The No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez edged closer to the FIA World Endurance Championship drivers’ crown by securing a point for pole position ahead of the Bahrain season finale. The No. 7 will start the 8-hour race tomorrow from the head of the field after Kobayashi set a 1m46.250s flying lap.
Brendon Hartley in the sister No. 8 Toyota gave it his all to put his teammates — who are still just about in the title hunt heading into the finale — on top, but was unable to better Kobayashi’s hot lap. The best tour from the Kiwi came right at the end of the session. It almost three tenths off.
“We really struggled this week,” Kobayashi admitted. “I have tried so many practice qualifying laps, and I couldn’t match Brendon. It’s a really important point — I am really happy. The team really helped my confidence — I had to push.”
Like last week, Alpine will start third, the A480 unable to match the GR010 HYBRIDs on raw pace and prevent a front-row lockout, finishing up almost half a second off.
In LMP2, Filipe Albuquerque stole the show for United Autosports, putting the No. 22 ORECA on pole position at the death with a 1m49.525s. His lap was three tenths faster than the RealTeam Racing ORECA which will start second, and the No. 38 JOTA 07 Gibson that will start on the second row.
Giedo van der Garde looked capable of challenging, too, and was the only driver with a chance of snatching pole from Albuquerque at the end of the session, but the Dutchman’s 1m50.149s was only good enough for the second spot on the second row for Racing Team Nederland.
“I am really happy about it — the boys deserve this,” exclaimed Albuquerque. “Last weekend was P2, this time it’s P1, I hope we stay here. Eight hours is a lot, One point is good, this is the first step — let’s see how the race goes.”
In GTE Pro, the points are now level in the drivers’ championship standings after yet another superb performance from Kevin Estre in the No. 92 Porsche.
POLE POSITION number 5 for @kevinestre this season. Congratulations to all the @PorscheRaces No.92 crew on putting together an incredible performance. With the extra point earned today, Kévin Estre and @neeljani are now equal with the @FerrariRaces No.51.#WEC #8HBahrain pic.twitter.com/orXsUn4FLw
— WEC (@FIAWEC) November 5, 2021
“I had a few doubts,” Estre admitted after the session. “It was a tough one — it was close with (James Calado) — wow we are equal on points against them, so we will both be champions if something happens between us, which is important.
“Lap 1 was hard, lap 2 was a little better but we were not sure so we started a third flying lap in case. It’s been a good year for me in qualifying, I’m proud of that.”
James Calado and Alessandrio Pier Guidi in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari will start second, the 488 GTE Evos looking far more competitive after the latest BoP change ahead of this weekend. Calado was 0.16s off Estre in the session, and has set up what promises to be a thrilling conclusion to the GTE Pro season tomorrow.
The No. 91 Porsche will start third, ahead of the second AF Ferrari which was around half a second off the pace.
GTE Am, meanwhile, was headed by a Ferrari, with Roberto Lacorte narrowly beating Francois Perrodo to the top spot with a 1m58.712s in the Cetilar Racing 488. Performance wise, in Am it’s the same story as Pro this weekend, the Ferrari teams clearly feeling the benefit of the BoP break.
Perrodo and company in the No. 83 will look to wrap up the title tomorrow, after a costly result last weekend in Sakhir which saw the title rival TF Sport Aston Martin (which qualified fifth today) take a commanding victory.
UP NEXT: Tomorrow’s eight-hour race into the darkness is due to get underway at 2:00 p.m. local time in Bahrain (6:30 a.m. ET, Motor Trend channel).