Toyota Gazoo Racing locked out the front row on the grid for the opening round of the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season in qualifying at Spa, its No. 7 taking pole position with a 1m54.563s average time from Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway.
The No. 8, the TS050 HYBRID with WEC debutant Fernando Alonso behind the wheel, will start the race second on the grid, the car finishing with a time just under four tenths off pole. Alonso turned laps in the heavily interrupted session, as did teammate Kazuki Nakajima.
Behind, Rebellion Racing’s R-13s came closest to the Toyota’s the No.1 leading the No. 3, 1.8 and 2.4 seconds off the ultimate pace, respectively.
The LMP session was red flagged twice, a first time for the No. 17 SMP Racing BR1 AER stopping on the Kemmel Straight, Stephane Sarrazin unable to get fired up again, and the second for a huge accident at Eau Rouge.
Pietro Fittipaldi in the DragonSpeed BR1 went straight on up the hill, after the car twitched at the apex entry, the Brazilian was unable to correct it, and veered straight off into the tire barriers at full speed. The front end of the car sustained heavy damage as a result. There’s no official news yet about the condition of Fittipaldi.
Adding to the unfortunate news, neither CEFC TRSM Racing Ginetta G60-LT-P1 took part in qualifying, Ginetta releasing a statement at the very end of the session that it will not be releasing its cars to the team for tomorrow’s race due to payment deadlines being missed.
LMP2 pole meanwhile, was taken by the Signatech Alpine A470 (pictured above), with an average of 2m02.405s from Pierre Thiriet and Nicolas Lapierre. The duo’s time was only just quicker than the G-Drive ORECA 07 Gibson, which set a 2m02.429s to take second spot.
Third and fourth were the pair of Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECAs, ahead of the DragonSpeed example which topped all three practice sessions, before qualifying fifth. The American-flagged car was also, as a result, the fastest Michelin runner in the class, the top four teams all running on Dunlops.
In GTE Pro, it was all Ford, the Blue Oval’s practice form continuing into qualifying. Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 car combined to set the best average time in the class.
“It was a super start to the ‘Super Season’!” Priaulx said. “I got a good first banker lap, then harry did well on the used tire. It’s a long race, the Porsches look strong, the No. 66 looks strong. It’s going to be a really tough battle.”
Behind, the sister No. 66 made it a Ford 1-2, Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke setting a 2m13.030s to go less than a tenth off Pole.
Porsche’s two 911 RSRs came close to taking front row spots though, the No. 91 also less than a tenth off the No. 67 with a 2m13.034s. The No. 92 meanwhile, ended up fourth, a further three tenths adrift.
The divide between the Fords and Porsches and the rest of the class seen at the Prologue and throughout practice this was was clear in qualifying too. Best of the rest was the No. 82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE, the car on its WEC debut just a second off and fifth in the timing after laps from Antonio Felix Da Costa and Tom Blomqvist.
The two AF Corse Ferraris ended up sixth and seventh, while Aston Martin Racing’s new Vantages qualified a lowly eighth and 10th, the team unable to get either car within two seconds of the class’ top time.
And in GTE Am, Dempsey Proton took the top spot, its No. 77 911 RSR setting a 2m16.357s in the session, just 0.002s faster than the defending champions in the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage that will start tomorrow’s race second.
Completing the top three in the class was the Team Project 1 Porsche, setting a very encouraging 2m16.359s average time with Egidio Perfetti and Jorg Bergmeister on the German team’s WEC debut.
UP NEXT: The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps is set to get underway tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. local time.