UPDATE: There have been three penalties handed out post-Qualifying.
The #38 JCDC Ligier and TF Sport Aston Martin have both been handed two-minute stop-and-hold in the first half of the race at the Stewards’ discretion for engine changes. And crucially, the Viper Niza Racing Ligier, which took pole in LMP3, will start at the back of the grid after Nigel Moore was found to have Qualified the car in non-homologated racing equipment.
This means the #2 United Ligier will start from LMP3 pole and has gained a point, meaning the gap between it and the Inter Europol Ligier is down to seven points at the top of the championship standings in the class.
Pipo Derani, with a last-gasp effort in today’s Asian Le Mans Qualifying at Sepang, secured Pole Position for Spirit of Race ahead of tomorrow’s season-ending 4 Hours of Sepang.
The Brazillian set a 1:55.167 to put the team’s Ligier JS P2 Nissan top, by two tenths, right as the checkered flag was shown, pushing championship leaders Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta in the #22 United Autosports Ligier to second.
Crucially, this means that the returning Spirit of Race crew have taken the point for pole position from the #22 duo, meaning the gap between them and the #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier crew that sits second in the standings is still 18 points heading into the finale.
“Unfortunately we had to miss the last round, but we’re here in Malaysia. What a way to come back, we managed to get on pole. We did it, I’m happy with that!” Said Derani after the session.
Hanson’s best time was a 1:55.370, which looked good enough for pole among the late flurry of times from the frontrunners, but instead, he and Di Resta will start from second on the grid.
The third space on the grid meanwhile, was taken by the #24 championship-challenging Algarve Pro Racing Ligier Judd of Andrea Pizzitola, which also sat atop the times during the early stages of the session. The Frenchman’s best time was a 1:55.406, just 0.240 off the pole.
Panis Barthez’s Ligier ended up fourth, Matthieu Lahaye pushing Anders Fjordbach’s #25 APR Ligier to fifth but still on pole in LMP2 Am.
LMP3 pole went the way of Viper Niza Racing, the team on home ground flexing its muscles before the race. Nigel Moore was aboard the team’s Ligier JS P3 for Qualifying, the Briton securing pole with a 1:59.906, the only lap from the drivers in the class to break the 2:00 barrier.
“Feeling good, we’ve always shown we’ve had a quick car,” Moore said. “The conditions weren’t what we expected today, so we went and got a second set of tyres. It’s good to show what pace we have.”
Wayne Boyd ended up second in the #2 United Autosports Ligier, which is a strong starting position for himself Chris Buncombe and Garrett Grist who are just eight points off the class lead in the standings. But, they will wonder just how important missing out on scoring an additional point for pole will prove to be.
Third on the grid after a sterling effort was Christian Olsen, the young Dane steering the #7 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Racing Ligier to a second row grid slot with a 2:00.416 for what is set to be his final race with the team before he switches to racing with RLR Msport for the 2019 ELMS season.
It wasn’t a good session for the second Ecurie Ecosse machine, however, after showing strong pace in FP2 earlier in the day, the #79 car was unable to make it out in the session due to a power steering rack failure.
The #36 Eurasia Ligier took fourth, ahead of the #13 Inter Europol Ligier, which leads the P3 title fight, in fifth.
In GT, Car Guy was unable to seal the title and gain its Le Mans entry with the point for pole, the gap still 24 points heading into tomorrow’s race.
James Calado was behind the wheel of the Japanese team’s Ferrari 488 GT3 and came within two-tenths of the pole with a 2:03.513 after two improved laps. But it wasn’t enough to top series returnee Dries Vanthoor in the #88 TSRT Audi R8.
The Belgian held provisional pole throughout the session, laying down a 2:08.811 banker, before improving later in the session to a 2:03.697 which ensured the team’s #88 R8 would start tomorrow’s race from pole. He actually looked set to go even faster on his second flyer, but a mistake under braking at the final hairpin cost him a few tenths.
“I’m back, it’s nice to come back like this. It’s a long race, but it’s a good starting position. It’s due to be a very hot race here, we’ll have to see how it goes,” Vanthoor said.
“The car has been handling well this weekend, with the new EVO kit for the Audi. It’s not an easy job, but that makes life easier.”
Third, behind the Car Guy Ferrari, was the Spirit of Race 488 of Alessandro Pier Guidi, who ended up with a 2:03.650, which was good enough for a front row spot in the class before Calado’s late push.
The #66 TSRT Audi will start fourth, ahead of the TF Sport Aston Martin (which underwent an engine change before the session) that completed the top five.
Tomorrow’s race is set to get underway at 12:00 local time in Malaysia (GMT +8).