Switzerland's Mathias Beche claimed pole position for the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Paul Ricard this weekend.
Beche posted two laps good enough for pole to head the 11-car LMP2 field in the TDS Racing ORECA-Nissan 03 he shares with Pierre Thiriet. His best time of 1m48.171s put him three tenths of a second clear of Yelmer Buurman in the Status GP team's Lola-Judd/BMW B12/80.
"Guys like Stephane Sarrazin [who qualified the Sebastien Loeb Racing ORECA in seventh place] have always been the reference for me," said Beche, twice an LMP2 class winner in last year's Le Mans Series. "To be ahead with exactly the same car, engine and tyres means a lot to me and the team."
Tom Kimber-Smith, last year's LMS LMP2 champion, ended up third fastest with a time four tenths slower than Buurman. Guillaume Moreau was fourth in OAK Racing's Morgan-Judd/BMW.
British-based Italian Massimo Vignali, who has graduated from the SPEED EuroSeries, ended up fastest in the two-car LMPC field with the Boutsen Energy team.
Jaime Melo took the GTE Pro category pole on his return to JMB Racing, the team with which he started his sportscar career in 2004. His time of 1m57.630s was seven tenths quicker than the next best GTE car, the Am class ProSpeed Porsche driven by Marc Goossens.
The ELMS takes over from the LMS following the creation of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The LMP2 class should provide the overall winner following the decision to do away with LMP1 prototypes from the rebranded series.
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time 1. P2 Beche/Thiriet TDS ORECA-Nissan 1m48.171s 2. P2 Buurman/Sims/Stirling Status Lola-Judd 1m48.482s 3. P2 Ordonez/Kimber-Smith/Brundle Greaves Zytek-Nissan 1m48.882s 4. P2 Nicolet/Moreau/Kraihamer OAK Morgan-Judd 1m48.977s 5. P2 Perez Companc/Bruni/Kaffer Pecom ORECA-Nissan 1m49.068s 6. P2 Firth/Hughes/Moro Murphy ORECA-Nissan 1m49.122s 7. P2 Marroc/Minassian/Sarrazin Loeb ORECA-Nissan 1m49.157s 8. P2 Dolan/Hancock Jota Zytek-Nissan 1m49.687s 9. P2 Frey/Meichtry/Hirschi Race Performance ORECA-Judd 1m50.193s 10. PC Dagoneau/Vignali/Merlin Boutsen Ginion FLM 1m55.338s 11. PC Hartshorne/Keen/Kapadia Curtis FLM 1m55.410s 12. GTE P Melo/Frezza JMB Ferrari 1m57.630s 13. GTE A Goossens/Soulet Prospeed Porsche 1m58.388s 14. GTE A Armindo/Narac/Pons Imsa Porsche 1m58.428s 15. GTE P Walker/Cocker JMW Ferrari 1m58.517s 16. GTE A Goethe/Hall Gulf Aston Martin 1m58.532s 17. GTE A Cioci/Griffin/Perazzini AF Ferrari 1m58.803s 18. GTE P Broniszewski/Peter Kessel Ferrari 1m59.082s 19. GTE A Ferte/Illiano JMB Ferrari 2m00.182s 20. P2 Rosier/Thirion Extreme Limite Norma-Judd 21. P2 Clarke/Briere/Buemi Boutsen Ginion ORECA-Nissan