The two Porsche 919 Hybrids will start third and fourth on the grid. With a lap time of 3:17.259 minutes, Neel Jani (CH) claimed the third fastest lap overall on Thursday evening. Timo Bernhard (DE) qualified the Porsche LMP sister car to start fourth on the grid with a lap of 3:18.067 minutes on the 13.629 kilometre long Circuit des 24 Heures. Both Porsche drivers achieved their respective best lap times in the second qualifying session, held in the early evening hours in still relatively high temperatures of 25 degree Celsius ambient and 35 degree Celsius track temperatures. The third and final qualifying session lasted from 10pm until midnight. Kamui Kobayashi (JP) in the number 7 Toyota took pole-position for what is expected to be an extremely hot race weekend.
Jani shares the car number 1 Porsche Le Mans prototype with André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB). Bernhard’s team-mates in the car number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid are the two New Zealanders Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley. Having a tally of 18 overall Le Mans wins, Porsche is the record holder and after the most recent victories in 2015 and 2016, is in the role of title defender.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: "Congratulations to Toyota and Kamui Kobayashi. We knew he would be fast but his lap was really sensational. On our side, we missed out on a front row position on the grid by a tenth of a second. Besides that, our qualifying was okay. We’re looking good over long runs and are optimistic for the race. Our target remains a third Le Mans win in a row. Thanks a lot again to the entire team for the effort so far – there is an extreme and thrilling task waiting ahead for us."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “We had another very productive day. We could optimize the cars’ set-up at various track temperatures and gained important knowledge concerning tyre choice and tyre wear for the race. Halfway through the final qualifying session, the engine temperature on the number 2 car rose. As a precaution, we stopped the car finishing the session early. Tomorrow we will dismantle the cars again, carefully inspect them, reassemble them with the final race components and try to go to sleep early. After the last two days here, we feel ready for another big Le Mans race with very strong competition.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “Toyota put in a great performance but we've been happy to concentrate on our race preparation rather than go for single 'qually' laps again at night. That has gone very well for us today so we're looking good for the race.”
André Lotterer (35, Germany): “We tried different tyres on the cars, getting good information for the race, especially for the night. All in all, it worked according to plan. Neel’s qualifying lap was affected by traffic, but it is not easy to get the timing right. We cannot go the speed of the Toyotas, so I hope we can go through the race without problems.”
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “We have done a really good job in race week so far. We've made excellent progress from the test day two weeks ago with the team working perfectly through our program over the past two days. The car is the best handling one through the corners I've ever had here at Le Mans which is a good sign. Our race pace is strong and is also consistent.“
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Earl Bamber (26, New Zealand): “With every lap over the past two days the car has improved. I believe we have a very good race car for the weekend. Toyota's qualifying pace is definitely impressive but our lap times looking ahead to the actual race are very good.”
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “I'm really looking forward to the race and can't wait for it to get started on Saturday afternoon. The balance of the car felt really good tonight - we've a really nice car for the race.”
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “We feel we have a really good race car. Timo for the fourth year in a row had traffic on his ‘qually’ lap. That was unfortunate but obviously today we saw a very good job from Toyota. The time from Kamui Kobayashi would have been hard to beat. I didn’t do many laps in the very last session because we had to stop early but we feel very happy with the race car.”
In the first of three qualifying sessions, the Porsche LMP Team finished third and fifth. Concerning lap times, the team made significant progress compared to the test day on June 4. The drivers combined with their Porsche 919 Hybrids ran strongly in the session which ran until midnight. Earlier in the day, free practice also went smoothly despite ambient temperatures of up to 30 degree Celsius in the West of France.
The Le Mans Prototype with the car number 2 is in the hands of Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ). Bernhard secured third position with a time of 3:19.170 minutes. The number 1 sister car is shared by Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB). It was last year’s winner Jani who achieved the best lap time of that trio on the 13.629 kilometre long track in 3:21.165 minutes for position five, despite being held up in traffic. So far, the two-year-old qualifying record, set by the Swiss Porsche driver in 3:16.887 minutes, is unbeaten. All six Porsche LMP works drivers completed their five mandatory night laps although the session was shortened by 20 minutes. Porsche enters what is known as the world’s hardest endurance race as the record winner and title defender.
The only free practice session, held from 4pm until 8pm, saw Neel Jani setting the overall fastest lap time with the number 1 car in 3:20.362 minutes. The number 2 sister car came third with it’s best lap of 3:21.687 minutes achieved by Earl Bamber.
