Benoit Treluyer emerged victorious from the Audi duel to claim pole position for the Six Hours of Silverstone, keeping the Audi R18 e-tron quattro’s perfect record alive by claiming the hybrid’s third pole in as many races.
Though the final fight for pole position was between Treluyer and Allan McNish in the R18 ultra pole position was only decided aft Nicolas Lapierre had staked Toyota’s claim to the top spot. Both Audis and the Toyota started the session on intermediate tyres but after swapping onto slick tyres before either of the Audis the Frenchman cleaved 1.7 seconds from the provision pole time with four consecutive laps lowering the time for the Audis to beat.
Though Lapierre’s charge ended with his – and the T2030 Hybrid’s best lap of the weekend thus far – as the Audis got their own second set of Michelins up to temperature Treluyer and McNish were easily able to demote the Toyota to third fastest, though all three works machines remained just seven tenths apart.
Both Audis had made their pitstops for fresh tyres after the Toyota which left Lapierre with little ability to reply one the two R18s showed their hands. McNish was the first to claim provisional pole before Treluyer set what would ultimately be the fastest lap of the twenty minute session with a 1:43.663. McNish came to within a hundredth of retaking pole, but the Scot could only rubber stamp the Audi lock out on the front row.
The best privateer – and so sharing the second row with the Toyota – was Strakka Racing, Danny Watts handed the responsibility of beating both the Rebellion Racing Lolas and JRM’s HPD.
LMP2 was predictably close, with the top ten covered by a second. Less predictable was the breathless end to the session.
Class pole had switched between Jota’s Nicolas Minassian, his countryman Stephane Sarrazin in the Starworks Motorsport HPD and Brendon Hartley in the Murphy Prototypes ORECA 03-Nissan.
Conspicuous by his absence from that list was FP3 topper Alex Brundle.
The younger of the father and son Brundles in the #42 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan started the session bouncing across the gravel after an incident on his outlap.
With the damage repaired by a three-and-a-half minute pitstop that limited Brundle to just eight laps he set out once again clambering his way up the order, taking provisional pole with his final lap.
With Brundle touring on his slowing down lap several drivers remained in with a chance of taking the class pole away from him. Sarrazin fell short, though by only three-hundrenths of a second. John Martin, who took pole at Le Mans remained a threat in his ADR-Delta ORECA with a fastest first sector. However a slow middle part of the lap was the precursor to an aborted lap that confirmed Brundle on pole.
Also settled by a late lap was GTE Pro pole in the earlier 15 minute session for the two GT classes combined. On a track still wet from a downpour that transformed the supporting Formula Renault 3.5 race to a crash-filled farce all the GTE cars started on wet tyres but changed onto slicks as a dry line emerged.
JMW Motorsport’s James Walker was the first to show the power of slick tyres, and early change for the Dunlop branded team blasting the young Briton nearly two seconds clear over the times set on wet tyres – topped by Stefan Mucke and Aston Martin Racing at the time.
As conditions improved Walker only got faster and faster. A further two seconds worth of improvement moved him onto a 2:10.018 and as the checkered flag flew he was finding more speed with fastest times in the first two sectors that could have seen him push into the mid-2:09s. However a mistake at the club chicane span away any hope of improving his time leaving the way clear for Richard Lietz in the Team Felbermayr-Proton.
Lietz had been another to lead the session early as times came down as the grooved tyres licked water from the tarmac but for several laps after switching to slick tyres lacked Walker’s speed. That changed on the final lap as the Porsche driver hooked up personal bests in all three sectors to go where Walker had looked destined – onto pole and the mid-2:09s with a final lap of 2:09.564.
With another late lap – the changing track conditions almost demanded it – Stuart Hall took GTE Am pole for Aston Martin Racing, setting the fourth fastest GTE time in the process and beating Felbermayr-Proton’s Paolo Ruberti for GTE Am pole and Stefan Mucke for the honour of being the best of the three Aston Martins gathered for the weekend.