Audi take Pole in final WEC Race

In a close battle for pole position, where track limits was the talk of the day, Audi have clinched pole position for their final World Endurance race. The crew of the #8 Audi R18 took pole ahead of reigning World Champions Porsche #1 by 0.264 seconds. In LMP2, for the third time in a row, G-Drive #26 start on class pole ahead of this year’s class Champions, #36 Signatech Alpine.

The battle for LMGTE Pro pole went to Aston Martin, but for the sake of the Championship, it will be the wrong Aston starting ahead. Johnny Adams helped Darren Turner put the #97 on class pole returning for his first race since winning the GT3 Drivers Title in British GT. The sister car, #95, will start alongside #97 second in class. AF Corse were hoping to seal the Am Championship today by taking pole position and putting too many points between them and Championship rivals #98 Aston Martin to be knocked off the top step. But it was not to be as the #98 crew made it a GT Pole lock-out for Aston Martin by stealing class pole in the closing seconds of the GT qualifying session.

Track limits were the biggest issue the teams faced today. A lot of drivers lost their times for exceeding track limits, with most incidents occurring at Turn 13. The Toyota pair were handed a great disadvantage as both Anthony Davidson and Mike Conway had times deleted. With the fresh rubber having being pushed already on the track it left Toyota having to set half their flying times on scrubbed tyres. Championship contenders Toyota #6 came out on top of the sister car for fifth on the grid but that would not have been the start to the weekend they were after.

Audi looked to be on the pace from the offset and with Brendon Hartley having a messy first lap it put Porsche on the back foot and opened the door for a final Audi 1-2 starting order. Andrea Lotterer initially put Audi #7 on provisional pole, going a tenth of a second faster than Oliver Jarvis. Luca di Grassi had to put in a blistering lap to take a final pole position for Audi and the Brazilian did not disappoint. With the fastest lap of the session, di Grassi set a time of 1:38.828 and was the only driver to set a time sub 1:38s.

It was looking to be an Audi 1-2 but the Porsche crew put an end to that hope. Both Timo Bernhard and Marc Lieb came out to set the second times for their teams and did exactly what they needed to do. Impressive lap times from both of them saw the two Porsches, in numerical order, climb up the time sheet. It was not enough to demote pole sitter Audi #8 but it was enough to drop Audi #7 to fourth as Andrea Lotterer failed to improve on his lap time.

Toyota #6 needs to win the race tomorrow and have Porsche #2 finish fifth or lower to take the 2016 Driver’s Championship.

In an extremely close battle for LMP2 pole, Rene Rast – returning to G-Drive for the final round of the season – and Roman Rusinov just managed to clinch their sixth pole of the season. Rast had had the advantage when he handed over the car to Rusinov (the only G-Drive racer who can take second place in class off of RGR Sport), but the class Champions were not ready to be put to the side. Stephane Richelmi set in a brilliantly fast lap time compared to Rusinov and put the #36 just 0.002 seconds off the average time of the G-Drive car. It is a race for second in the LMP2 Championship tomorrow, and G-Drive #26 has the advantage. With the pole point and both #36 Signatech Alpine and #44 Manor in between them and rivals #43 RGR Sport they have had the best start they could want to the weekend.

Johnny Adam and Darren Turner set identical times of 1:56.953 in the #97 Aston Martin, leaving them with an advantage of just over a tenth to the sister car and Pro class Championship leaders. AF Corse placed a car in third, but just like Aston Martin, it is the wrong one to be challenging for the Championship. The #51 AF Corse took the position behind the leading Aston Martins with the Championship challenging #71 had to settle for fifth.

The Am pole shoot out went down to the wire as it was only in the last moments that #83 AF Corse lost pole position and an unchallengeable Championship lead. The advantage had been with the Ferrari team for the entire 20-minute qualifying session but it was Pedro Lamy who stole the advantage back. Lamy had originally had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits so returned to the car in the last few minutes. With his new time, Lamy brought the #98 Aston Martin’s average time to 0.348 seconds faster than the #83 AF Corse and took class pole. The gap between #83 and #98 in the class Championship is 24 points. Aston Martin can only win if AF Corse fail to finish the race.

#4 Bykolles LMP1 Privateer CLM/AER and #88 Porsche GTE Am Abu Dhabi Proton-Racing did not set times in their respective qualifying sessions and will start at the back of the grid tomorrow.