Alpine’s Nicolas Lapierre claimed the first pole of the FIA World Endurance Championship season by going over a second clear in qualifying for Friday’s 1000 Miles of Sebring.
Lapierre topped Friday evening’s ten-minute prototype qualifying session by setting a time of 1:47.407 behind the wheel of the No. 36 Alpine A480 Gibson that he shares with Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere.
It marked the second outright WEC pole position for Alpine after Vaxiviere put the car on the leading grid spot for last season’s 8 Hours of Portimao.
Olivier Pla qualified second for Glickenhaus Racing while the two Toyota GR010 Hybrids ended up fourth and seventh overall, both behind the LMP2 pole-sitter.
Pla’s best lap was a 1:48.741, just over 1.3 seconds adrift of a dominant Lapierre who initially hit the front with a 1:48.366 before taking almost a second off his benchmark.
Nicklas Nielsen earned a second-row starting spot for LMP2 Pro-Am entrant AF Corse by submitting a 1:49.014 marker aboard the No. 83 Oreca 07 Gibson.
Nielsen, who is a Ferrari factory driver, edged two-tenths quicker than Brendon Hartley’s No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid.
Jose Maria Lopez could only manage a time of 1:49.581 in the No. 7 Toyota, which was beaten by Nielsen and the two United Autosports Orecas driven by Filipe Albuquerque and Paul di Resta who claimed fifth and sixth overall respectively.
Rene Rast took fourth in LMP2 and eighth outright for defending class champion Team WRT, ahead of Realteam by WRT’s Ferdinand Habsburg and Prema Orlen Team’s Robert Kubica.
Team Penske qualified ninth in class for its WEC debut courtesy of a 1:50.629 from Dane Cameron.
The mixed prototype session was red-flagged with 12 seconds to go when Fabio Scherer crashed the Inter Europol Competition Oreca into the tire barriers at the exit of Turn 1. The session was not resumed.
Christensen Pips Porsche Teammate Bruni
Michael Christensen took the first GTE-Pro pole of the season after putting in a late improvement to beat his fellow Porsche GT Team factory driver Gianmaria Bruni.
Bruni shot to the top of the times with a 1:57.383 while Christensen initially slotted in less than a tenth behind, but the positions switched after the final qualifying laps.
Christensen managed to cut his number down to a 1:57.233, earning the pole position ahead of his return to full-time WEC racing in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19.
Corvette Racing’s Nick Tandy came closest to splitting the Porsche works pair but came up three-tenths short of that task and just under half a second off Christensen.
Ben Keating scored the GTE-Am pole for Aston Martin squad TF Sport and even out-paced the two Pro-class AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos.
Keating reeled off a 1:59.204 as the only Am competitor to break the two-minute barrier around the 3.74-mile Sebring course.
Ferrari struggled to match its GTE-Pro competitors with James Calado taking fourth in class aboard the No. 51 machine. in which the Brit won last year’s championship alongside Alessandro Pier Guidi. Calado’s 1:59.299 bid was just over two seconds off the pace.
Antonio Fuoco was fifth in Pro and sixth overall in the GTE order on his first qualifying appearance for the Ferrari factory team.
The GTE session was interrupted by an early red flag when Niki Leutwiler went off into the Turn 17 barriers with light damage to his No. 46 Project 1 Porsche.