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No. 7 Toyota Edges Closer to Title with Kobayashi Bahrain Pole

Pole puts Kobayashi, Lopez, Conway 16 points ahead of Toyota teammates for 8H Bahrain…

Photo: Toyota

Kamui Kobayashi took pole position for the 8 Hours of Bahrain to edge his No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew closer to the FIA World Endurance Championship drivers’ title.

Kobayashi earned an additional point for himself, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway by beating 6 Hours of Bahrain pole man Brendon Hartley in the sister No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid during Friday evening’s 10-minute Hypercar and LMP2 qualifying session.

The Japanese driver produced a 1:46.250 in the early stages, which was enough to secure pole as Hartley fought back from his initial best lap time being deleted for track limits at Turn 10.

Hartley improved on his final tour, pedaling the No. 8 Toyota that he shares with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima to a 1:46.540 that ultimately fell 0.29 seconds short. 

The result gives Kobayashi, Lopez and Conway an increased 16-point advantage over Hartley, Buemi and Nakajima heading into Saturday’s eight-hour race.

With the World Drivers’ Championship only taking points from the Hypercar class, the No. 7 Toyota only needs to be classified in the three-car category to clinch the title.

Matthieu Vaxiviere, who like Hartley had a lap time deleted for track limits, qualified third on the grid with a time of 1:47.025 aboard the Alpine A480 Gibson which ended up just under eight-tenths off the overall pace.

In LMP2, Filipe Albuquerque came through right at the end to secure United Autosports’ first WEC pole since the Spa season-opener.

The Portuguese driver scaled the class with a 1:49.525 that put the No. 22 United car three-tenths beyond the rest of the Oreca 07 Gibsons that make up the category.

Early qualifying leader Norman Nato ended up second for Pro-Am outfit Realteam Racing, while Antonio Felix da Costa slotted into third for the No. 38 JOTA crew.

Giedo van der Garde was fourth for Racing Team Nederland after bouncing back from an early lap time deletion.

The Dutchman finished one place ahead of European Le Mans Series champion Robert Kubica who ranked fifth on a 1:50.372 for his first WEC outing with High Class Racing.

The top two in the championship – Team WRT and JOTA’s No. 28 entry – qualified seventh and ninth respectively.

Estre Scores Fifth Pole of Season in GTE-Pro

Kevin Estre’s remarkable season of qualifying in the GTE-Pro category ended with a fifth pole position of the year, who drew his No. 92 Porsche crew level on points with Ferrari’s No. 51 pairing at the top of the GTE world championship standings.

Estre completed a sweep of the regular-season WEC rounds with a time of 1:56.041 behind the wheel of the Porsche 911 RSR-19 that he shares with Neel Jani and Michael Christensen.

The only race for which Estre did not secure pole was the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he had an accident at Indianapolis corner

Estre qualified 0.16 seconds ahead of James Calado in the second-placed No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, which is battling the No. 92 Porsche for the world title.

The result banked an additional point for Estre and Jani, who now lead the championship taking a countback of race wins into consideration, but the title fight will come down to whichever of the dueling cars comes out on top in the race.

A final-lap improvement from Gianmaria Bruni saw the Italian muscle the No. 91 Porsche ahead of Daniel Serra’s No. 52 Ferrari in the classification.

GTE-Am pole honors went to Cetilar Racing’s Roberto Lacorte, who led the way on a 1:58.712 to give the Italian team its maiden front-spot starting position in the class.  

Lacorte narrowly beat points leader and fellow Ferrari driver Francois Perrodo, with just 0.047 seconds separating the two AF Corse-run machines.

Sarah Bovy made it a one-two-three for Ferrari machinery in GTE-Am driving for Iron Lynx, while Egidio Perfetti was fourth in the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche.

The 8 Hours of Bahrain gets underway Saturday at 2 p.m. local time. 

RESULTS: Qualifying

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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