Toyota take second consecutive pole position
As dusk fell over the Bahrain International Circuit and temperatures started to drop (to 22oC, with 88% humidity), the five LMP1s and 9 LMP2s took to the track for the final qualifying session of the year. At the end of the typically tense 25 minute session, it was a Toyota Racing front row lock out, the Japanese manufacturer claiming its second consecutive pole position.
The use of a different Michelin compound in qualifying compared to this morning’s third and final practice session was, according to Kazuki Nakajima, key to the No.7 TS 030 Hybrid’s claim on pole position. The Japanese driver and his team mate Alex Wurz set a combined fastest average time of 1:42.449 to put them ahead of the No.8 Toyota of Sarrazin-Davidson by 0.332 seconds.
Two tenths of a second behind the Toyotas was the first of the two Audi R18 e-tron quattros, the No.1 of Lotterer-Fassler with a combined time of 1:42.976 – despite a last minute effort by Fassler to try and improve the average lap time of the two drivers. In fourth place was the No.2 Audi, the World Champions Elect just 0.169 seconds behind their team mates, while in fifth overall was the No.12 LMP1 Privateer entry of Rebellion Racing, Nicolas Prost and Mathias Beche having completed qualifying duties.
Pecom Racing’s No.49 ORECA 03 Nissan, driven by Nicolas Minassian and Pierre Kaffer, claimed its first pole position since the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps earlier this season, with a best average lap time of 1:50.941. This put the only Michelin-shod car in the LMP2 class ahead of all its competitors by the tiny margin of 0.062 seconds, the No.26 G-Drive Racing ORECA Nissan of Martin-Conway taking second place in the category.
The No.24 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan of Pla-Brundle will start from third place in the class, their lap time of 1:51.718 placing them ahead of the No.41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Nissan – newcomer to the FIA WEC Jon Lancaster doing a good job alongside Bjorn Wirdheim in that car to put them ahead of some more established competitors.
The No.31 Lotus Praga of Vitantonio Liuzzi and another newcomer from single-seaters, Lucas Auer, overcame a long delay in the pits for technical issues to take 7th in class – the young Austrian coping well with late-session pressure.
The 28 cars for the 6 Hours of Bahrain will be back on the grid tomorrow for the race into darkness, beginning at 15:00 hours local. Before then fans can enjoy a pit walk (12:45 to 13:30) and a driver autograph session (12:50-13:20) – all within the price of the entry ticket.