The qualifying for the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2019/20 was run shortly before sunset at Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
First out were the 7 GTE Pro cars, and 11 GTE Am cars for 20 minutes.
The GTE Pro category had a guest entry from Corvette Racing #63, who will participate in the COTA race, and the Sebring FIA WEC race next month. They have called up Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller, who are well-known faces at the yellow team, to race their new C8.R, which got its race debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona last month.
The Aston Martin Racing #95 mechanics had been busy since free practice 2, where the car lost a wheel, after hitting some of the high curbs around the track.
Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Matteo Cairoli was the first to post a quick time in the GTE Am category. Kei Cozzolino in MR Racing Ferrari #70 did top that one, before Nicklas Nielsen in the AF Corse Ferrari #83 beat both of them.
A reoccurring theme during the qualifying was Track Limits, which cost both AF Corse Ferrari #71 and Porsche #92 their first flying laps.
Instead, we had AF Corse #51 posting the first fast official lap for the GTE Pro cars, with James Calado, before handing over to Alessandro Pier Guidi.
Marco Sørensen in #95 set a marginally quicker time in the AMR #95, before pitting and letting Nicki Thiim having his laps.
Matt Campbell in the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 managed to post the fastest GTE Am time, before he dived into the pits to let Christian Ried finish off the session.
Both AF Corse Ferrari #71 and #51 were quick to post laps by their second drivers – Miguel Molina and Alessandro Pier Guidi respectively, but once Nicki Thiim got the outlap in the AMR #95 done, he jumped to a massive 0,35 of a second ahead of the Ferrari duo.
Egidio Perfetti in Team Project 1 Porsche #56 was the one to follow up on Matteo Cairoli’s fast lap, putting their average into P1 amongst the GTE Am cars, with the AMR #98 driven by Paul Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn only a few thousands behind.
Kevin Estre managed to pull Porsche #92 into the second position in GTE Pro, with only a few seconds to go.
So the qualifying result in GTE Pro was AMR #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen on Pole Position, ahead of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in Porsche #92, while Aston Martin #97 with Maxime Martin and Alexander Lynn was P3. AF Corse #51 was the best Ferrari, while Corvette Racing #63 was slowest in GTE Pro, with neither Mike Rockenfeller nor Jan Magnussen hitting the perfect lap.
GTE Am had Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Matteo Cairoli, Egidio Perfetti (and Laurents Hörr in the pits) as the fastest car, ahead of Aston Martin Racing #98 with Paul Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn (and Darren Turner in the garage), while TF Sport Aston Martin #90 with Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc (plus Jonny Adam) was in P3.
Then the LMP cars had their turn on the track. Unfortunately, we were down to 3 LMP1 cars this weekend, with 2 Toyota Gazoo Racing cars, and a single Rebellion Racing, since Team LNT Ginetta had both cars back at the workshop in England for service.
The 9 LMP2 cars were rushing to get on the track, so they were the first cars to post fast laps. Racing Team Nederland #29 with Nyck de Vries was flying in the yellow car and put everybody more than half a second behind him.
The Rebellion Racing #1 was the first of the LMP1 cars to post a time, that neither Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 nor #7 could match. The Rebellion Racing #1 mechanics had been busy in the Free Practice 2, since the engine had failed in a huge plume of smoke. But the new engine looked absolutely perfect with that laptime.
DragonSpeed #21 had also done an engine swap since the qualifying, but they were further down the LMP2 ranks.
There wasn’t a great deal of the second drivers, who managed to post their laps, before the Red Flag came out with five and a half minutes to go, due to Anders Fjordbach in the High Class Racing #33 being stopped on the track. The Dane did, however, manage to refire the ORECA 07 once again, so race control had been a bit too eager on the big red button.
While the LMP2 cars ere fastest out of the pits in the first part of qualifying, both Rebellion Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing were lined up at the pit exit, a long time before the lights turned green.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 did, however, lose their first flying lap due to Track Limits, so Brendon Hartley had to give it another go.
Rebellion Racing #1 with Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato (plus Bruno Senna) took Pole Position amongst the LMP1 cars, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway (plus Kamui Kobayashi), while Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima (plus Sebastien Buemi) will start the race from P3.
The LMP2 category saw Cool Racing #42 with Nicolas Lapierre and Antonin Borga (plus Alexandre Coigny in the garage) jump to Pole Position, ahead of United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque (plus Paul Di Resta), and Signatech Alpine Elf #36 with Thomas Laurent and Pierre Ragues (plus Andre Negrao) in P3.
High Class Racing #33 with Mark Patterson in the pits, plus Anders Fjordbach and Kenta Yamashita doing the qualifying, did end up running again and finished 6th out of the 9 cars.
The race starts on Sunday at 19.00 CET and can be viewed on www.fiawec.com, plus various other outlets.