SportsCars: Toyota Sweeps Front Row For WEC Six Hours of Bahrain

will start Saturday’s Six Hours of Bahrain from the pole after a sweep of the front row in qualifying for the eighth and final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season. (Photo: John Dagys)

Toyota will start Saturday’s Six Hours of Bahrain from the pole after a sweep of the front row in qualifying for the eighth and final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season.

Alex Wurz and Kaz Nakajima combined to give the No. 7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid its third pole of the season, thanks a four-lap average of 1:42.170 around the 3.363-mile Bahrain International Circuit.

The duo, who will be joined by Nicolas Lapierre tomorrow, edged out the sister No. 8 Toyota of Stephane Sarrazin and Anthony Davidson by 0.332 seconds.

The nearest Audi, the No. 1 entry qualified by Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer, was more than a half-second behind in third.

“We played our cards very well in the morning,” Wurz said. “We didn’t show [everything] and then attacked with a really nice, consistent car. It was super good for the three of us… I’m very happy.”

With the drivers, teams and manufacturer’s titles having already all gone to Audi, LMP1 rival Toyota will be looking to end the season on a high note with its second victory of the year.

Still in with a mathematical chance of the LMP2 teams’ title, Pecom Racing scored a crucial bonus point with a pole-winning run for Nic Minassian and Pierre Kaffer, their second of the year.

The duo combined for a 1:50.207 average in the No. 49 Oreca 03 Nissan, which is expected to make its final start on Saturday with team principal Luis Perez Companc.

In order to take home the title, the AF Corse-run squad will need both championship-leading OAK Racing Morgan-Nissans to retire. The pair of French entries qualified third and sixth in class.

The No. 26 G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR Oreca Nissan of Mike Conway and John Martin, meanwhile, will line up second thanks to a 1:51.003 average.

Porsche AG Team Manthey scored its first pole of the season following an impressive 1-2 qualifying run.

Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz peddled their updated No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR to a best four-lap average of 1:58.833, edging out the sister No. 91 entry of teammates Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet by 0.127 seconds.

It came despite an issue for Lieb, as the car got stuck in third gear on his out lap. By the time the German limped the Porsche back to the pits, the problem had went away and he managed to complete his qualifying run.

“We didn’t expect to be on pole,” Lietz said. We expected to be close to the competitors. But it was a pretty good lap. We had a small problem when Marc went out but we fixed it during the session and he did two fantastic times.”

It was the first sweep of the front row for the German manufacturer this year, in the rollout of Porsche’s revised 911 RSR, which features aerodynamic and mechanical developments.

The class championship-leading No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke will line up third in class, ahead of title rivals AF Corse with a revised lineup of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander in its No. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia this weekend.

Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella, who moves to the No. 71 Ferrari this weekend, sit 5.5 points behind Turner and Mucke. A win for either of the Ferraris would be enough to take the drivers’ title.

The top five in class was completed by the No. 99 Aston Martin of Richie Stanaway and Bruno Senna, who will be joined by Pedro Lamy tomorrow.

Top qualifying honors in GTE-Am went to the No. 95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Kristian Poulsen, who combined for a 2:00.203 average.

It was just 0.034 seconds ahead of the No. 81 8Star Motorsports Ferrari of Rui Aguas and Davide Rigon, who qualified second.

Aguas and co-driver Enzo Potolicchio could take the drivers’ title on Saturday if they win the race and the championship-leading No. 96 Aston Martin finishes third or lower.

The No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche with drivers Raymond Narac and Jean-Karl Vernay, the third driver pairing still in the title hunt, will start fifth in class.

The Six Hours of Bahrain takes the green Saturday at 3 p.m. local (7 a.m. ET).