PORTIMAO, Portugal— Toyota Gazoo Racing took the first row Saturday afternoon in qualifying for Sunday’s Six Hours of Portimão with Brendon Hartley setting the best time with a 1:30:171 ahead of his rival Kamui Kobyaschi.

The New Zealander just edged out his Japanese rival by 0.273 seconds with the Ferraris following them in the hypercar division in the second row, with Nicklas Nielsen and James Calado third and fourth, respectively. The Penske Porsche team with Kevin Estre and Frederic Makowiecki were fifth and sixth, with the Total Energies Peugeot with Nico Mueller driving, placing in eighth. Cadillac, with Richard Westbrook, was disappointing after their great showing at the last round at Sebring, took eighth, followed by the second Peugeot with Paul Di Resta. The Glickenhaus and Vanwall entries brought up the last two positions in this class.

There was a shocker in the LMP 2 class as Prema Racing achieved their first pole, with Mirko Bortlotti, who began the session with the car being worked on in the pits and even having a lap deleted before taking a 0.001 second pole win over Vector Sport’s Gabriel Aubry. Despite the close achievement, which is the closest in LMP 2 history, the matter about the pit incident currently is being investigated by race stewards. The number 48 JOTA entry will begin the race in third, while the Europol Competition Car is fourth. The United Autosports Team, which is one squad that is always up in the front in this class, were disappointing, placing sixth and seventh on the grid, with Phil Hanson getting a three-grid penalty for impeding another car at the finish of the qualifying session.

Prema Racing, despite their car being worked on in the pits, prior to qualifying, beat Vector sport by 0.001 seconds, the closest in LMP2 history. WEC Photo

It was a revenge situation from the last round in Sebring as Ben Keating took pole from Sarah Bovy in the Iron Dames entry in the GTE AM division as the American in his Corvette took a 1:41:362 fastest lap, defeating the Belgian by only 0.217seconds. Third was the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Diego Alessi with another AF Corse entry driven by Thomas Flohr finishing in fourth. Aston Martin’s Ahmed Al Harthy took fifth in TF Sport.

The race itself on Sunday will begin at noon local time in Portugal.

By Mark Gero

Ben Keating celebrates after beating rival Sarah Bovy in qualifying in the GTE AM class. WEC Photo