Porsche sweeps to 1-2 in opening Le Mans qualifying
Porsche has encountered a relatively smooth opening to the defence of its Le Mans 24 Hour title by claiming the top two times in an incident-filled opening qualifying session.
Neel Jani banged in a best lap early in the two-hour session that saw the #2 919 Hybrid on top with a 3:19.73s effort.
Jani, who is sharing the machine that is leading the World Endurance Championship after two rounds with Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas, said it was challenging to get a clear lap throughout the session.
“Very difficult to get a clear lap. Lots of traffic, some very slow cars. I don’t think anyone managed a real good lap so far,” Jani said.
Timo Bernhard pulled a 3:20.20 lap in the #1 Porsche he is sharing with Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley to finish second fastest.
Stephane Sarrazin provided Toyota with the third best time in the #6 TS050 with a 3:20.73s ahead of the sister car driven by Anthony Davidson (3.21.90).
Far from an ideal start, Audi’s #7 and the #8 (late to join the session after a drivetrain failure in practice) R18s were fifth and sixth.
The session was red flagged after 30 minutes of running following Giancarlo Fisichella’s spin into the gravel trap at the Porsche Curves in the #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari with a suspected rear suspension failure.
With just over one hour of qualifying remaining Audi’s #8 R18 e-tron quattro emerged from the garage after the team were forced to change a front drivetrain following a failure in practice which finished just two hours before qualifying.
Shortly after Ricky Taylor ploughed into the barriers in the Corvette at Mulsanne Corner, bringing out the yellow flags as Oliver Jarvis was on his first flying lap in the #8 Audi.
Subsequently Audi’s primary goal became concentrating on cycling drivers through all the mandatory night laps required under the rules.
In LMP2, the G-Drive Oreca Nissan driven by Rene Rast topped the second tier prototype class setting a 3:36.60 lap.
Dirk Muller put the #68 Ford GT on top in GTE Pro ahead of the #69 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook.
The AF Corse #71 Ferrari 488 was third ahead of the remaining #67 and #66 Ford GTs from Chip Ganassi Racing’s blue oval quartet.
The GTE AM ranks were topped by the Clearwater Racing 458 Ferrari ahead of the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage.
Qualifying continues tomorrow with the final twin two-hour sessions split into day and night running.