Porsche Team started their 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship campaign the same way they ended their maiden LMP1 attack, by taking pole position.
Just as at Interlagos in November it will be the car of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley that leads the field to the green flag after the two Antipodean drivers dominated qualifying for the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Webber put the #17 919 Hybrid on provisional pole early in the session, but with the grid order decided using the average time of two drivers’ fastest laps it was not until Hartley got into the car in the second half of the 20 minute session that their position was guaranteed. Taking a second set of Michelin tyres – a precaution after rain dampened preparations in final practice – Hartley was able to outpace his Australian teammate, his 1:39.534 the fastest lap of the session.
“It was fantastic lap,” said the Kiwi “I could see on my dashboard what my reference time from Mark was and I was fighting it down. We are very happy about this pole position but obviously tomorrow is what counts.”
Porsche drivers were the only men to lap the 5.9km Silverstone Grand Prix circuit in under 100 seconds with Neel Jani in the #18 joining Webber and Hartley in the bracket. Jani’s lap came late in the first half of the second to give Porsche the top two before the flurry of driver changes but Romain Dumas – the second man in the #17 – struggled to find a clear lap.
“On my first lap I made a mistake,” he explained, “and on my second lap I lost time again when I touched another car. But the most important thing is we are at the front. What counts is tomorrow’s race.”
Dumas’ struggles meant the #18 dropped down to sixth – the last of the works LMP1 hybrids – before he rose back to second late in the session. Jani and Dumas will be joined by Marc Lieb for the race.
Despite their strong showing in qualifying the team are apprehensive about the race ahead. Not only do their positions on the front row, as Hartley joked after the session, mean there will have to be some discussions between teammates about the first corner but the threat of rain hangs over the race, which starts at noon on Sunday.
“The race will be tough work for us,” admits Fritz Enzinger, Porsche LMP1 Vice President. “The weather forecast predicts a chance of rain for the last third of the race, and today in the third free practice session we could clearly see that we need to improve in the wet.”
The 6 Hours of Silverstone is scheduled to begin at noon on Sunday. www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have full Live Blog coverage of the event from the circuit.