The weather did not hold off for qualifying, putting the teams in a wet session. With so much of the practice session being held on a wet track, everyone was prepared for the damp weather. It was the championship-leading #2 Porsche that adapted to the wet track best, taking the team’s fourth consecutive pole position. Vaillante Rebellion surged in today’s final session, taking the front row of LMP2 for themselves. There was not a lot to be done to stop Porsche GT Team taking pole position for the Pro class, but only the Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz #91 car did as well as expected. The Japanese fans that surrounded the track had something to smile about when home driver Keita Sawa‘s car took pole position in GTE Am.
At the start of the session, the #1 had the advantage between the Porsches in the hands of Nick Tandy. It was a close battle between the two of them, but new Toro Rosso recruitment Brendon Hartley had the bit between his teeth. His first lap time put the #2 on top, but Andre Lotterer was quick to respond, putting the #1 back on provisional pole. Hartley reminded everyone of his speed by promoting the #2 to the fastest average time of 1:35.160 on his second flying lap, in the end beating the sister car by 0.071 seconds.
Toyota Gazoo Racing looked to be in with a shout with the first drivers in the car, but fell away in the second run of flying laps. They were not completely off the pace, with the Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima pairing taking third, under two tenths off the pace. However, the sister #7 car were over a second slower than the #8 crew. If the weather remains wet then anything could happen in the duration of the six-hour race tomorrow, but Porsche seem to still have an end. A victory for the #2 and third place for the #8 will see both titles wrapped up.
Rebellion shone in the qualifying for LMP2; Nelson Piquet Jr and David Heinemeier Hansson took the head of the charge for a front row lock out. It was a dominant pole for the duo, who led the two drivers of the #13 – Bruno Senna and Julien Canal – by a staggering 1.3 seconds. No one could challenge the pair through the twenty minutes of track action.
However, team orders may come into play tomorrow, with the #31 being in contention for the LMP2 title and the #13 completely out of the fight due to their disqualification from the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The LMP2 leading car – #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing will start tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Fuji third, after being just a tenth off the combined average of the #31. With Rebellion defending off the Thomas Laurent/Ho-Ping Tung/Oliver Jarvis car, it is possible that they will pull the #13 out the way of the #31 and use it to hold the #38 back.
Porsche remained on form and on top of the GTE Pro class, with Lietz and Makowiecki claiming a competitive pole position. However, where it was expected to be a front row lock out for the team the second car fell away. Pushing Lietz and Makowiecki for pole was the championship-leading Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell. The Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK pair finished the session just four-tenths off the back of the Porsche 911 RSR.
It is unknown what exactly happened to the #92 Porsche, but it will start tomorrow’s race fifth in class, with the second Ford and the ##71 AF Corse separating them for the lead battle. More woes came for Aston Martin as still they remain fighting for the bottom positions in class. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen managed to get ahead of the #51 AF Corse, but Le Mans winners Darren Turner and Jonny Adam could do no better than the bottom of the class. It is looking to be a difficult six-hours for the Aston Martin Racing drivers.
The pain was not as bad for Aston in the Am class, where Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana managed to secure third on the grid, ahead of one of the Ferraris and one of the Porsches. Their championship rivals in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche start just ahead of the Aston Martin team, in second place. Matt Griffin and Weng Sun Mok did a fantastic job to place the #61 Clearwater Racing on pole in the Am class, in front of their team mate’s home crowd.