Nathanael Berton has scored a shock pole for Panis Barthez Competition, in a red-flag ridden qualifying for the season-ending European Le Mans Series round at Portimao.
Berthon took his Michelin-shod No. 23 Ligier JS P217 Gibson to a 1:33.575 lap, edging out the No. 21 DragonSpeed Oreca 07 Gibson of Nico Lapierre by 0.515 seconds.
It came after an early red flag, for spin by the No. 25 Algrave Pro Racing Ligier of Andrea Pizzitola, which left only seven minutes left on the clock once the session restarted.
The Frenchman’s pole was the first for a Ligier LMP2 car this year in ELMS competition.
“It’s just mega,” Berton said. “An awesome track and awesome work from all the team. The engineers and mechanics gave me a really good car. It’s been a lot of work for many races.”
Championship leaders G-Drive Racing will line up third on the grid, thanks to Ryo Hirakawa’s 1:34.235 lap time.
Hi co-drivers, Memo Rojas and Leo Roussel, head into Sunday’s Four Hours of Portimao needing only a sixth place finish or better to take the title.
Mikkel Jensen scored his third LMP3 class pole of the season, in a stop-start session that was marred by two red flags of its own.
The Dane stormed to a 1:40.660 in the No. 9 AT Racing Ligier JS P3 Nissan, less than two-tenths quicker than Wayne Boyd’s No. 3 United Autosports Ligier, who wound up in a surprise second in class.
Sean Rayhall, who along with John Falb hold a 19-point lead in the title race, lost his one-and-only flying lap due to track limits and is set to start at the rear of the field.
It came due to two stoppages, both for Norma M30 Nissans that spun into the gravel, which set up a one-lap dash following the final restart with three minutes and 30 seconds to go.
Four of the 17 LMP3 cars did not set times as a result.
A late flyer by Matt Griffin, meanwhile, put Spirit of Race on pole in GTE.
The Irishman’s 1:42.657 in the No. 55 Ferrari 488 GTE edged out the No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Will Stevens by 0.640 seconds, with Matteo Cairoli, who led the majority of the session, set to roll off from third on the grid.
It marked the team’s third class pole of the year, and keeps Griffin, Aaron Scott and Duncan Cameron’s slim title hopes alive.
“It’s the most pole position in my life,” Griffin said. “We needed that point to have a mathematical chance of the championship.”
The Four Hours of Portimao is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. local time.