Toyota dominates Silverstone WEC qualifying for first pole since 2013

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Toyota put its aerokit advantage to good use in qualifying for the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Silverstone on Saturday afternoon, scorching to a one-two finish to mark its first pole position in over three years.

Entering 2017 after a tough year notable for its heartbreaking defeat at Le Mans, Toyota made a range of updates to its TS050 Hybrid car and tweaked its driver line-up by drafting in three-time WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez.

With the rival Porsche team opting to run its Le Mans-spec aerokit for Silverstone, Toyota was able to make its high downforce setup advantage tell by romping to a one-two finish.

Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi combined to record a two-lap average of 1:37.304 in the No. 7 TS050 Hybrid, clinching pole by almost three-tenths of a second from Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima in the sister No. 8 car.

Defending champion team Porsche was left to settle for third and fourth for the start, finishing over a second adrift of the Toyotas with its No. 1 and No. 2 919 Hybrids.

G-Drive Racing picked up pole in the LMP2 class courtesy of Alex Lynn and Pierre Thiriet, edging just 0.046 seconds clear of the No. 36 Signatech Alpine entry.

Ford eased to pole position in GTE Pro as Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell finished eight-tenths of a second clear, leaving Sam Bird and Davide Rigon to settle for second in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE. Aston Martin’s No. 98 entry will start at the head of the GTE Am field.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.