the LMP2 category, or the battles of the Orecas (and their derivatives), saw the orange G-Drive #26 car take pole pursued by the blue #36 Signatech-Alpine Matmut and in third place the ‘new mighty’ #38 of Jackie Chan DC Racing car (still ‘spannered’ by JotaSport) of Ho-Pin Tung, Thomas Laurent and the recently liberated(!) Oliver Jarvis.
LMP1 category tuned out as we had expected the Toyota TS050 Hybrids led the way in numeric order, although a late deletion of lap for exceeding track limits almost denied Mike Conway pole in the #7. The Porsche 919 Hybrids followed suit (numeric orderwise) in third and fourth, Nick Tandy local to this borough showing excellent pace and local knowledge.
The LMP1 grid positions were not a surprise as the Toyotas ran in a higher downforce configuration, whilst Porsche are utilising a Le Mans specification in preparation for Le Mans. A change of config. is not allowed, although by introducing a third car for Spa, Toyota will be able to test its slippery spec.
To finish on a disappointing note, whilst the drivers of the ByKolles #4 are to be commended for their pace and consistency, it certainly does not appear to be able to achieve the qualifying pace of the new LMP2s. Hopefully the race will lead to a better result.
We look forward to the race tomorrow as ever.