Porsche locked out the front row of the FIA WEC grid for the first time in 2016 at a hot and sunny Spa-Francorchamps.
Defending world champions Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard will start from pole at tomorrow’s race (May 7) after setting an average time of 1:55.793 during the interrupted session.
Hartley managed to submit his fastest lap before a 10 minute red flag stoppage, which was the result of contact between the Bykolles Racing CLM P1/01 and the LMP2-class RGR Sport by Morand Ligier.
Bernhard took over for the second half of the session and solidified his team-mate’s run to put the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid into a clear lead.
The pair ended the session 0.797 seconds ahead of the #2 Porsche, driven in qualifying by Marc Lieb and Neel Jani.
The result signaled Porsche’s return to qualifying form after Audi disrupted a nine race streak of front row lockouts for the Weissach-based manufacturer.
Starting from third tomorrow will be the #6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, driven by Stephane Sarrazin, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway. Sarrazin and Kobayashi cemented an average time of 1:57.698, although that meant Porsche would finish almost two seconds clear of its nearest manufacturer rival.
Audi finished fourth on the qualifying debut of its Le Mans aerodynamic package, with Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval narrowly losing out to the #6 Toyota.
However, the Audi pair was able to beat the second Toyota, which Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima drove to a 1:57.750 average.
In LMP2, G-Drive Racing ran quickest in qualifying for the second event in a row. Rene Rast and Roman Rusinov were at the wheel of the #26 Oreca 05-Nissan, and had to fight off a spirited challenge from Nicolas Lapierre and Gustavo Menezes in the Signatech Alpine A460-Nissan.
At the close of play, the G-Drive pair’s average of 2:07.363 was almost half a second quicker than the Alpine, while Manor finished third with Roberto Merhi and Matt Rao on board the #45 Oreca 05.
GTE-Pro saw Sam Bird and Davide Rigon also take their second consecutive pole position, beating AF Corse Ferrari 488 team-mates James Calado and Gianmaria Bruni to the class pole.
Rigon and Bird were never really challenged at the top, as they set a 2:17.644 to beat their stablemates by three tenths of a second.
Aston Martin Racing’s Richie Stanaway and Fernando Rees qualified third, ahead of the two Chip Ganassi Racing-entered Ford GTs.
Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana took pole position in the GTE-Am category, turning in a 2:20.351 average to hold off the #83 AF Corse Ferrari and the #88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche.