The Porsche Racing team has claimed pole position in LMP1 in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans: the first works Porsche pole position since Hans Stuck in 1988. Across the three two-hour qualifying sessions for this year’s race, all three 919 LMP1 Hybrids set blistering times that could not be matched by the competition.
Neel Jani laid the gauntlet down early, with a new record lap of the current Le Mans course in the first fifteen minutes of Q1: a 3:16.887. The Jani/Dumas/Lieb number 18 car will start from pole on Saturday, leading team mates Bernhard/Hartley/Webber in number 17.
This evening, Nick Tandy in the number 19 car set a time roughly half a second quicker than his best lap of yesterday, coming good on his promise to go faster today after some holdups in Q1, but third place was where he would finish, driving with Bamber and Hulkenberg.
Bamber was amongst those who had notes home from the stewards on exceeding track limits, but it made little difference to laptimes. All this was huge relief for Jani (below, centre with Dumas and Lieb), who confirmed to reporters at the end of qualifying that he had been expecting to fight his teammates for pole on day two.
“We thought today that we would have to go back out and defend our pole, but it was a good thing that we didn’t have to. I think it would have been a large fight at the end, but I’m happy with that lap record: we’ll take that.”
Porsche’s 1-2-3 quali times, well ahead of arch-rivals Audi, allowed the 919s to focus on race setup through the second day’s sessions. Tyre tests of day and night compounds obviously went well given Tandy’s improvements in pace, but the big question for the 24 Hours is reliability. After that comes tyres and fuel consumption.
“We have speed, but that’s not everything,” said Romain Dumas. “We are better than Audi on fuel: they are better than us on tyres.” “The Porsches are too fast,” said Audi’s Andre Lotterer. “There is no point chasing them in qualifying: we must think about racing twenty-four hours.”
No one seemed too downbeat at Audi when qualifying came to an end. The team has claimed Porsche scalps twice already this year: no reason to believe that La Sarthe cannot be the same. It’s going to be an exciting day’s racing, and that’s not including what happens behind LMP1.