Toyota’s Second Consecutive FIA WEC Pole and First for JRM and Lotus
For the final time in this inaugural 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship season, cars representing some of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers took to the track at the Shanghai International Circuit for qualifying to determine the grid positions for tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Shanghai. In dry but humid conditions, and in front of a fervent crowd of Chinese fans, the LMP1 cars set off for their 20 minutes of action.
Following pole position at its home track in Fuji, Toyota Racing clinched a second consecutive pole here in Shanghai, and this time it was Alex Wurz who got to do the honours at the press conference afterwards, Kazuki Nakajima being absent from the Chinese race. It wasn’t the Austrian’s first in the FIA WEC, that being in September at the 6 Hours of São Paolo, but with his lap of 1:48.273 in the No.7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid he set the best overall time of the weekend. He headed Allan McNish in the No.2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro by a tenth of a second and the gap between the Japanese manufacturer and the third placed car, the No.1 Audi of André Lotterer, was just three tenths. The outcome of qualifying augurs well for tomorrow’s race!
The LMP1 Privateer teams followed, with just a hair between the first three in the category...just three hundredths of a second. There was a gap of only 0.016 seconds between Karun Chandhok’s No.22 JRM HPD ARX 03a and Neel Jani’s No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota, the Swiss entry being the interloper between the JRM car and its HPD ARX 03a twin at Strakka Racing. It’s the first time this season that JRM has been quickest amongst the LMP1 Privateer teams.
It was also a first for Lotus in LMP2. For the last few races, the Lolas of the Lotus team have showed their hand and today confirmed their form with pole position. A time of 1:54.132 propelled James Rossiter to the front row in the No.32 Lotus, nosing ahead of the two runners who have so often battled for pole, John Martin in the No.25 ADR-Delta Oreca 03-Nissan and Stephane Sarrazin in the No.44 Starworks HPD ARX 03b. The American Starworks team is already assured of the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 teams this season.
Turner and Ruberti claim Pole for Aston Martin and Porsche
Qualifying for the eighth and final round of the 2012 FIA Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Shanghai which is due to take place from 1100-1700 hours tomorrow, 28th October, took place this afternoon in overcast and humid conditions. The track was completely dry, however, unlike this morning’s practice session.
Darren Turner in the No.97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE was one of the first cars out on track for the LMGTE qualifying session this afternoon and he used the time on the relatively empty track wisely, racing to his second FIA WEC LMGTE Pro pole position of the year and Aston Martin Racing’s third. Clinching pole in the LMGTE Am category was the No.88 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of Paulo Ruberti, giving the German squad the best possible start to their bid for class honours.
A long-time Aston Martin factory driver who has twice won in the GT category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Turner’s lap time of 2:03.721 around the 5.45 km Shanghai International Circuit was seven tenths of a second faster than his competitors, the closest of whom was Richard Lietz in the No.77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche who will join the Vantage V8 on the front row of the class grid. Following behind them was the most experienced driver around the track which hosts the Chinese Grand Prix, Giancarlo Fisichella in the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia. The Italian said earlier today that his F1 experience had little relevance here this weekend as the GTE cars performed so differently on the track. His time of 2:05.584 was a second quicker than his AF Corse team mates in the No.71 entry.
Sitting between the red LMGTE Pro Ferraris was the No.88 Porsche of Paolo Ruberti, an excellent performance from the Italian who drives with team owner Christian Ried and Gianluca Roda. His best lap of 2:05.584 secured him the LMGTE Am pole position, and much needed point in the standings, and was three tenths of a second faster than another red Ferrari, the No.61 entry from AF Corse-Waltrip. Marco Cioci steered this particular Prancing Horse around the track in a time of 2:05.836, over a second quicker than third placed car in class, the No.50 Larbre Compétition Corvette of Julien Canal.
The field will reconvene all together tomorrow morning for a 20-minute warm up at 0800 hours.
In spite of the 5.45km circuit length, the gap between the different protagonists in each category is very tight which bodes well for an exciting race tomorrow, Sunday 28th October from 1100 hours. The Drivers’ title is still to be decided between the two Audi line ups and the LMGTE Am title so rendez-vous again at 1700 hours tomorrow (local time) to know who the 2012 winners will be.