The #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 HYBRID will start tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Shanghai from pole position, after Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi set a 1:42.832 average, made possible by a stunning 1:42.526 flying lap in the closing minutes from Kobayashi to leapfrog the #1 Porsche which will start second.
“The car was really good, since Free Practice 1 we’ve felt confident. It’s been a long time since we’ve been so strong,” Kobayashi said. “I was feeling good in the car, the team have made a great step, done a great job. It’s great to start from pole position.”
The performance continued what has been a tour de force for the #7 crew so far this weekend, the car managing to top the times in all three practice sessions prior to Qualifying.
Starting second on the grid will be the #1 Porsche, after an early 1:42.966 from Nick Tandy which put himself and Andre Lotterer on provisional pole, but Lotterer couldn’t match Tandy’s time, and had to settle for second, the duo’s average a 1:43.272.
Third was the #8 Toyota, with a 1:43.445, ensuring title rivals Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima will start ahead of the championship-leading #2 Porsche. The #2 could only manage a 1:43.497 after an early run by Brendon Hartley, before Earl Bamber got in and had a moment trying to avoid a Rebellion ORECA, sending him sideways off the circuit.
In LMP2, the #31 Rebellion ORECA took a crucial point for pole position, Julien Canal and Bruno Senna combining for a 1:49.217 time, good enough to survive a late charge from Leo Roussel in the G-Drive Racing 07 Gibson.
Roussel looked on course to snatch pole on his final flyer, but his final sector wasn’t as strong, and he had to make do with second in what was the WEC qualifying debut for both himself and teammate Nico Muller.
“Fantastic, our first pole when it counts. Great because the #38 is P4, it’s been fantastic, here we really nailed it, I managed a nice lap,” Senna said.
The gap between the #31 crew and the leading #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing trio in the points is now just nine points after the session.
Third was the second Vaillante Rebellion ORECA, the #13, which pushed the #38 crew to fourth, after a 1:49.743 from Thomas Laurent and Oliver Jarvis.
In GTE Pro, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen scored pole position for Aston Martin Racing in the #95 Vantage, the Danish duo setting an average time of 1:59.589, two tenths clear of the rest of the field. It was a refreshing achievement for the team, which has struggled recently to find raw pace. It marks Aston Martin’s fourth GTE Pro pole at Shanghai in six years and the first for the ‘Dane Train’ this season.
“It’s always good to get the pole position, and I think we squeezed what we could out of the car. We can be really satisfied with this pole,” Sorensen said. “The race will be really hard though.”
Starting second on the grid will be the #92 Porsche, with a 1:59.916 average time, three tenths clear of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari which will start third in the class after Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado’s efforts.
Fourth, after a late improvement from Harry Tincknell, was the #67 Ford GT. Sixth after Andy Priaulx’s laps, and Tincknell’s first flyer, the Britain set a 2:00.279 in the final minute to bring the car’s average down to 2:00.299, and secure a second row spot. The #66 sister car will start fifth.
Aston’s sister car meanwhile, will start at the back of the pack, Jonny Adam and Darren Turner only able to set a 2:01.141 average, which was over a second off the #95’s pole time.
Making it a double pole for Aston meanwhile, was the #98 crew, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana setting a combined average of 2:02.357 to put them four tenths clear of the other class runners. The pole was Lamy’s fourth consecutive with AMR at Shanghai, and his third with Dalla Lana. It’s also the sixth this season for the #98.
“Once again Paul made the difference, and brought us to pole,” admitted Lamy. “I was about a tenth slower than the fastest time, so it was Paul who nabbed the pole. This track is very demanding for the tyres, the long stints decide the race. We’ll see how our car compares to the others.”
Second in the Am class was the Dempsey Proton Porsche, Christian Reid and Matteo Cairoli finishing the day with a 2:02.765, to beat out the Spirit of Race Ferrari which saw Thomas Flohr have to push for a time twice after having his first time deleted for abusing track limits.
In the end, Flohr and Miguel Molina’s average in the Swiss-flagged 488 was a 2:03.062, headlined by a stunning 2:01.494 best lap from Molina.
The point for the #98 in Qualifying puts the car equal with the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche crew in the Teams Championship, and just a single point behind the championship-leading #61 Clearwater crew.
In the Drivers Championship standings it’s even closer, the #77 and #98 driver trios now tied on 141 points apiece.
Tomorrow’s WEC 6H Shanghai is set to begin at 11:00am local time.