Stop-start qualifying in Portugal

The Qualifying for the final in the European Le Mans Series was run under light cloud cover at Portimao in Portugal.

First out were the GTE cars for 10 minutes. The two Spirit of Race Ferraris were the first in line, along with JMW Motorsport Ferrari.

Nicki Thiim was the driver to qualify TF Sport AMR #90, while Matteo Cairoli was on duty in the Proton Competition Porsche #77.

Andrea Bertolini in Spirit of Race #51 was the first to clock a fast time, but Matt Griffin in #55 followed right after.

Nicki Thiim beat those times and the one put down by Darren Turner in the Beechdean AMR #99 and Cairoli in the #77 too.

Cairoli wasn’t done yet, and put down the fastest lap of all. All other cars went into the pits for a new set of tires, to give it one more go.

So when the 10 minutes of qualifying had been run, the #55 started pole in front of #66, #77, 51, #90, and #99.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #55
Photo; JJ Media

With those results and the single point for Pole Position, the top-3 in the GTE  Championship is only split by 10 points ahead of the title decider tomorrow.

The LMP3 Quali was starting shortly thereafter. After only a few minutes, the Red Flag was brought out by the Oregon Team #10 spinning into the gravel, and having to be recovered. So all other teams had to drive back to the pits. Dario Capitanio in the #10 had to make a trip to Race Control since he drove the car back to the pits, even though he had been told NOT to do so, but only drive it to a place of safety.

The session only ran for 4 more minutes before the next Red Flag. Duqueine Engineering #7 driven by Antonin Borga had also spun into the gravel. With only three and a half minutes left of the clock, we saw the cars racing each other out of the pits and to the line, to be the first to start a clear lap.

Mikkel Jensen in AT Racing #9 won that race, and was the first car to go on a flying lap, and even managing to do a second lap, as the only car other than M.Racing – YMR #18. The two fought for Pole Position, with Mikkel Jensen as the fastest ahead of United Autosports #3 and Panis Barthez Competition #16. That was the third Pole of the year for Mikkel Jensen in the team.

AT Racing #9
Photo: JJ Media

There was drama for Championship leader United Autosports #2 with Sean Rayhall behind the wheel, having originally qualified up front in the LMP3 field, but he was disallowed the time due to track limits. Therefore he will only start 15th in the category, and even behind the whole GTE field. Fortunately they have 4 hours of racing tomorrow to decide the Championship.

The LMP2 category didn’t want to hold back on Red Flag either, when Algarve Pro Racing #25 drove into the gravel with Andrea Pizzitola parking up his Ligier JS P217 Gibson in the final turn of the lap.

With 7 minutes left of the clock, the Green Flag was shown again.

IDEC Sport Racing #28 was the first car on the track, followed by the other 10 LMP2 cars.

G-Drive Racing #22 with Ryo Hirakawa was the first car to go to Pole Postion, but the competition still had 4 minutes left to beat him. Panis Barthez Competition #23 with Nathanael Berthon did so and Berthon was so sure of the time, that he pitted straight afterwards, without trying to improve. Nico Lapierre in DragonSpeed #21 tried to go for pole, but ended up in P3 behind #23 and #22.

Panis Barthez Competition #23
Photo: JJ Media

The main competition to G-Drive Racing #22 in the Championship, United Autosports #32 with local hero Filipe Albuerquerque behind the wheel, only qualified 5th overall, and still have 18 points to catch up. So they need to finished second in class, with #22 having to retire. But anything can happen in racing.

The race will start tomorrow Sunday at 14.00 CET.

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