Porsche LMP Team earned the 919 Hybrid its final LMP1 pole position in Bahrain today, after Neel Jani and Nick Tandy combined to set a time of 1m39.383s in the No. 1 Porsche in today’s WEC qualifying session.
The best lap from the two Porsche factory drivers was a blistering 1m39.084s by Jani in the second half of the session, prompting the team to put Tandy back in the car for a second stint and gun for pole after the Briton made an error on his first flying lap. Jani’s time was half a second clear of the other drivers in the class.
“We only went back out because Neel did such a good lap,” Tandy said. “I made a big mistake on themy flying lap, luckily I could correct it later. It’s a good start to our final weekend.”
Second on the grid will be the No. 7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID of Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway, the pair setting a 1m39.646s combined time. The second row of the grid meanwhile, will be the champions in No. 2 Porsche ahead of the No. 8 Toyota.
And in LMP2, Signatech Alpine took the honors, championship contender Gustavo Menezes and Andre Negrao combining for a 1m47.227s. The point keeps the American in the title fight, though he’s still 22 points back, and will need to win tomorrow and hope the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC and No. 31 Rebellion ORECAs falter.
“We started the weekend in a bad way with the set up, but we’ve corrected it today,” Negrao explained. “Over one lap the car is amazing, we’re still fighting for the championship, we’re really far back but we’ll keep fighting.”
Behind, the top three was completed by the other two LMP2 title challengers, No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing 07 Gibson slotting in second, with the No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion ORECA third.
In GTE, the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon will start tomorrow’s season finale from pole position, the duo setting an average of 1m56.033s, the fastest time a 1m56.021 set by Rigon early in the session. Notably, their combined time is almost a second quicker than last year’s Pro pole.
“We’re delighted, Davide did a great job, his time was a pleasant surprise, then the pressure was on me to perform,” said Bird after the session. “I was a little nervous, but I’m really happy I did a good job.”
Completing the front row will be the Le Mans-winning No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage, Darren Turner and Jonny Adam setting a 1m56.372s, three tenths off pole.
First of the championship challengers on the grid will be the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell, who pushed hard to score the extra point, but ultimately will start third, four tenths slower than the lead Ferrari.
The No. 51 Ferrari, which is leading the GTE Pro standings, will start fourth, ahead of the second Aston Martin Vantage which will line up fifth on the grid. Meanwhile, the fastest Porsche – the No. 91, which is second in the title race – will start a lowly sixth.
GTE Am saw the Aston Martin Racing team take a crucial point for pole, the No. 98 crew edging further to the title ahead of tomorrow’s race. With a 2m00.111s combined time, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda are now 11 points clear at the head of the standings and therefore just need to finish at least fourth to seal it.
“It’s getting really close out there, there’s a tenth separating the top three cars,” Dalla Lana said after the session. “The car was really nice – this was my first low-fuel run. I didn’t get the most out of the first lap, but I did enough to get pole in the end.”
AMR’s two title rivals will start second and third, Clearwater Racing Ferrari on the front row ahead of the Dempsey Proton Porsche completing the top three.
Only four of the five GTE Am teams made it out in the session. The Gulf Racing UK crew had to sit out qualifying after its fire in Free Practice 3 this morning. The team is confident it will be back out for the race tomorrow though.
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UP NEXT: Saturday’s 6 Hours of Bahrain, the WEC’s 2017 season finale, is set to get underway at 4pm local time.