The fight for pole position for the 24 Hours of Le Mans was fierce and gripping to the end. In the qualifying sessions until midnight Thursday on the 13.629-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures, 60 vehicles battled hard for the best grid positions at the French long-distance classic. In the traditionally strongly supported GTE-Pro class, in which five automobile manufacturers pit themselves against each other, the new Porsche 911 RSR with the starting number 92 turned the seventh fastest qualifying lap, narrowly missing out on one of the front spots by a mere 1.010 seconds. Porsche Motorsport in Weissach designed the 510 hp race car based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car. This is its maiden Le Mans campaign. Sharing driving duties in the #92 contender are Michael Christensen (Denmark), Kévin Estre (France) and Dirk Werner (Germany). The second 911 RSR (#91) fielded by the Porsche GT Team and manned by Richard Lietz (Austria) and his French teammates Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet take up the endurance race from the 13th grid spot.
The swiftest Porsche in the GTE-Am class, in which three customer teams field four 2015-spec 911 RSR, was the number 77 car run by Dempsey Proton Racing in fourth. One of the drivers is the Porsche Young Professional, Matteo Cairoli (Italy).
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “The qualifying is over and now it’s time to go racing. We managed to improve from session to session, but so did our competition. In the end, the racetrack became significantly faster but unfortunately we couldn’t make the most of it. Our main focus was on preparing for the race, especially on the tyres because, with such high temperatures, they play an important role. All the vehicles in the GT classes were very close, so in this respect we’re sure to witness an extremely exciting race.”
Richard Lietz (911 RSR #91): “Our 911 RSR ran very well. I’m happy with it. The problem in the qualifying was that we didn’t get a clear lap without much traffic. Still, now we’re concentrating on the race, where we’ll have enough time to work our way further up the field.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #91): “In today’s qualifying sessions we tested various things to find a perfect race setup for our 911 RSR. We managed to improve the stability at the rear yesterday and hence made great progress with the setup. Our car is now excellently balanced and we’re tackling the race feeling well prepared and confident.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR #91): “At the beginning of the second qualifying I drove at race pace to test the tyres. That worked well and I was very happy. I then tried to turn a fast qualifying lap but I encountered too much traffic and returned to the pits. Compared to yesterday, we’ve taken a big step forward with our 911 RSR, but now we need to improve even more in the race if we want to match the pace of our strongest competitors.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR #92): “In the last qualifying session we were eager to put in a good lap and we managed that. We could have possibly done better here or there, but I’m satisfied with our time. The car felt very good, which means that we’ve found a good setup. After turning our quick laps we concentrated on long runs to see how the tyres would respond over the distance.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR #92): “Michael clocked a good time in qualifying with fresh tyres. Afterwards we concentrated on finding the best race setup. We improved again, and I was considerably faster than yesterday. This is something we can build on. Now we have to sit down together and talk about the best race strategy.”
Dirk Werner (911 RSR #92): “In the second qualifying I drove a long run so that we could get an even better idea of our tyre situation. Despite the lengthy interruption, this worked very well. I had very little traffic and I got a good feel for the tyres. It was important for the race preparation to see how our tyres behaved over a stint. In this respect I’m actually quite pleased. After that I notched up a few more kilometres. For me personally this was very helpful to familiarise myself with the circuit even more. Now I feel ready and I’m looking forward to the race.”
Patrick Long (911 RSR #93): “The first qualifying on Wednesday evening was very difficult because we simply didn’t get a clear run. For this reason we took a gamble today and went out in the early evening on fresh tyres. That paid off. We encountered hardly any traffic for one lap and our pace was also really good. We’re happy. The race can start.”
Matteo Cairoli (911 RSR #77): “At my last attempt to turn a fast qualifying lap there were a lot of cars out on the track. On top of this, the yellow flag came out twice in the last sector. That’s why it didn’t work with pole position unfortunately. We’re now facing a 24-hour race and we’re very well prepared for it.”
During the 1:40-hour night session in temperatures of just over 25 degrees Celsius, the quickest Porsche 911 RSR (#92) clocked the sixth fastest time in the GTE-Pro class. Michael Christensen (Denmark), Kévin Estre (France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) share the cockpit of the race car, which is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car. It tackles the long-distance classic in France for the first time. The second 911 RSR (#91) fielded by the Porsche GT Team, with drivers Richard Lietz (Austria) as well as the Frenchmen Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet, posted the eighth quickest time in this first showdown on the 13.629-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures. The fastest Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE-Am class was the vehicle of the customer team Dempsey Proton Racing in second place, with the Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) as one of the pilots.
Friday at 2pm CEST, the Porsche Newsroom offers a live stream of the Porsche Le Mans press conference here: newsroom.porsche.com/LeMans2017
The race starts on Saturday at 15.00 hours.
All results: http://fiawec.alkamelsystems.com