Porsche remains restrained about Le Mans edge
The pronounced pace of Porsche may not translate to a similar advantage once the Le Mans 24 Hour blasts off tomorrow, cautions the German team’s technical director Alexander Hitzinger.
Porsche saw its advantage over a single 13.6km lap at the La Sarthe circuit blow out to 3s over its nearest rival in qualifying.
As the Weissach weapons plundered a 1-2-3 result in final qualifying, Audi’s #8 R18 e-tron quattro clocked 3:19.87s and was the only runner outside the Porsche trio to dip under 3:20s.
Swiss driver Neel Jani’s record Wednesday night qualifying time of a blistering 3:16.88s remained the benchmark after the final runs set the grid.
Hitzinger has however offered a word of warning that the advantage of the technically brilliant 2 litre, four-pot 919s may not be as big as it seems.
The 919s are known to be brutal on their Michelin rubber, so much so that any speed advantage could evaporate in tyre wear over the more enduring Audi diesels.
Porsche is also yet to put reliability issues with its 8 mega joule machines beyond reasonable doubt.
“We would be wrong to think the difference in the lap times could be as big in the race as in qualifying,” said Hitzinger.
“We cannot underestimate the competition.”
Jani, his team-mates Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb are set for an epic fight against the #17 919 of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley.
“The qualifying result is a reward for three years of very, very hard work,” Hitzinger continued.
“Now we have to prove that we have built not only a fast car, but also a reliable one.”
Audi has often not had the fastest car but consistently finds ways to win in the World Endurance Championship, a fact which has Porsche remaining cautious.
VIDEO: Porsche qualifying wrap