Porsche maintained its 100% success rate in taking pole position in the 2015 WEC as Marc Lieb and Neel Jani topped the average times in the 20-minute session at COTA this evening. It was Porsche’s eighth consecutive WEC pole position, a run that stretches back to the 6 Hours of Shanghai last November.
Driving the No.18 Porsche 919 Hybrid, Lieb and Jani set an average time of 1m46.211s, after Jani set a last gasp overall 1m46.018 fastest lap of the session when he climbed aboard the car for a second stint behind the wheel. It was a tremendous effort from the No.18 drivers as earlier in the session Jani suffered a temporary problem with the hybrid system.
Jani’s sensational lap, on worn rubber, just beat the No.17 Porsche 919 Hybrid which, in the hands of Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard, qualified second and ensured another 1-2 for the German manufacturer. The No.17 car was just 0.164s behind its sister car.
Audi Sport Team Joest was again forced to settle for a row two start with its brace of Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 cars. The No.8 Audi driven by Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval set an average of 1m47.538, a time that just edged the sister No.7 car of Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer by 0.360s.
Toyota Racing start from the third row of the grid with the reigning champion car driven by Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima qualifying fifth and Alex Wurz and Mike Conway in the sister No.2 Toyota TS 040 in sixth, just over a tenth of a second behind.
Rebellion Racing claimed another LMP1 privateer pole with the No.12 car of Mathias Beche and Nick Heidfeld completing qualifying duties to head the No.13 car.
The LMP2 class pole provisionally went to the title-leading KCMG ORECA 05-Nissan. There had been initial disappointment for the LMP2 points’ leaders when Matt Howson was stranded at the pit exit at the very start of the session, causing it to be red flagged. The team was then able to get the car out for the remainder of the session after curing the problem. Matt Howson and Richard Bradley then turned in some stunning times to temporarily claim a third successive pole position. However the team was placed under investigation and after some deliberation the Stewards decided to remove all the times for the no47 Oreca for driving the car in the oppositte direction of the track (Decision no13) and it will start at the back of the P2 grid for tomorrow’s race.
The No.26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan set the second fastest average time, as Sam Bird and Julien Canal ended the session on 1m57.148s. However with KCMG losing its times, the G-Drive Ligier will start on class pole with their teamates in the no.28 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan, driven by Ricardo Gonzalez and Gustavo Yacaman, in second. The current runners-up in the LMP2 class will start just ahead of the No.30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-HPD which had David Heinemeier Hansson and Ryan Dalziel at the wheel during the 20-minute session.
The LMGTE Pro class saw a fine pole position for the No.99 Aston Martin Vantage of Fernando Rees and Richie Stanaway. They will start tomorrow’s six-hour race in Texas at the front of the LMGTE field with an average lap of 2m05.872. It was the third time in as many years that Stanaway had set the fastest overall lap time in the class.
The Aston Martin Vantage V8’s time was 0.262 ahead of the No.91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 of Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen after a riveting battle between the British and German manufacturers for the top spot on the grid.
There was disappopintment for class points’ leader AF Corse as the No.51 Ferrari 458 Italia qualified down in an unaccustomed sixth place – the Ferrari struggling with traction in the very hot conditions.
In the LMGTE Am class the roles were reversed with Patrick Dempsey and Patrick Long taking the top spot in the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 to secure a first pole position, with Long taking the pole right at the end of the session to move ahead of the No.96 Aston Martin Vantage of Stuart Hall and COTA rookie Benny Simonsen by just 0.179s.
The Lone Star Le Mans weekend will come to a spectacular climax tomorrow evening as the 31 car field gets ready to blast away for the 6 Hours of COTA. Race start is scheduled for 17.00 local time