Nicolas Lapierre continued to set the pace at Paul Ricard this afternoon, the Frenchman setting a 1:52.761 to take Pole Position ahead of tomorrow’s 4 Hours of Le Castellet for DragonSpeed, which ended up with a 1-2 atop the times.
“It’s great for me as a French driver to be on top here,” Lapierre said. “It was a hard qualification, it was close and the track was a lot faster than this morning. So glad for the team to have a 1-2 here.”
Second, behind Lapierre in the #21 10Star 07 Gibson, was fellow Frenchman and teammate Léo Roussel in the #22 G-Drive Racing by DragonSpeed ORECA. Roussel initially set a time good enough for third on the grid, before a late improvement to make it a front row lockout for the American team and ORECA with a 1:52.906.
The best of the rest was the #39 GRAFF ORECA, after Enzo Guibbert set a 1:53.051 to go third.
Behind, the first of the Dallara’s came in fourth. SMP Racing’s P217 once again proved to be the fastest of the four entered in the series, with Matevos Isaakyan managing a 1:53.194 to put the Russian squad within half a second of Pole.
Ligier’s highest placed JS P217 was from United Autosports. The Anglo-American crew will line up fifth, a 1:53.530 was the best Filipe Albuquerque in the championship-challenging car could manage.
Ross Kaiser was the star of the show in LMP3, the British driver setting a late 2:02.186 to take Pole Position for 360 Racing in its #6 Ligier. It pushed down the RLR MSport Ligier of Alex Kapadia to second, which held onto provisional Pole after a 2:02.471 from Kapadia. The time wasn’t quite good enough, and in the final minute, Kaiser threw down the gauntlet, rising from third to first on the screens.
“Really pleased with that, it was a first Pole for us since Silverstone in the wet last year, so we’ve waited a long time,” a delighted Kaiser said. “The last two rounds haven’t gone our way, sop to stick it on the front row has made me over the moon.”
Fourth place, after a 2:02.817 lap from Yann Ehrlacher, was the first of the Normas – the #19 M.Racing YMR M30 – that catapulted its way up the screens after Ehrlacher’s final flying lap.
Fifth was the #2 United Autosports Ligier, Sean Rayhall taking a top five spot on the grid with a 2:02.934.
As in Free Practice 2, it was extremely tight in LMP3, with the top six within a second, lapping in the 2:02s.
In GTE, a superb performance from Matt Griffin saw him set an early lap good enough for provisional Pole, before improving to a 2:04.202 on his final flyer to take Pole Position in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari for the second time this season.
“It’s going to be all about tyre management, particularly for the pros, tomorrow,” Griffin commented. “We can’t really race on the soft compound in temperatures this high so we qualified on that today.
“It is though going to be very close I think, all three Ferraris look very strong, I’m certain that the Astons will be there too and the Porsche boys have been quick all year.”
The Irishman’s time was 0.370 quicker than Proton Competition’s Matteo Cairoli, who set a 2:04.572 in the team’s Porsche. The top three was completed by Andrea Bertolini, who despite improving his time midway through the session, couldn’t climb the standings from third. the Italian’s best time was a 2:04.598 to give Spirit of Race two cars in the top three.
The JMW Ferrari ended up fourth, ahead of the two Aston Martin Vantages – the TF Sport example leading the Beechdean machine – who were eight and nine tenths back from Pole respectively.
Tomorrow’s 4 Hours of Le Castellet is set to get underway at 12:00 local time in the South of France.