Toyota Gazoo Racing locked out the front row for tomorrow’s FIA WEC season opener at Silverstone.
The Japanese marque’s pair of TS050 HYBRIDs finished 1-2, with the No. 7 leading the No. 8. The pole time was a 1m36.015s average from Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi. This came after the Toyota Gazoo Racing mechanics did a chassis change for the No. 7 overnight.
“We kept the mileage off the tires,” said Conway. “It was decent. We could have done better but a big thank you to the team, who put the car back together after we did a change of chassis overnight, so they had no sleep. They deserve that result.”
On the new track surface at Silverstone, that average was almost a second quicker than the pole time last year, despite the cars carrying more ballast.
The No. 8 Toyota will start second, three tenths back, ahead of the first of the Rebellion R-13s, the No. 1, which came just over half a second off pole with a 1:36.580.
Team LNT’s fastest Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER, the No. 6, also had a strong session. It will start behind the No. 3 Rebellion in fifth, after Charlie Robertson and Oliver Jarvis set a 1m37.220s, to go 1.009 off pole. The No. 5 sister car was just 1.4s off, an encouraging sign in the team’s first meeting with the cars.
LMP2 saw Racing Team Nederland snatch the point for pole position ahead of its first WEC race with an ORECA chassis. Giedo van der Garde and Job van Uitert, who is the subbing for F2-tied Nyck de Vries this weekend, set a 1m37.220s to go six tenths faster than the other competitors in the class.
“I’m very happy,” van der Garde said. “Job did a really good job, the car is absolutely flying. I’m very happy for us. This is our second year in WEC, with a better car, and you can see, straight away we went P1. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
Van Uitert added: “It was a good lap, no mistakes were made, ORECA delivers a great piece of machinery, the tires from Michelin were also mega.”
The Dutch duo’s performance edged out United Autosports’ ORECA 07 Gibson, which will start second after Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta set a 1m41.683s, making it a 1-2 for Michelin teams.
The best of Goodyear’s bunch was the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA which will line up third.
In the GTE session, AF Corse wrote the headlines in Pro, its pair of 488 GTE EVOs finishing 1-2. The fastest of the pair was the No. 51 of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado. Calado’s 1m54.323s and Pier Guidi’s 1m54.019s combined for a 1m54.171s, just over a tenth clear.
“We’ve had good pace all weekend throughout the practice sessions, we found good balance, the team has worked hard to optimise the performance,” said Calado. “I made a couple of errors on my lap in the last sector where I caught an Aston.”
The newly laid surface at Silverstone brought with it faster times, as expected. Last year the pole time in Pro was a 1m55.7s by the No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford.
Behind the two Ferraris the best of the rest was the No. 97 Aston Martin, which was seven tenths off the pole time in the combined times after Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin’s best effort which produced a 1m54.992s.
The fastest Porsche was the No. 91, which ended up in fourth, after having an off which caused a red flag. The off came during the first half of the session when Gianmaria Bruni was at the wheel. The Italian had a spin at the GP loop, which flat-spotted his tires. The Italian then went flying off the circuit at Stowe shortly after, when he suffered a left-front puncture down Hanger Straight.
Luckily the damage was only to the bodywork of the new Porsche 911 RSR 19, so the team was able to make a quick repair and send Richard Lietz back out to set a time.
In GTE Am, TF Sport, on its first weekend with the new Vantage AMR, set pole. Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc combined for a 1m56.034s, to go four tenths clear of the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche which will line up alongside it on the front row of the grid in the class for the first race in its title defense.
“It’s amazing, we were able to get pole once last year, and now we’ve got one straight away this season, we’ve got a point for pole and are ahead of everyone before the race!” Eastwood said.
“I had traffic in my lap but we were able to do it with a good lap from Salih. All three of us drivers are so close, so between me and Jonny it’s whoever fancies it on the day as to who will drive in qualifying. It’s great to have been able to do this for TF Sport.”
The second new Vantage AMR, entered by Aston Martin Racing, ended up third with a 1m56.469s.
One of the 11 Am entries didn’t make it out for the session — the No. 57 Project 1 Porsche, which was being rebuilt in the garage. The car suffered a mechanical issue and stopped on track during the final practice session in the morning. The team is now working hard to ensure that Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga can take the start tomorrow.
UP NEXT: Tomorrow’s 4 Hours of Silverstone starts at 12:00 p.m. local time.