Team Oreca will start the first Le Mans Series event at Portimao from pole position after Nicolas Lapierre posted the quickest time in qualifying for the Saturday evening event.
At the wheel of the #11 car he shares with ex-F1 driver Olivier Panis, Lapieere lapped the Algarve circuit in a best time of 1min 31.020secs to snare top spot by just over a tenth of a second from the leading Aston Martin Racing Lola-Aston Martin.
“I am not really surprised,” Lapierre said. “We have been competitive till the beginning of the weekend. It was a tough fight, but we are on the pole. Our car is well adapted to the track because of its good mechanical grip. The main job is for tomorrow.”
Stefan Mucke posted the quickest time at the wheel of the #007 Lola-Aston to join Lapierre on the front row, although he admitted there was some disappointment at not managing to secure pole.
“I am a little bit disappointed not to get pole because it would have been nice to get the extra point for the championship but second place is still good,” he said. “I think it is better than we expected because this circuit does not really suit our car. I am very optimistic for the race as the car is consistent and I don't think it matters too much if you are on the left or right of the front row. After all, we are racing for six hours so the most important thing is to have a clear run without any mistakes.”
The second Oreca entry, with home favourite Tiago Monteiro rejoining the team alongside Bruno Senna, will start from third place on the grid despite Senna being blocked by traffic on his quickest lap, with Strakka Racing qualifying in fourth having earlier paced practice.
“The fluctuations in track and air temperature over the last couple of days risked sending us down a few blind alleys, but we stuck to our guns and aimed at establishing a balance that we felt would suit us best for the race,” team manager Piers Phillips said. “We realised that might not be perfect for qualifying, but we're now confident that we have a great car with an excellent set-up, and while I have to admit to being just a tad disappointed to have missed pole, I believe we're a stronger position for six hours of racing.”
The #009 Aston Martin Racing entry starts from fifth, with Darren Turner another driver to encounter traffic during the session, while the top six is rounded out by the first of the Kolles Audi R10s.
Olivier Pla took pole in LMP2 for home team Quifel-ASM, with the Ginetta-Zytek lining up in tenth place on the grid – two places ahead of RML's Lola-Mazda Coupe. The GAC Racing Team Zytek lines up in third.
In GT1, a depleted two-car field will see the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette line up ahead of the returning Larbre Competition Saleen while in GT2, Richard Lietz carried Felbermayr-Proton to class pole ahead of the Ferraris of JMW Motorsport and Team Modena.