Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb stormed to pole ahead of tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, with an average time of 1:36.473 between them in the #18 Porsche 919. Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard made it a Porsche 1-2 by putting the #17 second. Down in LMP2 KCMG continued its fine form from Le Mans, by going quickest in the class by four tenths following laps from Nick Tandy and Matthew Howson.
“It was a great effort for Porsche to bring the high downforce kit here,” said Dumas. “For sure, compared to where we were two or three weeks ago, the car is much better. We are a lot quicker. Regarding this qualifying session, Mark had a very good start. He took the lead very quickly. Then, I knew that Mark Webber was in car in front of me. I just needed to try to follow him.
“Unfortunately, on first lap, I had traffic. It was not great. It was not optimum but sufficient with Mark’s first lap. it was cool.”
From the start of the session it seemed Porsche had the pace to top Audi after going fastest in Free Practice 3 earlier in the day. Marc Lieb and Timo Bernhard immediately put the #18 and #17 at the top of the timing screens respectively after laps in the low 1:36s. Oliver Jarvis and Marcel Fassler in the pair of Audis (#8 & #7) could only manage tours in the 37s.
Toyota’s pair of TS040s meanwhile, continued to fill the gap between the VW-group P1s and the three privateer entries after their efforts, almost two seconds off the pace; the #1 will line up fifth and the #2 sixth.
Audi were more in the mix during the second set of laps, as traffic played a part in Mark Webber’s opening flyer. But the Aussie’s second lap of 1:36.693 improved the car’s average time significantly, catapulting the #17 to second overall and ahead of the trailing R18s. The #8’s average of 1:37.476 following Lucas Di Grassi’s stint in the car was good enough for third, while Lotterer who was held up a little on his run could only put the #7 car fourth, a further three tenths back.
Of the three privateer runners in the top class Rebellion managed to place both R-Ones ahead of the ByKolles CLM by over two seconds. The #12 of Nico Prost and Nick Hiedfeld led the way for the Swiss outfit with an average of 1:42.513.
LMP2 was very intriguing. Strakka Racing put its Gibson on provisional pole early after Jonny Kane’s 1:46.249 – which was the quickest lap in the class in the session. Nick Leventis’ run however, didn’t showcase the car’s pace in the same way, causing the #42 to slip to sixth place overall by session end.
It would be KCMG who took top honours, with Tandy and Howson’s laps combining for an average of 1:46.505 – just three tenths quicker than the #26 G-Drive Ligier that’s due to line up second.
“I enjoyed it,” said Tandy. “The car was really working well. We were quite surprised by how much gap we got in the end When we do take the fuel out of the car, it is quite fast. Matt did a good job. One of the fastest of the first runners. We could have stopped pushing after the first running lap but we weren’t quite sure where opposition were. Am happy to sit on pole next to my colleague ahead of the field.”
Third in the class was the Alpine of Nelson Panciatici and Vincent Capillaire, which to that point had had a quiet weekend. The French pair combined for a 1:47.174 average and will hope to convert that into a podium tomorrow.
“If you look at where we were in Silverstone or in Spa, we can clearly see that we closed some gap on competition,” Panciatici told DSC. “It is good for the morale of the team as the beginning of the season was not the greatest. The track is good for our car – we are capitalizing on the work done before Le Mans.”
The #28 G-Drive Ligier will take up fourth spot on tomorrow’s grid, but after a brief scare while Ricardo Gonzalez was behind the wheel. The Mexican had a spin at the exit of the Dunlop Hairpin, luckily there was no contact with barriers however and he was able to carry on and set a competitive lap. Team SARD Morand will be pleased with sixth.
Tomorrow’s six-hour race will start at 1:00pm local time at the Nürburgring.
Stephen Kilbey & Mat Fernandez