Norman Nato produced a late flying lap to clinch pole for the European Le Mans Series season-opener at Circuit Paul Ricard.
The Frenchman, who won the 4 Hours of Le Castellet last year with Racing Engineering, popped up right at the end of the session with a time of 1:40.52 to jump ahead of last year’s pole-sitter Paul-Loup Chatin by 0.025 seconds.
Nato, who is filling in for Jean-Eric Vergne this weekend, will share driving duties in the No. 26 Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson with Roman Rusinov and Job van Uitert.
Chatin’s lap time in the IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson was enough to fend off Alex Brundle, who charge onto the second row of the grid with a late flyer of his own in the No. 23 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 Gibson.
Brundle edged ahead of Nicolas Lapierre in the Oreca entered by LMP2 debutant Cool Racing, while Ben Hanley placed fifth in the DragonSpeed Oreca.
Chatin, Lapierre and Hanley had been trading the quickest times for most of the 15-minute session until Nato and Brundle caused a stir at the very end.
United Autosports’ sister Ligier that Paul di Resta qualified will start seventh, while Anders Fjordbach set the eighth-best time in the High Class Racing Oreca.
In LMP3, 22-year-old Italian Damiano Fioravanti took pole for his prototype racing debut with a time of 1:49.686 in the No. 10 Oregon Team Norma M30 Nissan.
Normas filled out the first two rows of the class grid with Matthieu Lahaye qualifying the No. 17 Ultimate machine next to Fioravanti at the front, while Lucas Legeret (M Racing) and David Droux (Realteam Racing) took up the second row.
The quickest lap time from a Ligier JS P3 Nissan lap came courtesy of BMW factory GT driver Mikkel Jensen in the No. 11 Eurointernational entry.
Pole in the GTE class went to Matteo Cairoli at the wheel of the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, with the Italian lapping two tenths ahead of Luzich Racing Ferrari driver Alessandro Pier Guidi in second.