Porsche 919 Hybrids take P1, P2 and P3 in first Qualifying
With a strong performance the three Porsche 919 Hybrids finished first, second and third in the first of three qualifying sessions for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The best overall lap time for the field of 56 cars was achieved by Neel Jani on Wednesday night, who lapped the 13.629 kilometre long circuit in 3:16.887 minutes. The Swiss has established a new qualifying record for the current track length by beating Peugeot’s pole position time from 2008 (3:18.513 min). Jani shares car number 18 with Romain Dumas (FR) and Marc Lieb (GER).
Timo Bernhard (GER) achieved the second fastest time today, which was also good enough to beat the old record. Just like Jani, he was in the car as soon as qualifying began before his teammates Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber took over the number 17 prototype later in the session.
For the third trio, with the Le Mans rookies Earl Bamber (NZ) and Nico Hülkenberg (GER) sharing car number 19 with Nick Tandy (GB), it was the Britain who did their fastest lap with the around 1,000 HP hybrid race car in 3:19.297 minutes to come third.
In Le Mans three qualifying sessions are held with each of them lasting for two hours. The best lap time achieved in these six hours is the one that decides each car’s grid position. Because the weather conditions are currently tending to be changeable, it is not clear what Wednesday’s time sheets from the dry session may be worth in terms of grid positions. However, despite a long interruption because of a red flag, all nine Porsche LMP1 works drivers managed to get their five mandatory night laps completed.
The one and only free practice session of the event was held in the late afternoon finishing at 20:00 hrs, and saw Porsche in positions one, three and four. The fastest overall lap during the four-hour session was achieved by Webber with car number 17 in 3:21.362 minutes. The number 18 sister car (Jani, 3:22.059 min) came third, followed by car number 19 (Tandy, 3:22.819 min). Despite changing conditions with some rain showers and a long red flag interruption, the team managed to get most of its work done in terms of aerodynamic settings, tyre evaluation and car balance.
“Qualifying was the first time that we had run properly in the night with dry conditions, so all the drivers were able to get a feeling for the track and the car,“ said Mark. “We didn’t push too much for qualifying, because here in Le Mans it is not so important to start from pole position. We focused on the race, because that’s what matters.“