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#8 Toyota On Pole For 6H Fuji (Updated)

Breakthrough pole for Aston Martin in GTE Pro

Update: Toyota has confirmed to DSC that the #8 TS050 HYBRID of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi will start from Pole Position in tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Fuji, as the #7 has had a lap deleted after the Qualifying session. DSC understands that the #7 will start from the back of the LMP1 field as a result, as Jose Maria Lopez (whose lap was deleted) only completed one flying lap, so has no fall-back time.

2nd Update – The penalty was inflicted after Jose Maria Lopez exceeded the pit lane speed limit in Qualifying (68.7 km/h against the 60 km/h limit – the penalty is a 900 Euro fine and the “annulment of all lap times achieved by the driver”

Toyota will not be appealing the decision.

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s TS050 HYBRIDs have locked out the front row for the 2018 6 Hours of Fuji, the #7 pipping the #8 to the top spot and the additional point for pole after Sebastien Buemi had his fastest lap of the circuit deleted for track limits.

Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap of the session early in the prototype segment, at 1:23.437, putting the #8 on provisional pole. Sebastien Buemi then set a good enough time to keep the car atop the times by 0.009, but it was later deleted, forcing the Swiss driver to set another flyer.

He couldn’t replicate his time though later in the session, and could only muster a 1:24.094, resulting in the duo’s average being a 1:23.648, within a tenth of pole.

“I think Jose had a pretty good lap, and we kept the same tyres,” said Kobayashi. “The lap didn’t improve as much as we expected, but it’s still pretty good. For Seb it’s bad luck to have a deleted lap time. I had a bit of luck, but this is just qualifying. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Behind the two Toyotas, the #1 Rebellion Racing R-13 set a 1:24.395, coming within a second of the #7’s pole time. The #3 R-13 will start fourth ahead of the first of the SMP Racing BR1s – which ended up just over a second back from the #7 Toyota with a 1:24.744.

Anthony Davidson, the former Toyota LMP1 ace starred in LMP2, setting the class’ best time to secure pole for DragonSpeed with a flying lap of 1:28.011, which laid the foundations for the team’s 1:28.906 combined time after Roberto Gonzalez’s stint behind the wheel.

The two Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECAs, the #37 leading the #38, slotted in second and third in class, with the newly crowned Le Mans winners in the Signatech Alpine taking fourth.

“That was a really good one,” Davidson said. “It was the fiest time I’d driven the car with low fuel and new tyres. It was a really good feeling. The ORECA is a more challenging car to drive than the LMP1, because you don’t have the tools to help you.”

In GTE Pro, it was a first pole position for Aston Martin Racing’s Vantage AMR, Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim in the #95 going top with a comined time of 1:36.275, thanks to a 1:35.854 from Thiin and a 1:36.302 from Sorensen.

“It’s just so nice, so emotional, first pole for the new car,” said Thiim. “It’s great to be slowly getting there with the new car. It means so much to us, it seems like we can finally get there.”

It was incredibly tight in the class, with four marques in the top five, and just 1.016 separating all 10 cars.

Second in the session was the #82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE, Tom Blomqvist and Antonio Felix Da Costa’s 1:36.275 securing the car’s best qualifying performance in the WEC to date.

Making it two Aston Martins in the top three was Alex Lynn and Maxmime Martin in the #97, the duo setting a 1:36.362, just 0.269 off the pole time.

Behind, the #67 Ford qualified fourth, ahead of the #71 AF Corse Ferrari in fifth. The best of the Porsches, the #91 911 RSR, ended up eighth, almost seven tenths off the #95’s benchmark.

Porsche had better fortunes in GTE Am though, the #88 Dempsey Proton Racing 911 RSR of Matteo Cairoli and Satoshi Hoshino grabbing the class pole with a 1:38.336 combined time, pushing the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage down to seccond, preventing the British marque from claiming a double pole.

“Hoshino did it today,” said Cairoli. “I couldn’t put a lap together today I was overdriving. I’m so happy Hoshino is my teammate, he’s really experienced here, it’s great. We were struggling witht the car yesterday, but step by step we’re getting better. I think we can be good tomorrow!”

The second Dempsey Proton Porsche, the #77 which was driven by Christian Reid and Matt Campbell in the session, will start the race third.

Tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Fuji is set to start at 11:00 local time in Japan.