- SMP Racing and AF Corse secure first Ferrari front-row lockout since same event in 2016
- Madpanda Mercedes-AMG takes Silver Cup pole, Sky Tempesta Ferrari tops Pro-Am, Sainteloc Audi prevails in Am Cup
- Stage set for season-deciding six-hour race into the sunset
SMP Racing will lead a Ferrari one-two in tomorrow's Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km after producing a dazzling display under the lights in this evening's qualifying session.
The action began just as the sun was setting at the French venue and saw both full-pro Ferrari crews rise to the challenge of rapidly changing conditions. The SMP line-up features two new additions this weekend, with the experienced Toni Vilander and series newcomer Antonio Fuoco sharing the #72 machine with full-season driver Sergey Sirotkin.
Their pace was evident immediately as Vilander went fourth quickest in Q1, laying a strong foundation for his young teammates. Fuoco then delivered one of the most impressive qualifying laps of the season, ending Q2 fastest overall in his very first outing at this level of GT racing.
This put the SMP crew within touching distance of top spot and Sirotkin made absolutely certain of the result, posting a 1m53.301s in the final segment. This was the fastest time across all three sessions and ensured that Ferrari will start from pole for the first time since Monza in 2018
The #51 AF Corse crew confirmed the Italian brand's superiority by taking second on the grid thanks to consistent speed from its trio of drivers. Alessandro Pier Guidi was third in the opening session, while Tom Blomqvist was second to Fuoco in Q2 and Come Ledogar completed the job by taking P4 in the final segment.
The AF Corse crew also features two changes this weekend, as both Blomqvist and Ledogar have been drafted into the line-up for the Circuit Paul Ricard contest. As such they will support Pier Guidi's bid for the Endurance Cup title, with the Italian well placed to overhaul a six-point gap tomorrow.
There will be some serious competition looking to overhaul the Ferrari duo from the second row of the grid, with the #4 HRT Mercedes-AMG starting alongside the #32 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry. Outgoing champion Orange1 FFF Racing will lead an all-Lamborghini third row alongside Emil Frey Racing, while the title-contending #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG will start seventh.
Indeed, the battle for the overall Endurance Cup crown appears more open than ever ahead of the finale after the championship-leading #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche qualified in 26th position. However, with six hours of racing ahead, the Italian squad remains firmly in the hunt.
Madpanda Motorsport captured Silver Cup pole thanks to the two-man crew of Ezequiel Perez Companc and Patrick Assenheimer. Team owner Perez Companc was particularly impressive in Q2, posting the sixth-best time overall in the #90 Mercedes-AMG. The car will start 17th on the grid, two places ahead of Endurance Cup points leader Barwell Motorsport's #77 Lamborghini.
Pro-Am pole went to Sky Tempesta Racing, edging the #93 Ferrari into the lead of an ultra-close title battle. The British outfit is now a single point clear of Aston Martin squad Garage 59 heading into the decider. The #93 Ferrari will take the start from 21st overall, four places ahead of its title rival, after another strong showing from Chris Froggatt, Jonathan Hui and Eddie Cheever III.
Sainteloc Racing won the Am Cup battle with its #26 Audi, beating the #108 CMR Bentley after the latter failed to set a time in Q3. The remainder of the 40-car grid completed all three sessions in a particularly clean qualifying run.
The season-ending Endurance Cup race is scheduled to go green at 11.45 CET on Sunday morning and will run for 1,000km or a maximum of six hours. It will conclude shortly after sunset at Circuit Paul Ricard, bringing the curtain down on the 2020 campaign.