24-Hour Le Mans: Porsche’s Spectacular Pole
From Brian Laban, at Le Mans
It wasn’t a very exciting climax to the lead-in, but you couldn’t miss the sense of relief and achievement in the Porsche garages in the early hours of Friday morning – as they confirmed their first Le Mans pole position since 1997 (when the Joest Porsche started from pole and went on to win). So yes, the mortgage would have been safe.
Neel Jani’s defining 3m 16.886s lap from the first minutes of qualifying stayed the course, and while there were a few minor improvements in the last two sessions, none of them would spoil Porsche’s party, at least not so far as pole position is concerned. As for the race, that remains a whole different ball-game. Porsche clearly has the one-lap advantage, but Audi can probably run close to their own qualifying pace all day long. Which might well be what it comes to, because neither of them has had any significant blip so far. A great prospect – and even that’s ignoring the possibility (though unlikely) that Toyota might yet play a part.
In GTE, Porsche admittedly haven’t been smiling quite so much, as Aston Martin have dominated both the Pro and Am divisions pretty well throughout; so Porsche Team Manthey’s number 91 Lietz/Christensen/Bergmeister 911 RSR is a lowly seventh in Pro, and best of the Am 911s is the number 77 Dempsey/Long/Seefried Dempsey-Proton car, in fifth. The Manthey Pro car has actually moved up a place as the 63 Corvette was withdrawn overnight after Jan Magnussen crashed it heavily enough to make it unrepairable, but they still have a bit of a mountain to climb. Not that they haven’t managed that before.
Because if it comes to background, Porsche are comfortably the most experienced manufacturer ever to have raced at Le Mans, not just to be racing here now. In a nutshell, since 1951 they have had 770 entries, of which 382 have finished in the points, including fifty outright-result podiums, sixteen of which to date have been on the top step. It really ought to be seventeen by Sunday afternoon, but the beauty of Le Mans is you just never know.
1 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid Dumas/Jani/Lieb 3m 16.887
2 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid Bernhard/Webber/Hartley 3m 17.767
3 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid Hulkenberg/Bamber/Tandy 3m 18.862
4 8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis 3m 19.866
5 7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer 3m 20.561
6 9 Audi R18 e-tron quattro Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Rast 3m 20.977
7 2 Toyota TS040 – Hybrid Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway 3m 23.543
8 1 Toyota TS040 – Hybrid Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima 3m 23.767