The No. 8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi will start from pole position in tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Fuji, as Jose Maria Lopez’s one and only flying lap in the No. 7 was deleted for exceeding pit lane speed after finishing his run. Because the car doesn’t have a qualifying time, the No. 7 will start from the back and the team will be penalized 900 euros ($1050); the sister car is promoted to the top spot and the No. 1 Rebellion R-13 moves to the front row of the grid.
The deletion of Lopez’s time came after the No. 8 had a crucial lap of its own disallowed. Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap of the session early in the prototype segment. The Spaniard’s flyer was a 1m23.437s, putting the No. 8 on provisional pole before Sebastien Buemi’s stint. The Swiss driver then set a time good enough time to keep the car atop the times, but it was later deleted, forcing him to complete another flying lap. He couldn’t replicate his time later in the session, and was only able to muster a 1m24.094s, resulting in the duo’s average being a 1m23.648s, meaning they thought they missed out on pole by a tenth.
“I think Jose had a pretty good lap, and we kept the same tires,” said Kobayashi after the session. “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 No. 1 Rebellion Racing R-13 came closest, with a 1m24.395s. It was a better showing for Rebellion’s R-13 on pace after the pre-qualifying EoT change, but the difference in performance doesn’t appear to be enough to keep the privateers within touching distance of the Toyotas. The No. 3 R-13 will start ahead of the first of the SMP Racing BR1 AERs (No. 17) – which ended up just over a second back from the No. 7 Toyota with a 1m24.744s.
Ex-Toyota LMP1 ace Anthony Davidson, made the headlines in LMP2, setting the class’ best time to secure pole for American team DragonSpeed with a flying lap of 1m28.011s. His tour in the first half of the session laid the foundations for the team’s 1m28.906s combined time after Mexican Roberto Gonzalez’s stint behind the wheel.
Second and third in the class were taken by the two Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECAs – the No. 37 leading the No. 38. The newly crowned Le Mans LMP2 winners in the Signatech Alpine A470 secured fourth.
“That was a really good one,” said Davidson, who is making just his second LMP2 appearance this weekend. “It was the first time I’d driven the car with low fuel and new tires. 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 milestone result for Aston Martin Racing, which scored its first pole position with the new Vantage AMR. Danish duo Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim put the No. 95 on top with a combined time of 1m36.275s, thanks to a 1m35.854s from Thiim and a 1m36.302s 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 during the session, with four of the five marques eventually represented in the top five. In the session, there was just 1.016s separating all 10 cars.
Second in the Pro order was the No. 82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE, with Tom Blomqvist and Antonio Felix Da Costa’s 1m36.275s 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 Maxime Martin in the No. 97, the duo setting a 1m36.362s, coming within three tenths of Thiim and Sorensen.
Behind, the No. 67 Ganassi UK Ford qualified fourth, ahead of the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari in fifth. The best of the Porsches – the No. 91 911 RSR – ended up eighth, almost seven tenths off the No. 95’s benchmark time as the Stuttgart-based brand was unable to extract raw pace from its cars on this occasion.
Porsche had better fortunes in GTE Am however, with the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Racing 911 RSR of Matteo Cairoli and WEC debutant Satoshi Hoshino grabbing the class pole with a 1m38.336s combined time, pushing the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage down to second, preventing the British marque from claiming a double pole.
The second Dempsey Proton Porsche – the No. 77 driven by Christian Ried and Matt Campbell in the session – will start the race third.
Tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Fuji is set to start at 11:00 a.m. local time (10 p.m. ET) in Japan.