A non-hybrid LMP1 car will start a WEC race from pole position for the first time since the championship’s inaugural race at Sebring back in 2012 when the #1 Audi R18 TDI ran fastest in Florida.
The best time here in China to score pole for the four hours of Shanghai was set by Bruno Senna and Gustavo Menezes in the #1 Rebellion. The duo set a 1:45.892 average, after two significantly faster lap times than anyone managed during practice.
“It was good!” Exclaimed Senna. “The car feels so nice in qualifying with new tyres and low fuel. The challenge is big tomorrow with the tyre degradation, it will be very tricky. Here Gustavo inspired me to do a big lap. The fact that we managed to be in front of the Toyotas and Ginettas is really cool.”
Not only did Toyota miss out on pole, but it missed out on a front-row grid spot too. Starting second on the grid will be the fastest of the two Team LNT Ginetta G60-LT-P1s, the #6 of Mike Simpson and Charlie Robertson, Simpson setting a late 1:47.427 to vault the car to second with an average of 1:47.092. His lap came after a brief spin, a great recovery from the Englishman.
The #5 Ginetta will start from third, ahead of the two Toyotas that slotted in fourth and fifth, 1.3 and 2.2 seconds off pole. The Success Handicap appears to have had a major impact here, in single-lap pace at least. Will this form translate to the race tomorrow? We will have to wait and see.
In LMP2, it was Cool Racing that emerged as the fastest team. The Michelin-shod ORECA, driven by Nicolas Lapierre and Antonin Borga, set a 1:48.649 average, scoring the team it’s first-ever WEC pole.
“It’s a great result for the whole team, we’ve struggled the last few races in qualifying, so to get our first pole in the WEC is a great result for the team. We even tried to minimise the laps we spent on the tyres during the session because this circuit is so hard on tyres,” Lapierre said.
The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA was the fastest Goodyear runner and will start second, just a tenth off, ahead of the #22 United Autosports ORECA that slotted in third.
High Class Racing’s 07 Gibson, after a strong lap from newly-crowned Super GT champion Kenta Yamashita (1:48.336) helped himself and Anders Fjordbach take fourth.
The Fuji Speedway winner, Racing Team Nederland, will start from the back in the class after Frits van Eerd failed to set a time due to a puncture.
The GTE classes saw Porsche teams claim both pole positions.
In Pro, it was the first pole of the season for the #92 duo of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen, the duo combining for a 1:59.579 after Christensen reeled off a 1:59.708 and Estre went on to set the best time of the session, a 1:50.024.
This is also the first-ever GTE Pro pole position for Porsche at Shanghai.
“It was good, to be honest, we didn’t know what to expect because it’s a hard track on tyres. It’s nice to get this pole and one point. Our last pole was Sebring last season which wasn’t a great race for us, let’s hope for better here,” Estre said.
Behind, Aston Martin Racing will be disappointed to come away without pole position, after the two Vantage AMR’s sat 1-2 atop the class times after the first set of times.
Eventually, the #95 of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen took second, despite the best efforts from both drivers, who combined for a 1:59.597 (just 0.018 off the pole). The #97 sister car will start from third.
Outside the top three the two AF Corse Ferraris, the #51 leading the #71 slotted in fourth and fifth, with the #91 Porsche bookending the class times in sixth.
Am saw a strong performance from Matteo Cairoli and Egidio Perfetti score Team Project 1 the class pole. Cairoli lapped first, and set a 2:00.031 before Perfetti toured the circuit in 2:01.617. In the end, their combined time was a 2:00.824, seven-tenths clear of the #98 Aston Martin that claimed second after Paul Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn’s efforts.
The #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche will start third in Am, after Christian Reid and Matt Campbell made it two Porsches in the top three.
Tomorrow is race day and it starts at 12:00 local time.