Saturday 16 April 2016

Clean Sweep for Audi in WEC qualifying at Silverstone

No third free practice session in the morning due to snowfall at Silverstone, so the WEC qualifying was the first track session of the day for all contenders. And what a qualifying we got ! After Porsches impressive laptimes yesterday, everyone expected them to dominate qualifying. But, if there's one thing we've learned over the years, never rule out Audi, they always might have some kind of surprise in their sleeve.  

Neel Jani and Mark Webber were the first battling it out for pole position in their Porsche 919's, but six minutes into the session, both Audi's were at the top of the timesheet, Andre Lotterer putting the #7 in the mix in front of the #8 with Loic Duval at the wheel. Right after the driver change, both Audi's stayed on top, this time the #8 with Lucas Di Grassi in front of the #7 of Martin Fässler.

No happy faces in the Porsche pitbox after the 15 minute session, as Audi took out the qualifying session with a clean sweep on the front row, and more surprisingly with a demanding lead over Porsche. Webber and Hartley put their #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid on third place, almost a second behind the pole sitting #7 Audi R18. The #8 sister car of Duval and Di Grassi took second, 0.1 second off pace, despite a late run-off at the end of the session. The #2 Porsche was fourth fastest, ahead of both Toyota's. 

Pole position in LMP2 is for the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca05/Nissan, 0.6 seconds ahead of Pipo Derani's #31 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JSP2. P2 being the best qualifying result for the American team in the WEC. Filipe Albuquerue secured third place on the grid in his #43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier. Both SMP Racings BR01's complete the top 5, the #27 ahead of the #37.

Sam Bird took pole in his #71AF Corse Ferrari GTE-Pro, setting an average laptime of 2.12.440, 1.3 seconds ahead of the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche of Michael Christensen and the #66 Ford GT of Olivier Pla. The #51 AF Corse was leading early on, but an engine issue, prevented Gianmaria Bruni to put in a lap. Quickest in GTE-Am was the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Porsche, more than 2 seconds ahead of the #78 KCMG Porsche of Wolf Henzler and Chistian Ried. The #50 Larbre Corvette set the third fastest average time.  

Practice sessions

Tricky conditions in the first practice session of 2016, with a damp track at the start of the first practice session. By the end of the session, the track started to dry up and laptimes reduced quickly.

As expected, Porsche was fastest in the first session, Timo Bernhard topping the timesheets on Friday Morning. The #2 sister car was second fastest, 0.8 seconds behind the title defending 919 Hybrid. Toyota's all new TS050 Hybrid put in a strong performance with Anthony Davidson third fastest, although 1.6 seconds slower than the fastest Porsche. Audi (#8) and Toyota (#6) completed the top 5 in LMP1. 

Positions changed constantly in the LMP2, but at the 90 minute mark, Rene Rast put the #26 G-Drive Oreca05/Nissan on top of the timesheets. Rast was 0.85 seconds ahead of Nelson Panciatici in the #35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine and almost a second ahead of the #45 RGR Sport of Filipe Albuquerque. First and third then for an Audi factory driver.

In GTE Pro AF Corse dominated the competition, Gianmaria Bruni fastest in the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE ahead of the #71. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing of Michael Christensen being “the best of the rest”. Both Fords were fourth and fifth fastest, ahead of both Aston Martins. AF Corse was also on top op the GTE-Am leaderboard, the #83 ahead of the #86 Gulf Porsche and #88 Abu Dhabi- Proton

Mixed conditions again in the second session, starting on a damp track, with a hint of sunshine at the end. Brendon Hartley put in an astonishing lap in his last stint, going outright quicker than last years pole position, 1.6 seconds faster than the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. Third place for Audi this time, the #8 car 0.1 seconds behind the #2 Porsche. The Toyota #6 was only 0.06 seconds behind, so it seams the new Audi's and Toyota's new cars are somewhat in the same league, but still a long way behind the Porsches.

In LMP2, Strakka Racing put their good old Gibson 015S on top of the table when Jonny Kane put in the fastest time in the closing minutes of the session. Another surprise was the #44 Manor Oreca/Nissan coming in third, 0.06 seconds behind the Gibson. Signatech Alpine was third fastest, the #36 ahead of the second Manor. GTE Pro was Ferrari's playground again, AF Corse putting in the 2 fastest times, with the #51 0.2 seconds ahead of the #71 sister car. Dempsey-Proton racing was third fastest again too, 1 second adrift of the first Ferrari. Newcomers to the WEC UK's Gulf Racing smashed the opposition in GTE-Am, putting the #86 Porsche well between the Pro cars (4th place overall). The #98 Paul Dalla Lana Aston Martin was second fastest ahead of the #50 Larbre Corvette.

Third free practice this morning was cancelled due to ... snow ...

Kristof Vermeulen