Toyota claimed its first World Endurance Championship pole position Saturday in nearly four months for Sunday's Shanghai round in China.
The Japanese manufacturer sealed its first pole since the Nurburgring round in July with the No. 7 TS050 Hybrid qualified by Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi. They ended up with a 1:42.832 two-lap average around the 3.39-mile Shanghai International Circuit to take the top spot by four tenths of a second from the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid shared by Nick Tandy and Andre Lotterer.
Kobayashi claimed the fastest lap of the 20-minute session with a 1:42.526. Conway had trailed the two Porsches after the first runs, but the Japanese driver's time vaulted the No. 7 car to the head of the times and Toyota to its fourth pole of the season.
Kobayashi said: “The lap was not perfect, actually. I never had new tires up to qualifying and it was quite difficult to adjust.”Conway added: “We've topped every session so far, so we rolled out with a good car. I felt I left a couple of tenths on the table, so I was expecting Kamui to go out and go quicker.”
Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson took third spot in the No. 8 Toyota on 1:43.445 after a boosting problem on the first runs cost the Swiss driver approximately half a second. Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber ended up fourth just four hundredths behind in the second Porsche after the latter spun to the detriment of his tires on his warm-up lap.
LMP2 pole went to Bruno Senna and Julien Canal in the best of the Rebellion ORECA-Gibson 07s. Senna posted the fastest P2 lap of a session with a 1:48.509, which Canal followed up on with a 1:49.926 to give the car a 1:49.217 average.
That put them just over two seconds up on the G-Drive ORECA qualified by P2 debutant Nico Muller and Leo Roussel. The second Rebellion car was third in the hands of Nelson Piquet Jr and David Heinemeier Hansson, while the championship-leading Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA ended up fourth in the hands of Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent.
Reigning champions Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim took a first GTE Pro pole of the season in their Aston Martin Vantage GTE. Sorensen had trailed Michael Christensen in the best of the factory Porsche 911 RSRs after the first runs, but Thiim went seven tenths faster than Kevin Estre, who was baulked on his flying lap, to overhaul the German car.
The Danish duo ended up on 1:59.697 average, which put them just over two tenths up on the Porsche pairing's 1:59.916. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi were three tenths behind on aggregate in their AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE.
The two Ganassi Ford GTs ended up in fourth and fifth position. Harry Tincknell stayed out for a second lap in the No. 67 car he shared with Andy Priaulx to move ahead of the sister Ford of Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke.
Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana took a sixth pole of the year aboard their Aston Martin. The one point moved them and teammate Mathias Lauda into the joint points lead with the Dempsey-Proton Porsche trio Matteo Cairoli, Marvin Dienst and Christian Ried.
By Gary Watkins
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