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ELMS: Estoril, Qualifying Report

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Harry Tincknell scorched to another pole position for Jota Sport at Estoril this morning. It ensured a fourth pole of the season for the white Zytek-Nissan but more importantly it also secured a championship point which reduces their deficit from Signatech Alpine to just nine points.

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Like Silverstone and Red Bull Ring, Tincknell was again in a different class to the opposition and his 1m29.497s lap was a full 0.7s ahead of his nearest rival – Tristan Gommendy in the Thiriet by TDS Ligier-Nissan.

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Tincknell though had a nervous six minute wait though, after he and his team elected not to continue after a brief red flag punctuated the twenty minute session.

“We were comfortable that we had got the best from our tyres,” said Tincknell afterwards. “The only slight concern was that there was a slight damp patch at the final corner and it was drying quickly. We were confident all through the session though because we knew from our work in free practice yesterday that we would be quick.”

“We are under no illusions it is going to be a really hard race but so far so good. We are hoping that Filipe can open a decent gap at the start and then we will just see where we are after that. I am sure there will be a lot of twists and turns.”

Team Jota’s rivals for the 2014 European Le Mans Series silverware, Signatech Alpine, start in third position behind Jota Sport and TDS by Thiriet. Nelson Panciatici improved his best time twice in the final laps but not by enough to join Jota on the front row. If the positions were to stay as they are now then Jota would take the title by a single point!

‘Pipo’ Derani set a good time in the Murphy Prototypes Oreca-Nissan to join Signatech on the second row of the grid. The other two (mathematically at least) potential champions in LMP2 – New Blood by Morand Racing and Race Performance will start fifth and eighth respectively. Franck Mailleux recovered from a final corner rotation which brought out the red flag after 14mins of running in the session.

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Taking a first LMGTE pole of the season for Gulf Racing UK and Aston Martin was Stuart Hall. The Brit set pole at 1m37.269s, beating his earlier quickest lap of 1m37.347s to eclipse Daniel Zampieri’s 1m37.365 in the JMW Ferrari 458 Italia.

It was a fine job by Hall and the Gulf UK team who honoured Hall’s 30th birthday yesterday with a tasty cake! He Aston Martin looked truly hooked up, especially through the final triple apex right hand corner and the committed Hall put the #85 car in the best position possible for the start of the final round of the series. Daniel Brown is set to start the race this afternoon.

“We have the same BoP as we had at Red Bull Ring and we were quick there,” said Hall. “I think there are a number of factors as to why the Aston Martin is quick here and the BoP is one of them. We won’t be thinking about those that are fighting for the title. We will be focused 100% on our own race and aiming to finish the season off on a big high.”

Daniel Zampieiri celebrated his return to the JMW Ferrari team with a fine lap in the Jim McWhirter run squad. The team are chasing the runners-up position in LMGTE points table and it was a good start for the team which also features George Richardson and Daniel McKenzie.

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Matt Griffin claimed a solid third position, one place ahead of direct title rivals #73 SMP Racing and a satisfying place to control a run to the championship. A minimum of an eighth place finish would be good enough for the #55 AF Corse crew of Griffin and Cameron, even if Bertolini, Shaitar and Zlobin were to win.

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In the GTC class there was a third pole position of the season for the #71 SMP Racing, confirmed by the excellent Luca Persiani. The Italian, who shares with Kiril Ladygin and Aleksey Basov was a tenth of a second ahead of the #98 ART McLaren, driven by Kevin Korjus. It was a major boost for the ART team after a tough season to date.

“I was a little nervous because we stopped after my quick lap and had a long wait,” said Persiani. “They were coming close, getting faster and faster. With three different makes of car in the top three I think it is very nice for the show. For this afternoon we still have a small chance at the championship but if we need to help the #73 car then we will. We will do what is best for SMP Racing.”

Third in GTC and making it three manufacturers in the top three positions was the #75 Prospeed Porsche GT3 R. Maxime Soulet had set the outright pace early in the session but third was a season best for the Belgian team.

BMW Sport Trophy Marc VDS’ Bas Leinders had also been heading the times early doors but the BMW Z4 GT3 eventually fell back to fourth in class.

The race begins at 13.30 cet/uk time this afternoon. The twists and turns that Tincknell mentioned are likely to be a masterpiece of understatement during the four hours. Many lips are being licked here at Estoril as fascinating title stories are sure to mix with another great ELMS motor race.

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Sam Smith