Porsche on pole at Le Mans

Le Mans (Photo by Melissa Warren)

Le Mans (Photo by Melissa Warren)The German manufacturer, record holder of the number of victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours (16), laid down a marker prior at the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours by setting the fastest time in qualifying.

Over the two days’ qualifying its three 919 Porsche Hybrid prototypes put on an impeccable performance and locked out the first three places on the grid.

In LM P2 the no. 47 Oreca 05 entered by KCMG took pole. In LM GTE Pro and GTE Am Aston Martin scored a double with nos 99 and 98.

The no. 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Dumas, Jani, Lieb will start on pole for the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours. On Wednesday 10th June Swiss driver Neel Jani clinched the fastest time in qualifying in 3m 16.887sec. Joining the no. 19 Porsche on the front row will be another 919 Hybrid, no. 17 in the hands of Webber, Bernhard, Hartley followed by the third Porsche 919 Hybrid Hulkenberg, Bamber, Tandy.

The second qualifying session began in overcast, stormy weather at 19h00 (the first session was on Wednesday) on a dry track, and it was upset by several incidents. Four stoppages upset the original schedule. Among the improvements early on, the no. 19 Porsche beat its Wednesday’s time with a lap of 3m18.862sec, but this did not change the previous day’s hierarchy.

The first stoppage was at 19h40 because of the off of the no. 13 Rebellion R-One in the first chicane on Les Hunaudières, mechanical failure on the no. 47 Oreca 05 between Mulsanne and Indianapolis as well as a trip into the gravel trap by the no. 55 Ferrari in the Porsche corners.

Le Mans (Photo by Melissa Warren) Le Mans (Photo by Melissa Warren) Le Mans (Photo by Melissa Warren) Le Mans (Photo by Melissa Warren)

The session restarted at 19h57, but was stopped again at 20h30 when Jan Magnussen had a big shunt in the no. 63 works Chevrolet Corvette C7.R just after the virage du Pont on the exit from the Porsche corners. The car slammed into the guardrail and the session was red-flagged. It did not restart. The Corvette driver was conscious and he was carefully extricated from the C7.R and taken to the circuit medical centre. The Corvette will not start the race on Saturday at 15h00 as it cannot be repaired. For the first time in its history Corvette Racing has been forced to withdraw one of its cars from the Le Mans 24 Hours. The session did not restart.

The second part of the second day’s qualifying began at 21h 30, but the record times set the previous day by Neel Jani in the no. 18 Porsche and Timo Bernhard in no. 17 were out of reach of their main rivals, Audi and Toyota. The nos 7 and 9 Audis went for it and improved their times in 3m20.561sec and 3m20.997sec respectively less than three seconds behind the Porsches. The final stoppage came at 23h 05 when the no. 67 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Alex Kapadia, caught fire and stopped between Tertre Rouge and the Forza Motorsport chicane. The session went live again at 23h25, but it had no influence on the classification.

Thus Neel Jani in the no. 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid set the fastest time in qualifying in 3m16.887sec, an average speed of 249.2 km/h. This represents a performance gain of almost 6 seconds per lap compared to this car’s performance last year with the same fuel consumption. Title holder Audi’s three R18 e-tron quattros were not far behind the Porsche 919 Hybrids. Toyota, the reigning world champion, is slightly slower than its rivals.

Oreca was back in top in LM P2! Thanks to one of the new Oreca 05 entered this year the French constructor clinched pole in LM P2 with no. 47 in 3m38.032sec just beating the no. 26 Ligier’s 3m38. 939sec. The race promises to be closely-fought as the nos 41 and 38 Gibson 015S, similar to last year’s winning car in this category, are under a second behind followed by the Alpine A450b, which is well placed. Less than 7 seconds cover 17 of the 19 cars in LM P2 so it looks very open.

In LM GTE, there will be a fantastic duel between Aston Martin and Ferrari, which were quickest in both categories. The no. 99 Aston Martin McDowall, Rees, Stanaway held onto first place in LM GTE Pro in front of the title holder the no. 51 Ferrari Bruni, Fisichella,Vilander. The Corvette C7.R and the Porsches are waiting in ambush, promising a race full of twists! Aston Martin and Ferrari also dominated LM GTE Am with the no. 98 Vantage V8 Dalla Lana, Lamy, Lauda retaining the pole position set the previous day.   By Mellissa Warren

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