The new FIA WEC qualifying format produced a thrilling 30-minute qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps with the nr1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer producing an average time of 1m59.961
over the four best laps for each driver to take pole position ahead of the nr3 Audi of Lucas Di Grassi and Marc Gene and the nr2 Audi of Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish.
Marcel Fässler, No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro said:“My laps worked out pretty well. On average, we were the quickest trio. A big ‘thank you’ to Audi Sport Team Joest for making such a strong effort to support us by working long hours. The fastest time is our way of reciprocating for their superb work, and a good starting base for Saturday.”
The nr41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan of Chris Dyson crashed heavily on the exit of Rivage to bring out the red flags after just six minutes. The American was OK but the car was stranded in an unsafe position.
At the restart it was the Audis that took control with the two Toyotas unable to get on terms with their rivals and at the chequered flag it was the nr7 TS030 of Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima in 4th, 0.9 seconds adrift of the pole time, with teammates Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi in the 2012 spec nr8 Toyota in 5th a further three tenths slower.
The nr12 Rebellion Lola Toyota of Nick Heidfeld and Neel Jani finished at the head of the LMP1 Privateer field in 6th overall, with an average time of 2m01.482. Jani and Heidfeld were 1.8 seconds ahead of their teammates in the nr13 Lola Toyota and a further half a second ahead of the all British Strakka Racing HPD-Honda.
Nick Heidfeld, No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota said: “It has been a very good day for us. We toped our class in each of the 3 sessions of the day. We were very close in the practice sessions to the factory cars. I'm sure that I would have improved my best laptime if I hadn't been slowed by an LMP2 car on my last flying lap, but I'm happy with the position we are today. We are developing the car and we are getting the harvest from our efforts.”
The LMP2 class was fought out between the nr49 Pecom Racing Oreca-Nissan of Pierre Kaffer and Nicolas Minassian and the nr38 Jota Zytek-Nissan of Oliver Turvey and Lucas Luhr. At the chequered flag it was the Argentinian team who got the upperhand to take the class pole in a time of 2m08.540, just 0.4 seconds ahead of the Jota Zytek. Oak Racing claimed P3 and P4 with their Nissan powered Morgans ahead of Silverstone winners Delta ADR.
Pierre Kaffer, No.49 Pecom Racing ORECA 03-Nissan said: "I’m very happy with this pole. It’s a nice reward for the team, who have always worked so hard. The LMP2 category is more and more competitive and we’re expecting a hard battle. Like Nicolas said, it’s positive to start from the first row. Five or six can win, but our objective will be to take the spoils!"
Aston Martin beats Ferrari to poles
For the second consecutive year, Fred Makowiecki’s name will be marked in the record books as having claimed the LMGTE Pro pole position. However, unlike in 2012, the Frenchman’s pole will this year be shared with Bruno Senna – courtesy of the new qualifying format introduced at the start of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. The pair, driving the No.98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 set an average time of 2:19.811, the time being taken from the average of the four best lap times (the best two of each driver) set during the 30-minute session.
Fred Makowiecki, No.98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, LMGTE Pro said: “It was a great qualifying session. It’s really close between all the teams here so we will have a really nice race where we’ll have to push to the max. We have good set up and the car feels really comfortable for the race; it should be good for us.”
Senna, obviously still buoyant from his class win at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, was very impressive at the start of the session and showed that, together with their team mate Rob Bell.
Bruno Senna, No.98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, LMGTE Pro said: “We’re really happy with qualifying. We put in a very strong performance, which was helped by lots of running in practice to understand the car. It’s great to be in front in Spa. I love this circuit and I normally do well here so I’m really enjoying it.”
The introduction of the new qualifying format produced plenty of excitement towards the end of LMGTE qualifying as AF Corse Ferrari’s Gianmaria Bruni put in a series of flying laps to try and steal pole position from the Aston Martin. Bruni’s team mate, Giancarlo Fisichella, has put them in the ballpark at the start, and Bruni knew that he had to produce some of the best laps possible in order to better their average, keeping everybody on the edge of their seats right to the chequered flag. The No.51 F458 Italia used every inch of the track in trying to achieve pole, rising from fourth place to second in class, but ultimately fell short by 0.12 seconds as the Roman duo’s average of their best four laps was 2:19.853.
Lining up behind the Ferrari will be its sister AF Corse car, the No.71 of Toni Vilander and Kamui Kobayashi. The Finnish-Japanese combination both put in an excellent effort to set an average of 2:20.089 – stealing third place from a hard charging No.97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner-Stefan Mücke by just 0.018s. Behind these four were the No.99 Aston Martin (Richie Stanaway-Pedro Lamy) with an average of 2:20.241and the No.91 Porsche AG Team Manthey 911 RSR (Bergmeister-Pilet) just two thousands of a second further back on 2:20.243.
In LMGTE Am it was equally exciting as Allan Simonsen, paired with Christoffer Nygaard, clinched pole position after many different cars had taken their turn at the top of the time screens. The No.95 Aston Martin Vantage achieved an average of 2:21.265, just three hundredths of a second ahead of the No.81 8Star Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia of Matteo Malucelli and Rui Aguas. In third place was the No.96 Aston Martin Vantage of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall with an average of 2:21.549.
Allan Simonsen, No.95 Aston Martin Vantage V8, LMGTE Am said: “It was a fantastic session and everything went to plan. We were lucky to get some clear laps and put the car on the front row for the race. The aim is to get a good start, like at Silverstone.” By Melissa Warren