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ELMS: Silverstone, Qualifying Report

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Harry Tincknell steered Jota Sport’s Zytek Z11SN Nissan to pole position in his series debut for the first round of the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone, after a stellar lap of 1:48.912. While in the two GT classes, SMP Racing dominated. Andrea Bertolini and Luca Persiani got the #72 and #71 on pole in the GTE and GTC classes respectively.

LMP2 Qualifying began in perfect conditions with the rapid Tom Kimber-Smith headed the early running during the twenty minute session. The Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan had a completely clear track and set a 1m49.585s lap.

Most cars opted for two lap runs with both Michelins and Dunlops but a third was possible but it was all dependent on how they were treated early doors. Drivers and teams were mindful that they also have to start on the quali rubber they finished on as well.

The third lap was possible for Kimber-Smith as he improved to a 1m48.950s but as track conditions improved ever so slightly, this fine effort was bumped to 4th by the chequered flag.

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Harry Tincknell raised the bar significantly after 22mins of the session with a scorching 1m47.702s that took a clear and conclusive pole position. He won here in F3 and he is continuing his excellent relationship with the track at his endurance racing debut in the Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan.

The Sidmouth resident, who is also an extremely capable darts player – (thanks for that nugget of information Marcus Simmons), arrowed his way around the 3.66mile Silverstone track to put a clear 1.1 seconds between the Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan and the rest of the chasing pack.

“I’m happy with that,” understated the 22 year old. “The car was fantastic on that lap and the tyres performed as we expected. The gap is a welcome surprise but the focus of course is on the race this afternoon but it is a great platform for us to work from.”

The Jotas Sport team were visibly delighted with their young guns eye-catching performance.

Karun Chandhok grabbed third position just after Tincknell set the pole time, with a 1m48.912s lap. The Brackley resident was fully lit at the Becketts/Maggotts complex in the Murphy Prototype Oreca-Nissan and ended just one hundredth of a second away from the front row.

Lining up alongside the Jota Zytek-Nissan on the front row will be the Race Performance Oreca-Nissan. A best time of 1m48.854s was set by Franck Mailleux, who has more than made up for his early indiscretion at Becketts in yesterday’s first Free Practice session. A just reward for the Swiss team’s hard work getting the #34 Oreca ready after the substantial Ricard testing accident three weeks ago.

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Incidents were minimal with just a few off-line, brake locking incidents down at Vale and Aintree in particular. One surprising casualty early on was Christian Klien who compromised his and Newblood by Morand’s crack at pole by rotating the turquoise car and damaging the left rear bodywork of the Morgan-Judd. Ironically it was the very same area of the car that took the brunt of yesterday’s incident with the #95 AF Corse GTC car.

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Klien re-joined after a quick engine-cover change and salvaged P6 on a 1m49.715s lap. The Austrian will be angry with himself so the rest be warned in the race this afternoon!

The Thiriet by TDS Racing Morgan-Nissan starts in 5th place with Tristan Gommendy peaking at 1m49.057s. Joined by Ludo Badey and Pierre Thiriet, this entry will be stealthily fast during the four hours this afternoon.

Reigning champions – Signatech Alpine start 7th after struggling to find outright pace all weekend, while the Larbre Morgan-Judd is 9th, Gustavo Yacaman doing a fine job after a late arrival on Friday morning for his first visit to Silverstone.

In the GT session, all 27 cars managed to set a time in what turned out to be a session dominated by Ferrari 458s.

In GTE there was a lot of shuffling early as the drivers tried to get some heat in their tyres on the cool Silverstone circuit.

Kessel Racing set the pace in the first 5 minutes of the session with Andrea Piccini in the #80 setting a 1:59.843 and teammate Matteo Cressoni in the #81 showing up second on the screens, but the times would quickly start falling.

At the halfway mark Andrea Bertolini in the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari set the quickest time which would turn out to be good enough for pole: a 1:57.970.

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“I am really happy and proud for the team,” said Bertolini. “They are so good, really sharp. The lap was nice and relaxed for me. The tyres felt nice and I had just one or two car in front of me. For sure the race will be tougher but we will hope to do the maximum for the best possible finish for SMP and Ferrari.”

Matt Griffin was also quick, putting his #55 AF Corse Ferrari second in the GTE class just  over a second back. Third was Soheli Ayari for Sofrev ASP, managing a 1:59.166. And that is how it would stay as the top six dived into the pits as the session began to come to a close.

Meanwhile in GTC Alessandro Pier Guidi was topping the timing screens for Team Ukraine, getting his 458 up to 7th in the overall GT standings. The AF Corse and SMP entries were close behind.

But it would soon change up front. As Pier Guidi dived into the pits to park the Ukraine 458, Luca Persiani topped Pier Guidi’s time and put SMP on top with a 2:00.032; just two tenths quicker, with 3 minutes to go in the session.

“The peak [of the tyres] was on the second lap, but I made a mistake and ran wide so I then had to cool the tyres and go again. It worked, pheww for me!” said Persiani.

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Join us for live coverage on Twitter @dscracelive and catch up on hourly updates here from 14.30bst this afternoon.

Sam Smith & Stephen Kilbey