Toyota secured a front row lock out for the start of the six-hour race on Sunday. For strategic reasons, Porsche’s Le Mans prototypes approach the fast Formula One circuit in Britain with significantly less aerodynamic downforce than the track layout actually would require.
In the WEC, the average of the two fastest laps of two drivers counts for the qualifying result. In Silverstone the qualifying drivers were Neel Jani (CH) and Nick Tandy (GB) in car number 1. They finished in position 3 (1:38.615 minutes). Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ) shared qualifying duties in car number 2 and came fourth (1:39.063 minutes). Their respective partners – André Lotterer (DE) and Earl Bamber (NZ) – also did not drive in the morning session in order to help the Porsche LMP Team’s qualifying preparation. Third free practice saw the two Porsche 919 Hybrids in P2 (car number 1, 1:40.223 minutes) and P3 (car number 2, 1:40.373 minutes). The WEC experienced another day with sessions held in dry conditions on Saturday.
After a year-long development period, the Porsche GT Team returns to the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC as a factory squad with the new Porsche 911 RSR. The newly developed race car from Weissach takes up the season-opening race on Sunday from the fourth grid row. In the qualifying on the storied Grand Prix racetrack in the British Midlands, where the main focus was clearly on preparing for the race, Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) planted their 911 RSR (#91) on the seventh grid spot. Their works driver colleagues Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) set the eighth quickest time in the number 92 car.
Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) tackles his first WEC race from the second grid row of the GTE-Am class. Starting from the third grid spot, he shares the 911 RSR fielded by the customer team Dempsey Proton Racing with Christian Ried (Germany) and Marvin Dienst (Germany).
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “It was a very deliberate decision before we came here to focus our aerodynamics completely on Le Mans. It was crystal clear that this meant a disadvantage for Silverstone. This has a smaller impact in the race than for a single fast lap, but it will definitely be a disadvantage tomorrow as well. We fully back the decision and will get through the consequences together. I’m proud on our driver line-up. All six are performing on a very high level and also handle the current situation very well.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Both cars worked fine all day and the team and drivers made an excellent job in qualifying. The grid positions as well as the gap to the front are what we have expected. We keep focussing on race preparation. We want to remain in striking distance to Toyota and try to put them under pressure.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “We had expected to end up in P3 and P4. Because of the low downforce aero level we are driving here, this is the maximum possible compared to Toyota. Of course in a six hour long race a lot can happen. But from sheer performance, we don’t expect higher positions tomorrow. It is very important to learn more about the car for Le Mans.”
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “This is undoubtedly the best 919 I've ever had the privilege to drive. It was fantastic with super high-grip which gave me confidence. The gap to the opposition is more than we'd like but we have set different priorities. The race should be much closer.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “For our car, qualifying didn’t go perfectly well. I made a small mistake on my first lap and had to start again, but then the tyres were over the peak. We actually looked quite good on our long runs in FP3. That’s all important information for the race. Then also strategic aspects come into play on top of sheer speed. We want to get as many points as possible. Perhaps we can catch one of the Toyotas.“
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “We finished fourth in qualifying but we put zero focus on this element – it's been all about long runs for race preparation and they've gone well. We believe we've a very good racecar for tomorrow.”
Eurosport telecasts the final phase of the race on Sunday as well as the podium ceremony from 17.15 hrs to 19.15 hrs (CEST). Here is the international TV broadcasting plan.
Sports prototypes and GT vehicles contest the Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC) in four classes: LMP1 (eg. Porsche 919 Hybrid), LMP2, LMGTE-Pro (eg. 911 RSR) and LMGTE-Am (eg. 911 RSR model year 2015). They all compete together in one race but are classified separately.