2016 24 Hours of Le Mans – Rain secures 18th pole for Porsche
Heavy rainstorms – that eventually forced Thursday night’s second qualifying session to finish prematurely – guaranteed Porsche its 18th pole position at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after no one was able to improve on their Wednesday night lap times.
Conditions were forecast to be wet for Thursday’s two two-hour qualifying sessions however, the opening minutes of Q2 yesterday saw a dry track and a flurry of activity as the teams tried to better their Wednesday times.
Brendon Hartley started the session in the no. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid and, on his fourth lap, set a time of 3m23.307s as a benchmark for the session. The Kiwi ace’s lap was still some 3.5 seconds off Neel Jani’s pole time from Wednesday though and, when the rain returned after half an hour the grid was effectively set.
Jani’s pole position (his second in as many years) is Porsche’s 18th at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Weissach will be hoping their front-row lockout is the precursor to chalking up victory no. 18 at the world’s most prestigious endurance race.
Qualifying though is just a small part of the Le Mans puzzle with the pole-sitting car winning just nine times in the 93-year history of the 24 Hour race, something that will buoy the hopes of the Porsche Motorsport squad in the GTE-Pro class.
Having seen a questionable Balance of Performance hand the new turbo cars from Ford and Ferrari a top seven lockout, the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs will start the race on Saturday from eighth and tenth in class, the GTE field also unable to improve their times from Wednesday.
The no. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki and Jörg Bergmeister leads the charge with the sister no. 91 car of Nick Tandy, Kévin Estre and Patrick Pilet starting two places further back.
Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Philipp Eng in the no. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR (contesting the full FIA WEC season) will start in 12th with the two GTE-Pro Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs behind it.
In the GTE-Am class, the no. 88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing entry is the highest placed Porsche 911 RSR on the grid as Patrick Long put in a heroic early lap during Thursday’s first session to improve to third in class.
The American factory ace (teaming up with Khaled Al Qubaise and David HeinemeierHansson) was one of the few drivers in the entire 60-car field to better their Wednesday time.
Wolf Henzler put the no. 78 KCMG Porsche 911 RSR (also run by Proton) he will share with Joel Camathias and Christian Ried into eighth on Wednesday while the no. 89 Weathertech Racing car, qualified by Leh Keen, will start tenth.
Gulf Racing’s return to Le Mans with the no. 86 Porsche 911 RSR will begin from 11th in the 13-car GTE-Am category however, the team will be buoyed by its pace in the soaking wet Q3 last night (similar conditions are expected for Saturday) where Ben Barker was the fastest in class.