Saturday 2 May 2015

WEC Spa Qualifying

Qualifying in the Belgian Ardennes opened in the late afternoon under dry track conditions and a thin cover of not too ominous looking cloud.The GTE Am Aston Martin #96 was the first car out of pit exit after the green flag for the GTE qualifying dash. Stanaway in #99 Aston Martin soon set the target time of 2:17.167 and it was the Larbre Corvette that was quickest in Am with 2:19.329. As drivers strived to improve, there was a certain amount of over-enthusiasm over the curbs, particularly at Eau Rouge/Radillon and by the close of the session nearly half the entire GTE grid had attracted warnings for exceeding track limits. At the conclusion of the session it was the Aston Martin #99 of MacDowall, Rees and Stanaway at the top of the timesheet in GTE Pro with an average time of 2:16.840 from #51 Ferrari of Bruni and Vilander and the #97 Aston of Turner, Mucke and Bell.

Porsche looked like they had the pace in free practice, but the game of fast sector bluffage and soggy track conditions was over when the green flag came out on LMP qualifying on a dry surface. As soon as the times of the first flying laps were set, the three Porsche LMP1 cars were in 1.2.3 formation at the top of the timing screen, just occasionally with the Audi #7 sneaking into P2 before dropping back again. It was no surprise that the G-Drive #26 Ligier dominated the LMP2 times, with KCMG and SARD Morand battling for P2. 
At the chequered flag, and with arithmetic completed, it was a clean sweep for Porsche, emphatically taking the top three grid positions with #17 of Timo Bernhard Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley on pole from the #19 and #18 Porsche 919 hybrids. In LMP2 at the end of the session it was the G-Drive #26 Ligier on pole from #47 KCMG Oreca. and #43 SARD Morgan Evo Subsequent to post qualifying inspection however, the KCMG car was disqualified for "insufficient rigidity of skid block" and they will start the race from the pitlane and have a 30s penalty during the race.. This promotes the #43 to second and #28 G-Drive to third on the LMP2 grid.

The pole position time in 2014 was 2:01.198 but qualifying procedure was different, so you can't read too much into that, although the 1:54.755 set by the #17 Porsche is a new record.

As for predictions we are bound to fancy Porsche for the win, with such strength and numbers but you can never discount Audi who have a habit of picking up places when their German compatriots run into trouble. Toyota may also have a demon race strategy that will promote them as the hours pass and attrition bites. Brendon Hartley will be the starting driver for the #17 car on pole position, and Nick Tandy will be alongside him in the #19 Porsche 919 hybrid.

The G-Drive #26 will be started by Sam Bird and the team SARD Morand Morgan #43 will have Oliver Webb as the starting driver.
GTE Pole car Aston Martin #99 will have Fernando Rees at the wheel on the starting grid and #51 Ferrari Gianmaria Bruni.
In GTE Am the starting driver of the pole car is Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin, followed by Paolo Ruberti in the Larbre Corvette #50.