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Conway, Lopez Put No. 7 Toyota on Pole for 8H Bahrain

No. 7 Toyota crew takes a point out of No. 8’s championship lead in Bahrain qualifying…

Photo: Marius Hecker/Adrenal Media

Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez put the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid on pole for the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship season finale in Bahrain.

The Anglo-Argentinian pairing combined for an average time of 1:40.747 in the 20-minute two-driver session, beating their LMP1 teammates Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima – who were running with a 0.54 seconds per lap handicap – by 0.751 seconds.

The qualifying result gives Conway, Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi an additional championship point, putting the No. 7 crew six points behind Hartley, Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi going into Saturday’s eight-hour contest that will decide the world title.

The 8 Hours of Bahrain offers more points than a ‘standard’ six-hour WEC enduro, while the gap between first and second in the race equates to an 11-point swing.

Toyota let Hartley go out first at the start of the prototype qualifying session, while Conway emerged on-track a few minutes later.

Conway’s first time of 1:40.114 was 1.138 seconds quicker than Hartley’s, while Lopez beat Nakajima by a finer 0.363s margin in the second stint run on unchanged tires to determine the direction of the final pole for the WEC’s LMP1 era.

Pole in the LMP2 category went to United Autosports’ Oreca 07 Gibson which took the top spot for the third consecutive WEC race courtesy of a 1:47.440 average set by Paul di Resta and Phil Hanson.

The Le Mans-winning duo prevailed by just under eight-tenths of a second from Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Will Stevens and Gabriel Aubry.

The drivers of the No. 37 Jota Sport-run Jackie Chan Oreca lapped marginally quicker than Signatech Alpine’s Thomas Laurent and Pierre Ragues, ensuring a Goodyear-equipped car on the front-row alongside the Michelin-shod polesitter.

Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez ended up fourth for JOTA, while Racing Team Nederland’s Nyck de Vries and Frits van Eerd rounded out the top five.

The six-car LMP2 class order was completed by Cetilar Racing’s Dallara P217 Gibson.

Aston Crews Take GTE Pole Double

Aston Martin Racing scored pole in both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am as drivers’ world championship leaders Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen extended their points advantage by a point with the best average time in the former category.

The No. 95 AMR duo produced a time of 1:56.521 which put them just 0.068 seconds ahead of Porsche’s Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen who qualified second in Pro.

James Calado and Daniel Serra made it three different brands in the top three grid positions with a 1:56.708 average aboard their No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz ended up fourth in the No. 91 Porsche, while Ferrari drivers Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon were fifth.

Aston Martin crews bookended the six-car GTE-Pro field as Maxime Martin and Richard Westbrook propped up the class with a 1:57.376 combined score.

Aston Martin also fronted qualifying for the GTE-Am division as Ross Gunn and Paul Dalla Lana landed the No. 98 AMR entry’s first pole since the 2018 6 Hours of Shanghai.

TF Sport’s points-leading Vantage GTE made it a one-two for the British marque, while Red River Sport qualified third with Bonamy Grimes and Kei Cozzolino, who is making his debut with the AF Corse-supported Ferrari team this weekend.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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