A cool, but bright, Silverstone circuit was the scene for the first FIA World Endurance Championship qualifying session of 2017. Regular and new faces alike shone bright in the season opening action.
The two GTE classes were out first, with Guernseyman Andy Priaulx quickly heading to the top of the GTE-Pro timesheets in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT.
Davide Rigon, in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, and Nicki Thiim, in the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE, were trying their hardest but it was not enough to topple the Ford before the driver changes came around.
Harry Tincknell would take over the reins of the No. 67 for the second half of qualifying, and the Ford, which they will share with Pipo Derani during the race, would end the session with a combined time 1:56.202, beating the Sam Bird/Rigon qualified No. 71 by 0.791 seconds.
Marco Sorensen would solidify the No. 95 Aston Martin’s third place, adding to the good first run from Thiim. A solid starting position for the home team in the car, which will also shared by Richie Stanaway on race day.
The new Porsches did struggle however, only managing seventh and eighth place. Six hours is a long time however, and a strategy will no doubt be at play.
GTE-Am saw a dominating performance from the perennial frontrunning No. 98 Aston Martin Racing entry of Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana; they were just over a second clear of the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacchi.
Toyota Gazoo Racing would dominate the Prototype qualifying from the get go, with Kamui Kobayashi setting what would be the fastest time of the session on his first flying lap, with a blistering 1:36.793.
Kazuki Nakajima would bring the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid to within touching distance of the sister No. 7, but the lap from Kobayashi was too much for him to overcome.
Mike Conway would take over in the No. 7, whilst Anthony Davidson would strap in to the No. 8 as the fight moved into the second half of the session.
Conway would add to the great work done by Kobayashi to keep the No. 7 ahead in order to give Toyota its first pole in three years. Davidson would keep the No. 8 in second, whilst the No. 1 Porsche LMP Team Porsche 919 Hybrid would lead the sister No. 2 home, albeit a second off the pace of the Toyotas.
LMP2 would see a much closer battle, with the top three split by just over 0.2 seconds.
Alex Lynn was obviously keen to make a further statement after his Sebring 12 Hours win with Wayne Taylor Racing, as he set the fastest time in the first half of the session, doing enough, alongside the efforts of Pierre Thiriet, to bring the No. 26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 07 the first LMP2 pole of the year.
Defending champions Signatech Alpine will start tomorrows race from second, with its No. 36 Alpine A470 being qualified solidly by new recruit Matt Rao and the ever rapid Nico Lapierre, missing out by just under 0.05 seconds.
The race begins at 12:00 noon local time tomorrow.