In another extraordinarily tight LMP1 qualifying session in which the six LMP1 hybrid cars came within six tenths of each other, the #1 Porsche 919 of Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber came out on top. The pair combined for a 1:44.462 after Hartley’s first flying lap was deleted for track limits, forcing Webber to hand the car back over to the Kiwi at the end for a second crack at pole.
“I think it was a super tight Qualifying, Brendon got caught for track limits which is harsh, but the stewards are doing their thing and he came out at the end and set a great lap,” Webber said. “It’s great to be on pole for the first stint of tomorrow’s race.”
Behind the leading Porsche, just 0.060 behind, was the #5 Toyota Gazoo Racing T5050 of Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima after a late charge from Buemi. The #8 Audi made it one from each factory in the top three spots after Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval combined for a 1:46.610.
Just shy of the top three was the second Toyota of Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin, three and a half tenths off pole, with the #7 Audi of Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer claiming fifth at the very end of the session.
It was another disappointing performance for the championship leaders in the #2 Porsche, who will line up sixth after the car had its early time deleted for excess fuel consumption.
In LMP2 it was jubilation for Manor, which scored its first ever WEC pole position. Alex Lynn and Matt Rao set a 1:54.225 to beat the #36 Signatech Alpine, which leads the title race, by two tenths.
Third spot in the class was taken by the #30 ESM Ligier, with the Fuji-winning G-Drive Oreca fourth and the championship-challenging RGR Sport by Morand Ligier of Ricardo Gonzalez and Bruno Senna taking a hard-fought fifth; the pair in the Mexican-flagged car setting a 1:54.845.
In GTE Pro, Ford continued its Fuji form, scoring a 1-2 in the earlier GTE session. Harry Tincknell, who ran fastest of anyone in the session setting a 2:01.240, and Andy Priaulx in the #67 GT took the top honours ahead of the sister #66 with an average of 2:01.391.
“The team have worked and worked, Harry is a superstar. It’s our first time here, and it’s been hard, but we’re on pole,” Priaulx said.
Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke in the #66 ended up just under two tenths shy with an average of 2:01.538. The first non-Ford was the #95 Dane Train Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, the pair over half a second off the pole time.
The #51 AF Corse Ferrari will line up fourth on the grid tomorrow with Sam Bird and Gianmaria Bruni setting a combined 2:02.315, with the #97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Richie Stanaway a further tenth back in fifth.
Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy meanwhile, put the #95 Aston Martin Vantage on pole in GTE Am for the fifth time in 2016 and in the process scored an important point for their championship challenge. The duo, managed a 2:04.997 in the 2015-spec Vantage, three tenths clear of the championship-leading #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Manu Collard and Francois Perrodo which finished up second.
“That was the hard way to do it, I had a moment on my first lap so I had to stay out there,” admitted Dalla Lana. “But we’re on pole and it’s good. It’s going to be a mental battle out there tomorrow, I’m really looking forward to it.
Third, fourth and fifth for the race were secured by Porsches, with the Abu Dhabi Proton car the best of the bunch, ahead of the KCMG and Gulf Racing 911s. Larbre Competition’s Corvette will line up at the back of the field.
Tomorrow’s Six Hour of Shanghai is set to start at 11:00am local time in China.