CLICK HERE for the full FR3.5 qualifying results (2) from Le Mans, France
Tio Ellinas stormed to a second career pole at the eighth and penultimate round of the Formula Renault 3.5 championship at Le Mans in a session that saw Oliver Rowland qualify in 14th.
Strakka Racing's Ellinas produced a last-minute flyer to top the session with a competitive 1m 20.648, some four tenths-of-a-second faster than Rowland's race one pole lap yesterday. Matthieu Vaxiviere - who suffered a controversial race one at the helm of his Lotus - is looking for redemption in second.
Tom Dillmann joins a French 2-3-4 in front of his home crowd, mere hours after his stunning return to the podium. His Carlin model, which is reworked and a significant evolution of his initial car, was one one-hundredth behind his compatriot. He will be joined on the second row by the third French driver on the grid, rookie Aurelien Panis who was a surprise package for Tech 1 Racing.
Second-placed yesterday, Egor Orudzhev maintained his form for fifth with the DAMS duo of Dean Stoneman and Nyck de Vries sixth and seventh respectively. DAMS Racing were the first team out on track at the restart of the session following an immediate red flag to proceedings.
A red flag was immediately called after an oil leak from the sole International Draco Racing driver Andre Negrao who steps in for the absent duo of Bruno Bonifiacio and Pietro Fantin. This caused a 25 minute delay to proceedings while the track conditions were amended. The Brazilian did not return to the track for qualifying and the decision regarding his participation in the race this afternoon will be at the discretion of the stewards and subject to the condition of his car.
Completing the top ten, Jazeman Jaafar, Nicholas Latifi and Alfonso Celis Jr are looking for improvements after some first race challenges hampered their progress. The top eight drivers exchanged fastest lap times in the final minutes as they adapted to the altered track conditions and increasingly-warmer tyres until Ellinas' lap secured him a second career pole. Meanwhile, championship leader Rowland was by far the biggest name faller after his best lap time was deleted following a track limit infringement.
Track limits have been the talking point of the weekend and, once again, caused problems in qualifying. The low track caused many drivers to take four wheels off the circuit with turn six - the Virage de la Chapelle - proving to be particularly problematic for de Vries, Orudzhev, Jaafar, Marlon Stockinger and Roy Nissany who was fastest over the first sector. Rowland was comfortably within the top five before he came a cropper again at turn six and dropped down the order. He remains just one point shy of FR3.5 championship glory.
In what was a competitive qualifying, the top 15 were separated by a second. It is all to play for this afternoon when race two begins at 13:30 CET.