Toyota Gazoo Racing secured pole position in the first ever Hypercar qualifying session at the 2021 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Qualifying, which is now has a single-driver, fastest-time format in place of the two-driver average-lap system used in the past, was interrupted after two hefty shunts in GTE Am.
As the new era in the top class of prototype racing began, it was Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi who had the honour of securing the first ever Hypercar pole. Kobayashi’s time of 2:00.747 was good enough for P1 for the #7 crew, with the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid half a second further back in P2.
The third Hypercar entry, the #36 Alpine Elf Matmut Alpine A480, only emerged from the pits with seconds to spare as the session drew to a close. Nevertheless, Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre was able to put the car on the second row in P4 overall in Alpine’s first qualifying session in the top prototype class.
One of the stars of qualifying at Spa was Felipe Albuquerque in the #22 United Autosports Oreca. The Portuguese driver, who has been the quickest in LMP2 all weekend so far, qualified his Oreca 07 – Gibson in third, ahead of the Alpine Hypercar entry, with a 2:02.404.
Second-fastest in LMP2 was Nick de Vries for the #26 G-Drive Racing entry, with Giedo van der Gaarde P3 for Racing Team Nederland.
Estre on a tear in GTE Pro qualifying, but session interrupted after major incidents
Pole in GTE Pro went to Porsche after an outstanding performance by French driver Kévin Estre. The 32-year-old’s pole time of 2:11.219 was an incredible 1.132 seconds faster than the second-fastest driver, Miguel Molina in the #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO. Richard Lietz qualified his Porsche 911 RSR-19 in third.
The session was red flagged after two almost identical accidents featuring GTE Am Porsches. The first came as the cars embarked on their first flying laps. Christian Ried in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 lost control through Eau Rouge and careered into the barriers. The German fortunately emerged unharmed and the session was interrupted for barrier repairs.
Astonishingly, just seconds after the restart, Egidio Perfetti had an almost identical accident in the #46 Project 1 Porsche at precisely the same point on the circuit. Perfetti also appeared to be unhurt, but both teams will have plenty of work to do to make the grid on Saturday.
Once the teams were able to set their lap times, it was the two Aston Martin customer teams who set the pace. Pole went to the #33 TF Sport machine after a monster lap by Ben Keating of 2:14.660. Almost one second further back was Paul Dalla Lana in the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage AMR.
Click here for a full run-down of the qualifying results.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)