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WEC Portimao

Prema keeps maiden WEC pole, handed fine after Portimao pit infringement

Prema Racing has kept its LMP2 class pole at the World Endurance Championship’s Portimao round after a stewards’ investigation into its pitlane procedural violation in qualifying.

#63 Prema Racing Oreca 07 ? Gibson LMP2: Doriane Pin, Mirko Bortolotti, Daniil Kvyat

Lamborghini factory driver Mirko Bortolotti claimed Prema’s first WEC pole at the Algarve International Circuit after beating Vector Sport’s Gabriel Aubry to the top spot by 0.001s, but was immediately placed under investigation after the session.

An as-yet-unexplained mechanical issue while cars were queuing at pit exit required the attention of Prema mechanics, who removed and then replaced the rear deck on Bortolotti’s ORECA-Gibson 07 in the fast lane – a violation of article 12.1.2 in the WEC’s Sporting Regulations.

However, Prema was allowed to retain its pole and instead been hit with a €1000 fine.

While the work was done outside its designated working area, “as the team ́s garage was at the opposite end of pit lane the stewards agree that they would have impeded other competitors if they had pushed the car the entire length of the pit lane”.

The stewards added: “The car subsequently left the pits and immediately returned via the track to their allocated working space where they completed repairs.”

Having aborted his first run, Bortolotti returned to the track to usurp Aubry, who had previously headed the times in FP2 and FP3.

However, his 1m34.284s lap was scrubbed due to a track limits violation before he responded with a slightly slower 1m34.303s that fractionally pipped Aubry.

Reflecting on “a nightmare start to the session” that he said “made things a bit spicey”, Bortolotti explained that the dramas made his pole lap “feel even better”.

#63 Prema Racing Oreca 07 - Gibson: Doriane Pin, Mirko Bortolotti, Daniil Kvyat

#63 Prema Racing Oreca 07 - Gibson: Doriane Pin, Mirko Bortolotti, Daniil Kvyat

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“Today we made it stick, even though it was a nightmare of a session,” said the Italian, who is making his third WEC appearance and second with Prema.

“It started in the worst possible way. It got even worse during the qualifying but in the end the lap was pretty awesome.

“It’s great to be getting this first pole for the team in a new environment for them because it’s a second season so they’re relatively new to it.

“It’s a fantastic way to start our cooperation.”

Bortolotti believes pole position will be a significant advantage at a track that drivers are predicting will be difficult to overtake on.

“It’s hard to predict,” he said. “The level is so high, everybody is a contender, especially at the front end.

“We know we have a good package, we worked well not only in this weekend but also in preparation.

“We have a strong lineup and a strong team behind us so I think we have all the ingredients that we need to be fighting for wins and for podiums.

“But every day and every Sunday has its own story so we will need to do our job tomorrow and see where we end up.”

#10 Vector Sport Oreca 07 - Gibson: Ryan Cullen, Matthias Kaiser, Gabriel Aubry

#10 Vector Sport Oreca 07 - Gibson: Ryan Cullen, Matthias Kaiser, Gabriel Aubry

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

For his part Aubry called missing out on his maiden pole by such a fine margin “a bit hard to accept”, though was pleased to secure the best qualifying result to date for Vector Sport since its entry into the WEC in 2022.

“The field is very quick and tight but we have a competitive car,” he said. “It’s going to be a great race on Sunday.”

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Meanwhile, Phil Hanson has been given a three-place grid drop in the #22 United Autosports ORECA he qualified third after impeding Bent Viscaal’s #9 Prema machine at Turn 2.

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