The reigning world champion Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB) will start from pole position. The championship leading Le Mans winners, Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ) qualified second for the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The session was held in hot conditions with a 33 degree Celsius ambient temperature and 44 degree Celsius track temperature.
In the WEC, the average of the two fastest laps of two drivers counts for the qualifying result. Jani did the overall fastest lap on the 5.513 kilometre long Circuit of The Americas in 1:44.656 minutes. Afterwards, Tandy held his nerve when he had to go on a second lap in the 20 minutes long session. His first lap time was deleted because of exceeding track limits. Tandy managed another top lap time. With an average time of 1:44.741 minutes, car number 1 stayed on P1. Bamber/Bernhard achieved an average time of 1:44.994 minutes for car number 2. All four Porsche drivers topped last year’s best mark of 1:45.703 minutes set by Lotterer in an Audi.
It is the 18th pole position for the Porsche 919 Hybrid since its debut in 2014 and the third this year. Less than two weeks ago, Porsche managed a front row lock-out in Mexico City. However, the qualifying success of 2015 will remain historically unique: Back then no car other than a Porsche 919 Hybrid made it on to the front row all year at a time when three manufacturers contested the ultra-competitive LMP1 category.
In the third free practice on Friday morning, the two Porsches came second and third.
Before the six-hour race that starts at noon on Saturday, Porsche has scored 199 points in the manufacturers’ world championship with Toyota on 141.5 points. In the drivers’ rankings, Bamber/Bernhard/Hartley lead with 134 points. After wins in Le Mans, at the Nürburgring and in Mexico, they are 41 points ahead of the best placed Toyota trio. Jani/Lotterer/Tandy lie third in the championship (65 points).
Quotes after qualifying
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Once again the level of how perfect the team prepares both our 919 Hybrids is impressive. Additionally, a great performance by our drivers, earned us a second consecutive front row lock-out. That’s obviously ideal for the start of the race and apparently our cars quite like the high temperatures. We are very much looking forward to tomorrow.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Considering the extra load that comes from the heat, this team performance is especially remarkable. Having both our Porsche 919 Hybrids on the front row gives us the best chance for the race. However, we expect the same high temperatures tomorrow and therefore the six-hour race will feel extremely long. But with all what we have learnt during free practice in the recent days, we feel well prepared for round six of the championship.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “Achieving the second pole position for our car this year is just a super feeling. It was also an exciting session when Nick had to go again. Our car, as well as us drivers, coped well with the heat. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s race.”
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “On my first lap I hit the kerb on the inside of turn 19. The car jumped and I then ran wide on the exit. Track limits are limits, we all know that and in case anything unforeseen happens, we always leave ourselves enough time for a second run. On this second lap, I had a good idea of how the track was plus how the car was and I felt very comfortable.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2:
Earl Bamber (27, New Zealand): “It was a close qualifying. Timo had a good lap on our car but I made a few mistakes on my lap that cost us pole position today. Well done for car number 1 and let’s have a good race tomorrow.”
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “This was once again a superb team effort. It is very close between our two cars and, of course, both want to be in front. Congratulations to our sister car for pole position!”
At the Circuit of the Americas, Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) clocked the seventh quickest time in the GTE-Pro class with the 510 hp 911 RSR with the starting number 91. In the Drivers’ World Championship, the pair currently ranks second. Their teammates Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) take up round six of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC on Saturday in the second 911 RSR (#92) from the eighth grid spot. Temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius are expected.
Quotes after qualifying
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “We realised during practice that this qualifying would be very difficult for us. That’s why we used it to systematically prepare for the race and we didn’t change the tyres. This gives us an additional fresh set of rubber for tomorrow, which is something most of our competitors don’t have. We hope this strategy works.”
Richard Lietz (911 RSR #91): “During the qualifying session, we prepared for the race and deliberately saved tyres. Under these conditions, a better position was not possible. The race will show whether we’ve played the right cards.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #91): “We’ve made several improvements on our 911 RSR during the practice sessions. We’re not concerned that these changes didn’t make a positive difference in qualifying. What matters is the race. Let’s see who comes out on top after six hours in this heat.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR #92): “The qualifying wasn’t that bad. We didn’t focus on fast laps during the qualifying, so in this respect I’m pretty satisfied. The balance of our 911 RSR was really good. Let’s see what the race brings.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR #92): “That was tough. I’m not happy, normally we would have been faster. The track conditions have changed since this morning and that made it difficult. I probably wanted to push too much and I made a couple of little mistakes, which cost time.”
1. Rigon/Bird (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 2:03.057 minutes
2. Priaulx/Tincknell (GB/GB), Ford GT, + 0.199 seconds
3. Thiim/Soerensen (DK/DK), Aston Martin, + 0.251
4. Calado/PierGuidi (I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, + 0.496
5. Mücke/Pla (D/F), Ford GT, + 0.693
6. Turner/Adam/Serra (GB/GB/BRA), Aston Martin, + 0.994
7. Lietz/Makowiecki (A/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.266
8. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.329
1. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CAN/P/A), Aston Martin, 2:06.031 minutes
2. Flohr/Castellacci/Molina (CH/I/E), Ferrari 488 GTE, + 1.172 seconds
3. Mok/Sawa/Griffin (MYS/J/IRL), Ferrari 488 GTE, + 1.501
4. Ried/Cairoli/Dienst (D/I/D), Porsche 911 RSR, + 2.057
5. Wainwright/Barker/Foster (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, + 2.788
TV and live streaming
The official WEC App can be downloaded free of charge with an extended (not free of charge) version available which includes full live streaming and full timing. The live stream is voiced by the FIA WEC TV team including live interviews from the pits.
The WEC races can be followed on various international TV channels around the world. For details click here: https://tinyurl.com/y7n9amhn