Porsche locks out the front row at Spa
Unusually warm and sunny weather set the scene at Spa for the weekend's WEC 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps. The race marks the second round of the FIA's World Endurance Championship.
The two Porsche 919 Hybrids will start from the front row for the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The reigning world champions Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU) claimed pole position with their number 1 car for Saturday's six-hour race. Next to them on the grid in Spa-Francorchamps (BE) is the sister-car number 2 of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE).
In the WEC the average of the respective best laps of two drivers counts for the grid position. In Spa Bernhard/Hartley (car number 1 / 1:55.793 minutes) and Jani/Lieb (car number 2 / 1:56.590 minutes) were the qualifying drivers. It is the first pole position in 2016 for the 919 and its 13th pole since the prototypes' debut in 2014. For the Bernhard/Hartley/Webber trio it is the 7th pole position in total. Due to higher track temperatures the pole time of Bernhard/Hartley was one second slower than their pole time from last year (1:54.767 minutes).
In the morning, during the third free practice session, the Porsche prototypes were the fastest cars on track – the number 1 car (1:56.465 min) ahead of the number 2 car (1:58.163 min).
Toyota Racing will start the second round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship from third and fifth on the grid after a positive qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium today.
On a sunny afternoon, with air temperatures reaching 22°C, Stephane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi took the #6 TS050 HYBRID, which they share with Mike Conway, to third on the grid, behind the two Porsches.
Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, who drive the #5 alongside Sebastien Buemi, clocked an average lap time just 0.052secs slower than their sister car but will start from fifth place after a closely-fought session.
However, the team's focus all weekend has been on race pace rather than qualifying performance and, following encouraging practice results, it expects to fight for another podium finish to preserve its lead in the manufacturers' World Championship.
Audi did not find an optimum set-up for the conditions. The two R18 cars had to admit defeat to their competitors on the 7.004 kilometer circuit at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
The second qualifying session of the season went anything but perfectly for Audi. A rival slowed Andre Lotterer (D) on his first lap. "It happened at the beginning of my first outing, which I stopped as a result," the German said. "My second lap was better even though I was somewhat slowed by understeer." He managed setting the third-best single time in the field and the best lap of an Audi driver.
Following a red flag, Marcel Fassler (CH) took over the number "7" Audi R18. "I stopped my first lap after the rear got too light for me at one stage," the Swiss said. "Later, in the fast Blanchimont corner, I lost some downforce behind two rivals and, to top it off, made a braking mistake in front of the chicane." Consequently, the trio had to settle for grid position six.
In the number "8" sister car, Oliver Jarvis (GB) started qualifying. "My lap was okay, but certainly not anything special," the Briton said afterwards. "Considering the fact that we didn't drive a lot of kilometers in the free practice sessions, the time was okay." Loic Duval (F) subsequently took over the Audi R18 and reduced the gap to the third-placed car in front to 18 thousands of a second.
"Obviously, the potential on used tires at the end was limited. However, it wouldn't have taken a lot more for Audi to have been the second-strongest force in the field trailing Porsche," said the Frenchman. In the end, number "8" achieved position four on the grid.
"We're not particularly happy after this qualifying session," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Our drivers repeatedly encountered slower rivals and we were generally unable to make optimum use of the track conditions. The warm track with temperatures of 35 degrees did not produce the grip we'd been expecting. We're going to leave no stone unturned to improve our cars before the race."
The six-hour race starts on Saturday at 14:30 hrs local time. Eurosport will broadcast live from 19:00 to 20:45 hrs. Live feed, timing and more is available at the FIA WEC App.
The Headlines from Qualifying…….
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): "In free practice we did a good job for the race but also found some improvements for qualifying. Brendon did a mega lap and so I knew what I had to deliver. We are now in the best position for tomorrow and are happy to have scored our first point."
Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand): "I managed to put a pretty good lap together and Timo did almost the same lap time. But we didn't expect such a gap. In the first practice session we were not happy with the balance of the car and the improvement since is a great team effort. We have now scored our first championship point for pole and want full points tomorrow. That's the goal. After my accident in Silverstone our championship title defense starts here in Spa."
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland): "We had some difficulties in practice and are not as well prepared as the sister car. They are really fast, congratulations. We knew that for us a realistic target for today was P2 and that's what we've got. Before qualifying we also fitted new brakes which was a significant improvement."
Marc Lieb (35, Germany): "This is a super qualifying result for Porsche. Personally I'm not at all happy with my lap. I didn't get the right feeling for the car, was braking too early and didn't find a good rhythm."
TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Anthony Davidson: "I didn't extract the best out of the tires on my qualifying lap. It was my first flying lap on new tires this week and the grip surprised me. It was good to be fighting with the Audis, but Porsche were out of reach in qualifying trim. I think tomorrow we can be closer and I hope we will be in the fight."
Kazuki Nakajima: "The car was strong and the lap time was very close to third position. We have made a real improvement in terms of car set-up and I am happy with that; it was very nice to drive. We need to look at the little details where we can find more lap time for tomorrow. I hope to have a clean race so we can show what we can do."
TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)
Stephane Sarrazin: "I am really happy with our qualifying performance. We showed the TS050 is a big step forward compared to last year and we expect to be challenging tomorrow. This team does not give up and we have found some positive improvements. We have good tire management which is a positive point so I'm looking forward to the race."
Kamui Kobayashi: "That was my first qualifying session in LMP1 and it went well. I think we have made a strong start to our Spa race weekend but race day is the important one. Actually, I feel more confident of our race pace than our qualifying performance. I have been happy throughout the week with the car balance; I think we will have an interesting race."
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