Sunday 18 October 2015

Felipe Albuquerque takes pole for Jota ahead of Greaves Motorsport

In a nail-biting qualifying session, Felipe Albuquerque hit the top mark and put the #38 Jota Gibson on pole. It all went down to the dying minutes of the session, when Felipe Albuquerque put in a  1.43.51, 0.8 seconds ahead of John Lancaster in the Greaves Gibson/Nissan.  Early in the session Leo Roussel set the pace in the #29 Pegasus Racing Morgan, untill Olivier Pla took over the lead in the #40 Krohn Ligier. When John Lancaster beat Pla's time with 0.001 second, it seemed like Greaves Motorsport had the pole in their hands, but Albuquerque put in his fastest lap at the end of the session.  Lancaster seemed to gain the advantage back in his last lap, but a double yellow at the beginning if the start/finish straight denied his chances to go full throttle.  So it's #38 Jota on pole, extending their lead to 2 points in the championship, ahead of the #41 Greaves and the #40 Krohn Ligier.  The third championship contender, #46 Thiriet Oreca05 took fourth place on the grid.  

In LMP3, Mike Simpson ultimately took pole ahead of newly crowned champion Charlie Robertson.  Both Ginetta's outpaced the Graff Ligier JS P3, 1.3 seconds behind them.  Richard Lietz took pole in the #88 Proton Porsche, the first time this season that there's no Ferrari on pole in thias class.  The championship leading #60 Formula Racing Ferrari is on second place, ahead of the #66 JMW Ferrari. Frank Perrera took the honours in GTC, even putting the TDS BMW ahead of the fastest GTE cars.  In these wet and damp conditions, the GTC cars surely have an advantage, with their ABS systems.  AF Corse took second and third place with the #63 and #62. 

We're in for a great race this afternoon, with all cards still to play for the championship.  All three title contenders will have to go all the way to clinch the 2015 title.  The weather forecast is still unpredictable; sunny and dry at the moment, but still a damp track, with dark clouds heading to the track again. 

Saturday practice sessions

Rain and heavy wind shortened the Saturday morning session in Portugal. Tricky conditions on track, causing lots of cars going off, luckfully without any huge damage.  At a certain point the clouds seemed to open up, only to do the opposite. Conditions got worse by the minute, resulting in a full course yellow due to debris from trees falling down on the track at the end of the start/ finish straight.  When the session got green flagged again, the Ginetta #3 of Hoy and Robertson spun into the gravel at the exit of turn 2.  Minutes later the red flag came out and due to the increasing amount of wind the session was ended after 64 minutes.  

The #40 Ligier JS P2 of Krohn racing topped the timetable after 64 minutes, thanks to an early quick lap of Olivier Pla. The #29 Pegasus Racing Morgan was second fastest, although on a reasonable distance of 3,8 seconds.  Third was the #46 Thiriet Oreca 05, nearly a second behind the Morgan. In LMP3 the #9 Graff Ligier JS P3 got third fastest, behind both Team LNT Ginetta's.  In GTE it was the #88 Proton Porsche fastest, ahead of the #66 JMW Ferrari and the #52 Marc VDS BMW. GTC was dominated by the #59 TDS Racing BMW, which was the fastest GT car on track, outpacing the GTE cars. AF Corse took 2nd and 3rd with the #63 and #64. 

Against all expectations, the weather changed just before the afternoon session started. Clouds opened up and the sun came out, making it a dry session.  Due to the omproved conditions the session was extended to 2 hours, so the teams could make up the time that was lost in the morning.  At the start of the session, the track was still quite wet and slippery but at the end, it was completely dry.  

Greaves Motorsport topped the times in LMP2, John Lancaster putting in the fastest lap of the afternoon, ahead of Nicolas Lapierre in the #46 Thiriet Oreca.  Mikhail Aleshin put the #21 AF Racing BR01 inbetween the 3 title contenders, holding off Harry Tincknell in the #38 Jota Sport Gibson.  Behind those 4, Eurasia Motorsport led the rest of the LMP2 contenders.  Team LNT took both top places again in LMP3, ahead of the #9 Graff Ligier, just over a second behind both Ginetta's.  GTE was very close, Ferrari factory driver and WEC regular James Calado put the #66 JMW Ferrari 458 on top, just 0.4 seconds faster than Andy Priaulx in the Marc VDS BMW who managed to hold off Richard Lietz in the #88 Proton Porsche.  In GTC The AF Corse Ferrari's #62 and #63 outpaced the #59 TDS BMW Z4 by 0.3 seconds.  

Kristof Vermeulen.

Qualifying results : HERE