In a surprising surge of performance, the Porsche #1 team have stolen pole position from Toyota Gazoo Racing ahead of the second round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Toyota were the favourites to take pole position after topping each practice session, but Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer found something in their Porsche 919 hybrid to go 2.5 seconds faster than they had all weekend. The LMP2 pole position went to #26 G-Drive Racing as they repeated the impressive performance that they showed in Silverstone with qualifying duo Alex Lynn and Pierre Thiriet. It was a nail-biting battle to the chequered flag, however, as the top four ended split by 0.031 seconds.
Ferrari took pride from Ford in the LM GTE Pro class as they took pole position of the class by four-tenths of a second. Keen to repeat their performance from Silverstone, Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK kept AF Corse in their sights throughout qualifying. Aston Martin was happy to be able to take pole position for the 6 Hours of Spa in LM GTE Am, making it the perfect way for Paul Dalla Lana to start his sixtieth race with the team.
It was Jani who gave Porsche the initial edge in qualifying, setting a lap time that was 2.5 seconds faster than the best lap they had set all weekend. Lotterer helped to claim his first pole position for Porsche by getting in the car and setting a lap time that gifted the team the fastest average of 1:54.097. Toyota was unable to respond and had to settle for taking second on the grid. The #7, driven this weekend only by Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi as Jose Maria Lopez is sitting this round out to recover from injuries, took second place, 0.596 seconds of the average time set by the #1 Porsche.
The third Toyota, running the low-downforce Le Mans kit, took third on the grid, off the pace of Conway and Kobayashi by a mere 0.008 seconds. Silverstone-winner #8 Toyota took fourth, whilst a lock up from Brendon Hartley at the Bus Stop chicane in his last flying run cost him the chance to improve and left the #2 Porsche at the back of the LMP1 grid.
A small spin from the #4 ByKolles Racing team saw a scruffy lap time at the end of their session. They finished with an average of 2:03.827 and line up eleventh on the grid.
The LMP qualifying session started off with a red flag as Vitaly Petrov lost the rear of the #25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing and caused severe damage to the car. The car will take place in the race but was unable to qualify after the incident, meaning that it will be a recovery drive from the team from the back of the grid.
The fight in LMP2 was intense and close. Less than a tenth of a second split the top four at chequered flag. Lynn took the glory, setting a new lap record in LMP2 with a 2:01.253. Even more remarkable still, the lap time was faster than Allan McNish‘s pole time set in the Audi R18 Hybrid LMP1 the first time WEC came to Spa. After Thiriet set his time, the average came out at 2:02.601. Last year’s class champions, Signatech Alpine line up second behind the G-Drive car, 0.023 seconds slower on average. Third-placed #35 Signatech Alpine was off the pace of the sister car by just 0.005 seconds, whilst the #24 Manor was closer still, only 0.003 seconds off.
Sam Bird and Davide Rigon worked hard in the #71 AF Corse Ferrar 488 GTE to take pole position ahead of the six-hour endurance race. Ford did not relieve the pressure, but there was nothing they could do to stop Ferrari taking pole with an average of 2:15.017. The #66 Ford GT took second on the grid with the #67 0.147 seconds slower in third. The other AF Corse Ferrari was fourth, ahead of the Porsche pair followed by the Aston Martin duo.
Although they had a difficult time in LM GTE Pro, the Am Aston Martin had a much better day as it secured pole position. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche was the closest Am car to Pedro Lamy and Dalla Lana, 0.406 seconds behind at the end of the session. Three manufacturers complete the top three in the Am class as the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari lines up third in class.