Friday 12 June 2015

Qualifying - Porsche 1-2-3

Free practice and qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday evening at Le Mans are almost always an exciting spectacle. 

The fireworks started early. In his first flying lap of qualifying, Swiss driver Neel Jani in the #18 Porsche 919 hybrid posted a time of 3:16.887 beating the previous qualifying record of 3:18.513 set by Stéphane Sarrazin in 2008 in a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.  

Throughout practice and qualifying, many drivers were warned of track limits abuse, particularly at the Ford chicane and Tertre Rouge. The #71 AF Corse Ferrari had 6 lap times deleted as a result of repeatedly taking liberties.  At about 11pm, Paletou driving the Greaves #41 Gibson Nissan spun into a barrier at Mulsanne corner bringing out a red flag for 20 minutes.  Patterson in Murphy Prototypes #48 Oreca had an accident in free practice but the team did an excellent job and the car was repaired in time to take part in the final twenty minutes of 1st qualifying. Finally Townsend Bell in the Scuderia Corsa #62 Ferrari went off at Mulsanne and brought out another red flag and the session was not resumed. Porsche set the top three times of the session in P1, In P2 it was Richard Bradley in KCMG #47 Oreca fastest, and in GTE Pro, Stanaway in the #99 Aston Martin. In GTE Am Lamy in the Aston Martin #98 who set the fastest lap time.

The second qualifying session on Thursday started under hot and humid conditions with thunderstorms threatening. Lap times were not much improved from Q1 and the white line police were very active.  Many drivers were repeatedly reprimanded for not staying within the limits of the circuit. 

At 7:35, Dominik Kraihamer driving the the Rebellion #13 went off at the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight, damaging the nose of the car. A few minutes later, Cameron in the #55 AF Corse Ferrari went into the gravel at the Porsche curves, bringing out a red flag. Buemi in the #1 Toyota, while making his way back to the pits under red, did a strange slow motion pirouette at Arnage and continued. The track went green again at 7:50. Jan Magnussen driving Corvette #63 had a spectacular accident at 8:25pm in the Porsche curves which damaged the car sufficiently that it has been withdrawn from this year's race. The incident brought out the red flag and the session was not resumed. The top 3 times overall in all classes were not improved from Q1, except Tandy in #19 Porsche who improved slightly but remained 3rd fastest.

Q3 started 30 minutes early at 9:30pm to make up for the shortened Q2.  At 10:15 Dala Lana in Aston #98 went off at Mulsanne and a slow zone was in force for a while. At 10:40 Hirsch in the #41 Greaves Gibson also had an excursion at Mulsanne. At 11pm the #67 Team AAI  Porsche came to rest just before the first chicane with it's rear end on fire. Driver Alex Kapdia was extracted and the conflagration doused. This brought out another red flag for half an hour until 11:30. After the restart there were more problems for the #41 Greaves when the front fell off after Dunlop chicane and the damaged car was driven slowly by Gary Hirsch back to the pits.

Although the three Nissan LMP1 cars set better times than the LMP2 field, they will start from the back of the prototype grid because they failed to reach 110% of the LMP1 pole time. The #71 Ferrari that was 4th fastest in GTE Pro will be sent to 2nd to last on the grid because one driver failed to meet the 120% criterion. The ByKolles CLM was also demoted to 29th on the grid for similar reasons. This may still be subject to appeal because we have not yet seen an official statement of the starting grid.

The rain held off for the full session, but lap times were not improved on Q1 and Q2. 


#18 Porsche - Jani     3:16.887
#17 Porsche - Bernhard 3:17.767
#19 Porsche - Tandy    3:18.862

#12 Rebellion Beche    3:26.874

Fastest Audi was   #8  Loic Duval - 3:19.866
Fastest Toyota was #2  Sarrazin   - 3:23.543
Fastest Nissan was #22 Tincknell  - 3:36.995


#47 KCMG Oreca -     Bradley   3:38.032
#26 G-Drive Ligier - Bird      3:38.939
#41 Greaves Gibson - Lancaster 3:38.958


#99 Aston Martin -   Stanaway  3:54.928
#51 AF Corse -       Bruni     3:55.025
#97 Aston Martin -   Mucke     3:55.466


#98 Aston Martin -     Lamy      3:55.02
#83 AF Corse Ferrari - Collard   3:56.723
#72 SMP Ferrari -      Bertolini 3:56.877