Swiss-flagged LMP1 team Rebellion Racing claimed its second straight pole position in the FIA World Endurance Championship, ahead of Saturday’s 8 Hours of Bahrain.
The Shanghai-winning team benefited from strong performances from Bruno Senna and Norman Nato, who set 1m42.979s combined time, to go over a tenth clear of the other four cars in the class.
“It was the strategy,” Nato said after the session, revealing that Rebellion used only one set of tires. “We knew it would be risky. We know the key point is the race and the tire degradation, so we only used one set. It wasn’t easy, but I pushed. Really happy, two in a row it’s great. We have to finish the job tomorrow.”
Team LNT managed to find the front row for a second straight time behind Rebellion. Last time it was the No. 6, this time the No. 5 sister car. Ben Hanley and Charlie Robertson steered the No. 5 to second with a 1m43.123s average.
Team LNT will be pleased with the performance from the duo, but will feel this is a missed opportunity as the G60-LT-P1s are in a favorable position with the Success Handicap this weekend after Toyota and Rebellion’s wins this season.
“I was pushing hard but didn’t realize how close it was at the end,” Hanley told RACER. “The pace was in the car to be on pole. But it’s always going to be tough for a new team with a new car with so many flyaways. The little niggles we’ve had coming into tonight have cost us time and that showed this evening.”
Toyota’s fastest TS050 HYBRID will start the race third. This time the No. 8 beat the No. 7 to a top three spot. The No. 8’s average was a 1m43.497s, which was half a second off pole. The No. 6 Team LNT Ginetta took sixth.
In LMP2 it was United Autosports’ day, taking pole position. Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta set a 1m45.357s combined time, putting them in perfect position to win their first race of the season. It also gave Michelin the advantage over Goodyear heading into tomorrow.
Goodyear — which has been named the sole supplier for LMP2 next season — came close. Its best customer team, Jackie Chan DC Racing, took second with its ORECA, three tenths back from United.
“It was a bit of a mistake. With so much limited running, I didn’t use a new set to get myself into it. It was the last chance this year to get a pole, I wanted to nail it, but the car has been at the sharp end if we do a good job. We nailed it,” Di Resta said.
The guest-entered G-Drive Racing Aurus will start third, a strong showing from the Russian team on its first weekend in the WEC this season, and its first with the Michelin tire.
Porsche, meanwhile, was dominant in the GT classes, locking out the front row in both.
GTE Pro saw the factory crew finish 1-2 with the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR 19. Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz combined to set a 1m55.485s. It was tight between the two factory cars, just 0.06s separated the pole-sitters and their teammates in the No. 92 911 RSR 19.
“For us it was really a good team effort after we worked hard in practice. We didn’t know what qualifying would look like because we were only focused on the race. It was a very good lap from Richard — amazing,” Bruni said after the session. He revealed that both he and Lietz used fresh rubber for their runs, the team opting use an extra set once it knew pole was possible.
The two AF Corse Ferraris will start third and fourth, six and eight tenths adrift of the lead Porsche, the No. 51 ahead of the No. 71.
For Aston Martin it was a quiet showing, its two Vantages both around a second off the pace here. It is a longer race than usual tomorrow, though, and if the race pace for AMR is good as the temperature drops during the evening, then its Vantages can challenge for a win.
In Am, the No. 57 Project 1 Porsche topped the times, IMSA regular Ben Keating and Larry Ten Voorde combining to take the point for pole position in what was Ten Voorde’s first attempt at qualifying in the championship. They combined to set a 1m57.602s.
“I’m shaking — it was my first qualifying in the WEC, so I was a bit nervous, but we got pole as a team. It’s amazing; I can’t describe the feeling.” Ten Voorde exclaimed.
AF Corse’s No. 54 Ferrari snatched second with a 1m57.645s, preventing a 1-2 for the Stuttgart brand, pushing the No. 88 Proton Porsche to third.
The No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari looked set for pole early in the GT session but will start from fourth on the grid. Francois Perrodo was unable to replicate the performance of his teammate Nicklas Nielsen on this occasion, the Dane putting the No. 83 atop the class running order before the driver changes. Their title rival, TF Sport, could only manage ninth on the grid in the class.
UP NEXT: The 8 Hours of Bahrain is set to start at 3 p.m. local time on Saturday.