Toyota has locked out the front row for the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain, after flying laps from Brendon Hartley and Kamui Kobayashi in the team’s pair of GR010 HYBRIDs.
The No. 8 Toyota will start from pole after Hartley managed a 1m47.049s on his one and only fast lap, rebounding from a minor collision in pre-qualifying practice which gave the Toyota crew some additional repair tasks. Kobayashi’s best time was three tenths off but good enough to go six tenths clear of Andre Negrao in the single Alpine, which will start third on the grid tomorrow morning.
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“It felt great to go with low fuel and new tires. The team did an amazing job after our little crash earlier to get the car ready,” said Hartley. “In FP3 I locked up at Turn 1, so I went conservatively early in the lap and grew into it.
“We fueled for two laps because we had made mistakes in FP3 and an extra set of tires, but we didn’t want to — and didn’t have to — use them. It was a great team effort — we’re taking the fight to the No. 7. We have one point back off them, we’re trying to win the championship in this friendly rivalry.”
In LMP2, JOTA took pole with its No. 28 ORECA which was driven by Tom Blomqvist in the session. The former BMW GTE driver set a 1m49.885s, which proved to be unbeatable despite a late flurry of hot laps by other drivers in contention for pole. In fact, after the session Blomqvist’s best lap was deleted for exceeding track limits but his second fastest — a 1m49.932s was still enough for pole.
Filipe Albuqerque came close to snatching the top spot for United Autosport with a 1m49.994s, but his best time right at the end of the session was only good enough for second, though it did break up what looked to be a front-row-lockout for the JOTA squad.
Antonio Felix da Costa’s best time put the No. 38 JOTA ORECA third, while Loic Duval took the fourth spot on the grid in Realteam Racing’s 07 Gibson, which was fastest of the LMP2 Pro-Am runners. Renger van der Zande completed the top five for Inter Europol Competition.
In GTE Pro, it’s advantage Porsche going into the penultimate race of the season. Kevin Estre bagged a fourth pole of the campaign for the No. 92 911 RSR with a 1m56.144s, just 0.034 ahead of Gianmaria Bruni in the sister No. 91 Porsche which locked out the front row for the German marque.
The pre-event BoP change appears to have had a dramatic effect on the outright pace of the AF Corse Ferraris, which came in third and fourth, the No. 52 ahead of the No. 51, both cars over a second off the pace.
“I was really happy to grab this pole,” said Estre. “Especially for the point because we are fighting for the title and a single point could be the different. It’s a tough track so it’s very difficult to get a perfect lap but I managed to deliver. It’s cool to see the No. 91 so close — Porsche has made a good car and we hope to fight against both Ferraris tomorrow.
Rino Mastronardi, meanwhile, was the star in the Am category for Iron Lynx, steering the No. 60 Ferrari to class pole with a 1m58.687s, a lap six tenths faster than the other amateur drivers behind the wheel in the session.
Paul Dalla Lana came closest in the No. 98 Aston, taking the second spot on the front row with a 1m59.331s. That was a tenth quicker than Edigio Perfetti in the No. 56 Project 1 Porsche, which made it three marques in the top three.
“I’m very happy — the car was unbelievable,” said Mastronardi. “I was very pleased with my lap, but sadly my first was cancelled due to (exceeding) track limits. This is my first WEC race outside of Le Mans — I’ve never raced here before, so I am double happy!”
As for the No. 83 crew, which leads the championship heading into the weekend, it will have to make do with starting eighth on the grid. Francois Perrodo looked set for a competitive showing on his final lap but it was deleted for another track limits violation, meaning only his 2m00.263s counted.