18th pole position for Porsche in Le Mans

M16_2265The Porsche Team with the innovative 919 Hybrid secured the 18th pole position in total for the brand at the Le Mans 24-Hours. Due to mostly wet track conditions in both qualifying sessions on Thursday, held from 7 pm to 9 pm and from 10 pm until midnight, there were no improvements in lap times for the top cars compared to the first qualifying session from Wednesday night.

The unbeaten best time for the field of 60 cars was achieved by Neel Jani on Wednesday. The Swiss had lapped the 13.629 kilometre long circuit in 3:19.733 minutes. In difficult track conditions he stayed above his qualifying record of 3:16.887 minutes that he achieved in 2015 and that now remains for the current track layout of the Circuit des 24 Heures. Timo Bernhard (DE) managed the second fastest lap on Wednesday. The reigning World Champion had managed a lap in 3:20.203 minutes. This means a front row lock out for the same Porsche works drivers as in Le Mans 2015. In the history of the race, that is being run in 2016 for the 84th time, it is the 15th time that Porsche has achieved a one-two result in qualifying.

Jani shares the 662 kW (900 PS) number 2 hybrid prototype with Romain Dumas (FR) and Marc Lieb (DE). Bernhard takes on what is known as the world’s hardest car race with partners Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU) in the number 1 sister car.

Quotes after qualifying:
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “It is great to start in Le Mans with both cars from the front row. This achievement is the result of painstaking work by the team to prepare the two 919 Hybrids, and this gives us the best possible basis to reach our goal and defend last year’s Le Mans win.”

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “The result proves that we as a team went in the right direction when developing the 919 Hybrid for 2016. Both car crews did a sensational job. Despite difficult conditions, we have managed to bring both cars so far through the race week without any technical issues, and on track we had no incidents either. We know we’ve got a fast car – but we are well aware that pole position, especially in Le Mans, doesn’t mean a lot in paving the way to a Sunday success. Now we will go and do final preparations for the race. We’ve got huge respect for the task ahead. The competition will be strong, but we feel ready and confident.”

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany):
(9 races: overall victory 2010, overall second 2015, class victory GT 2002)
“This is a superb result for Porsche. Congratulations to the sister car for pole position and thanks to the team for the great preparation. Today it was extremely difficult to drive. There was lots of water and very poor visibility. In the second qualifying session we tried a couple of things and this was positive. But should we have such changeable weather conditions in the race, it makes it a lot more difficult. Then everybody here really needs to be wide awake.”

Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand):
(4 races: overall second 2015)
“It’s great to qualify with both cars on the front row again, but a shame we didn’t get any more running. Neel and Timo had some compromised laps yesterday because of traffic and Audi didn’t put in a true qualifying effort. I feel sorry for the fans on the full grand stands and camping grounds, as they got wet but didn’t get to see a real shoot-out.”

Mark Webber (39, Australia):
(4 participations: overall second in 2015, not racing in 1998 and 1999)
“It’s nice to have that qualifying result, but we know this is not even one per cent of the race. All teams and drivers now can’t wait for the 24-Hours to start.”

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2:
Romain Dumas (38, France):
(15 races: overall victory 2010, 3rd place overall 2007, 5th place overall 2015, class victory GTE 2013)
“The target in Le Mans, obviously, is the race and not getting pole position. But, of course, it is always better to start in the front and it also gives us another point for the championship. We did some laps in the wet and our car is good in all conditions.“

Neel Jani (32, Switzerland):
(7 races: qualifying record lap and 5th place overall 2015)
“Last year the pole lap was a real banger, this year it was different circumstances. It was so difficult in traffic yesterday, but obviously I was the one who lost the least. It was all about working around people. Today’s conditions were very poor with all the water and dirt on the track. However, I’ll be the start driver and I’m very much looking forward to it. Last year I started from pole as well, but then we were the unluckiest of the Porsches. The team did everything in every detail to prepare for 2016 and I hope for some more luck this year.“

Marc Lieb (35, Germany):
(10 races: 5th place overall 2015, class victories GTE 2013, GT2 2010, GT 2005)
“Even under these conditions practice and qualifying went very smoothly for us. We have managed to improve the car, learnt a lot for the race and put in good lap times for the grid position. In any regard, we fell well prepared.“

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