FIA WEC: Toyota, Ferrari score top class poles at Silverstone

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Toyota Racing secured the pole position for the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone. The team’s No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, driven by Alexander Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Stephane Sarrazin, edged the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro by just 0.005 of a second once average laps were taken into account.

“I am bit surprised with pole but we knew it was going to be close,” Wurz said. “The reason I am surprised is not that I didn’t believe in our performance, but we had a lot of discussion and debate about the set-up. Obviously our decision turned out to be a good one and worked really well. Kazuki’s lap was great; he was really on it. We worked hard to make the car consistent and so far it has paid off. But the focus is fully on the race because that is where the points are.”

The Toyota’s was a 1:42.774 to the Audi’s 1:42.779. The best of the new Porsche 919 Hybrids, the No. 14 car (Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb), clocked in third.

Mark Webber’s FIA WEC debut will occur from P6 in the sister No. 20 Porsche, which he’ll co-drive with Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.

The lone Morgan Nissan in the reduced four-car LMP2 class, entered by G-Drive Racing and run by the OAK squad, took that class pole. The No. 26 of Oliver Pla, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov headed a trio of ORECA 03 Nissans.

In GTE, Ferrari took both the Pro and Am class poles with the venerable F458 Italia. The No. 51 AF Corse entry has the top spot in the hands of veterans Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander; the “young gun” second car of Davide Rigon and James Calado is fourth on the grid, with the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs sandwiched in-between.

AF Corse’s 2013-spec Am class car, the No. 81 driven by Stephen Wyatt, Michele Rugolo and 2013 GP2 runner-up Sam Bird (like Calado an ex-open-wheeler), has the top spot in that class ahead of one of the Prodrive-run Aston Martin Vantages, as Aston Martin Racing celebrates its 10th anniversary this season.

More information on this weekend’s race can be found on the official FIA WEC website.

Qualifying times

Rebellion confirms LMP1 return, all-star line-up for WEC super season

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Rebellion Racing has confirmed it will return to the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018/19 ‘super season’ with an all-star line-up featuring Le Mans winners Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer.

Rebellion raced in LMP1 as a privateer between 2009 and 2016 before stepping down to LMP2 for the most recent season, capturing the class titles at the first attempt.

Following a push from the WEC and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to make LMP1 more appealing to privateer teams, Rebellion announced on Wednesday it would return to the premier class for the 2018/19 season with a two-car effort.

WEC LMP2 champion Bruno Senna will return with Rebellion next year, as will Mathias Beche, with the pair set to be joined by four new faces.

The most notable arrivals are Porsche factory drivers Lotterer and Jani, both of whom were left without an LMP1 drive following the closure of the German manufacturer’s program at the end of the season.

American racer Gustavo Menezes will also join Rebellion, stepping up after two years in LMP2, while outstanding 2017 rookie Thomas Laurent completes the Swiss team’s line-up.

“I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance career started nine years ago,” said Jani.

“Rebellion Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear for me that I wanted to race again for Rebellion.

“With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and with a bit of luck, maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.”

“I am very happy to join the champion Rebellion team,” added three-time Le Mans winner Lotterer.

“The LMP1 project is very exciting and to be able to go on with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC challenge is something I did not want to miss.

“I am motivated and looking forward to have a great time with great people there.”