Alpine beats Toyota to pole in Portugal WEC

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Alpine beats Toyota to pole in Portugal WEC

Le Mans/WEC

Alpine beats Toyota to pole in Portugal WEC


Alpine became the first French team in FIA World Endurance Championship history to take an overall pole position today at Algarve, ahead of the inaugural 8 Hours of Portimao on Sunday. Matthieu Vaxiviere steered the French marque’s A480-Gibson for the session and set a 1m30.364s, narrowly taking the top spot ahead of the two Toyota Hypercars.

“It’s the first pole position for Alpine in the Hypercar category so we are really happy,” Vaxiviere’s teammate Nicolas Lapierre said after the session. “He put on a second set of tires for the lap, he pushed the car to the limit and had only one time, he pushed it and made no mistakes.

“We are happy with the pace of the car though we know Toyota can go longer on fuel in a stint. We are looking forward to the fight tomorrow. It looks like we are ok on top speed which is important.”

Vaxiviere’s time was less than a tenth faster than the quickest Toyota GR010. Brendon Hartley put the #8 on the front row with a 1m30.458s, ahead of Mike Conway who put the No. 7 Toyota third.

This result comes after LMP2 cars set the fastest times in all free practice sessions in the lead up to qualifying. With low fuel and fresh tires, the Hypercars found pace, aside from Glickenhaus’ debuting 007. Richard Westbrook was installed for the session but was unable to reel off a time that would challenge the other cars in the class for pole position. His best lap was a 1m32.167s, which put the non-Hybrid American-flagged Hypercar 11th on the grid.

After United Autosports ran fastest in FP2 and FP3 earlier in the day, it was JOTA’s turn to set the pace in qualifying. Former WEC BMW factory man Tom Blomqvist set a 1m31.210s to score the class pole, ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa who locked out the front row for the British team.

“I’m ecstatic, I didn’t have a great build up to qualifying, so I was unsure what the car was capable of. I drove messy, but it was just enough. Both cars are quick, so the team is really happy with that. Today was one part of the job, but we should be OK in the race.” Blomqvist said.

Behind, the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA took third and top spot in LMP2 Pro Am after Job van Uitert’s effort. Paul Di Resta, the pace-setter in FP2 and 3, slotted in fourth in class. WRT’s ORECA took fifth.

In GTE Pro, Frenchman Kevin Estre was the star for Porsche, putting the No. 92 factory 911 RSR on pole, with a 1m37.986s to lead the way, almost four tenths clear of the competition in the small, four-car, class.

“I feel good, the team gave me a great car. It wasn’t an easy qualifying; this was uncertain. I made mistakes, it was tough to get a lap together. There was a lot of heat, so I was happy to get a clean lap in with no track limit issues and no major mistakes,” said Estre.

James Calado ensured it wasn’t a Porsche 1-2 in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, the Briton reeling off a 1m38.359s to go second.

The sister Ferrari, meanwhile, was unable to challenge for pole. Initially it appeared that Daniel Serra had failed to set a time. He managed just one flying lap in the session aboard the No. 71 488 GTE, but it was deleted for a track limit violation. However, the lap is in the process of being reinstated after the session. This means the will not start at the back of the pack, though RACER is still awaiting the final confirmation of where the car will start the race.

In Am, the No. 56 Team Project 1 continued its form from FP3 and took class pole after Egidio Perfetti’s 1m40.191s. Christian Ried also showed off the Porsche’s pace, and put the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche second in the class, locking out the front row for the German marque.

Completing the top five were a trio of Ferraris, the No. 47 Cetilar 488 leading the No. 54 AF Corse Ferrari and No. 85 Iron Lynx example.

Aston Martin’s customer teams, meanwhile, will leave the circuit disappointed and scratching their heads. The best of the three Vantage AMRs — from D’Station — ended up only eighth in class. The Vantage AMR looks to be struggling in the Portuguese heat this weekend. It remains to be seen how Aston Martin Racing, D’Station and TF Sport will fare in the race tomorrow.


UP NEXT: Sunday’s race is set to start at 11:00 a.m. local time.