Both Porsche 919 Hybrid in front after first qualifying

M16_2175With a strong performance the two Porsche 919 Hybrids came first and second in the first of three qualifying sessions for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The best lap time for the field of 60 cars was achieved by Neel Jani on Wednesday night. Early into the session, the Swiss lapped the 13.629 kilometre long circuit in 3:19.733 minutes. He shares the (662 kW) 900 HP number 2 prototype with Romain Dumas (FR) and Marc Lieb (GER). Timo Bernhard (GER) achieved the second fastest time today in 3:20.203 minutes, he partners Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AUS) in the number 1 sister car.

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. The session was red flagged for about 13 minutes, but not extended. It also saw frequent incidents and yellow flags, which made it difficult to find a clear lap. The second qualifying session for the 24 Hours will take place on Thursday from 19:00-21:00 hrs, with the third and final one following from 22:00-24:00 hrs.

The one and only free practice session of the event was held from 16:00 to 20:00 hrs and also saw Porsche in positions one and two. The fastest laps were achieved by Jani (3:22.011 mins) and Hartley (3:22.550 mins). The four-hour session was hampered partly by rain and interrupted several times because of accidents.

Quotes after first qualifying:
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “As the weather conditions for tomorrow don’t look stable, P1 and P2 in the first qualifying session could become important. We have completed an entirely errorless day. Both our Porsche 919 Hybrids ran into traffic on their respective fastest laps, which means both cars have the potential to go faster. We are very much looking forward to the second and third qualifying sessions on Thursday.”

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “This was a successful start into the race week for us. All our drivers have completed their mandatory night laps. Both cars ran without technical problems and we have completed our programme as far as the changing weather conditions and the incidents on track allowed. We have found answers to all open questions we had. Of course, we are pleased to be in front with both cars after the first qualifying. Neel and Timo were super fast and didn’t take any avoidable risks, although they were held up in traffic. The entire team did a highly focussed job today and we can just hope the week continues like this.”

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany):
(9 races: overall victory 2010, overall second 2015, class victory GT 2002)
“Qualifying was quite exciting. I had two attempts at a pole lap, each one looked very promising – but every time I met two slower cars in the Porsche Curves, which cost me a lot of time. Until then I was quite satisfied. But getting a clear lap here is always a kind of lottery. In any case we learned a lot for the race, and this is important too.”

Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand):
(4 races: overall second 2015)
“Timo did a mega job to start with. He did two best sector times and definitely was on the way to do a top time, but then he was very unfortunate with traffic several times in the last sector. But that’s the story here in qualifying with 60 cars on the track and we have two more sessions tomorrow. It was good to familiarise myself with this unique track in the dark again. Everything is running smoothly, and P1 and P2 is a great team effort for today.”

Mark Webber (39, Australia):
(4 participations: overall second in 2015, not racing in 1998 and 1999)
“We got through most things we wanted to, which was good. There is just one more day of qualifying to go before we get to the real stuff. I think we have done enough practice now, so we are looking forward to the race more and more. The boat is about to leave the jetty.”

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2:
Romain Dumas (35, France):
(15 races: overall victory 2010, 3rd place overall 2007, 5th place overall 2015, class victory GTE 2013)
“I did my night laps and, unfortunately, there were a lot of slow zones, but this was a good practice for the race and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Neel Jani (32, Switzerland):
(7 races: qualifying record lap and 5th place overall 2015)
“It was really difficult to get a clear lap in tonight’s qualifying. There was a lot of traffic and quite a number of cars drove extremely slowly. I believe no one managed a real good lap today. For the time being we were good enough to take provisional pole position, but there is a lot more possible. We are very happy with our car.”

Marc Lieb (35, Germany):
(10 races: 5th place overall 2015, class victories GTE 2013, GT2 2010, GT 2005)
“During my second attempt there were significantly less slow zones around the track than during my first one, and the general driving was much better, despite a lot of traffic. We definitely made a step forward today and the first qualifying session was quite a success. Now we have to wait for the warmer track during the daytime to see how we perform in these conditions. Since there are still two qualifying sessions ahead of us, we must not take the times as final.”


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