Filipe Albuquerque snatched the first European Le Mans Series pole of the 2020 season from Nyck de Vries right at the end of Saturday’s qualifying session at Paul Ricard.
United Autosports’ Albuquerque saved his fastest lap until last, posting a time of 1:38.268 in the No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson to beat G-Drive Racing’s de Vries by 0.237 seconds.
Albuquerque will share driving duties in Sunday’s four-hour race with his ELMS and FIA World Endurance Championship co-driver Phil Hanson.
De Vries, who is co-driving the Aurus-badged G-Drive Oreca with Mikkel Jensen and Roman Rusinov, moved to the top of the LMP2 leaderboard with three minutes of the 10-minute qualifying session to go and looked set to secure pole for his ELMS debut.
But the Mercedes Formula E star and Toyota LMP1 reserve driver’s celebrations were cut short when Albuquerque shot across the line in the final seconds to put United on top.
Albuquerque’s teammate Alex Brundle, who led the times in last week’s official pre-season test as well as in Free Practice 2, came through in third on a 1:38.736.
Brundle was forced to play his hand late in the session after having an early flying lap discarded for exceeding track limits.
The Englishman’s No. 32 Oreca will share the second row of the grid with the IDEC Sport Oreca qualified by reigning LMP2 drivers’ co-champion Paul-Loup Chatin.
Ben Hanley rounded out the top five for DragonSpeed, seven-tenths off Albuquerque’s pole time, while Nicolas Lapierre went sixth-quickest for Cool Racing.
The top six cars all used Michelin tires while the three cars in the order behind the Cool Racing Oreca were Goodyear-shod.
Will Stevens qualified seventh for Panis Racing, narrowly beating the Algarve Pro Racing cars driven by Frenchmen Loic Duval and Gabriel Aubry.
Tristan Gommendy rounded out the top ten in the Duqueine Team Oreca.
United, Kessel Score Class Poles
United Autosports topped both prototype categories as the British squad also claimed its first series LMP3 class pole in three years courtesy of Wayne Boyd’s 1:48.315 effort.
After Laurents Hoerr set the early pace in the DKR Engineering Duqueine M30/D08 Nissan, Boyd and the other front-runners set about working towards the target time.
Boyd, who took United’s last ELMS LMP3 pole at the 3 Hours of Monza in 2017, was the only one of the challengers to eclipse Hoerr’s 1:48.399 marker while the third and fourth-placed drivers both fell within two-tenths of the best time.
16-year-old Danish driver Malthe Jakobsen put RLR Msport’s Ligier in third, while Realteam Racing’s David Droux qualified fourth in the French squad’s JS P320.
The GTE class pole went to Nicola Cadei in the No. 74 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo that the Italian will share with Michael Broniszewski and David Perel.
Aston Martin factory driver Ross Gunn led virtually the entire session following his 1:51.754 out of the gate in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, but Cadei caused an upset by shooting to the top of the order right at the end of the 10-minute spell.
The Kessel Racing veteran’s 1:51.729 flyer was enough to pip Gunn by just 0.016 seconds, while Matt Griffin was third in the Spirit of Race Ferrari that will share row two of the GTE grid with the No. 77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR qualified by Alessio Picariello.
The 4 Hours of Le Castellet is scheduled to get underway tomorrow at 11 a.m. CEST (5 a.m. EST).