The WEC points leaders in the #2 Porsche LMP Team 919 Hybrid will start tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Fuji from pole position, after Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley combined to set a time of 1:35.096 in the greasy conditions at the Fuji Speedway.
Crucially, by taking pole – their second of the year – they’ve extended their lead in the points standings to 52. Therefore, all Hartley, Bamber and Timo Bernhard have to do to sew up the LMP1 World Driver’s Championship tomorrow is finish ahead of the #8 Toyota crew in the race.
“It’s been a great competition between both car crews and Toyota this weekend,” Bamber said after the session. “We want to throw everything we have at each other. Great result, a front-row lockout, couldn’t ask for anything else. Another point in the bag, we’re marching forward.
“It’s my first pole in the WEC, when doing the driving.
“Hopefully we get a race tomorrow, I’d love to race now as the track conditions are great!”
Behind, the #1 Porsche made it a front row lockout for the German marque, after efforts from Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy, Tandy setting the fastest time of the session – a 1:35.068 early in the session. In the end though, after Lotterer’s laps, the pair’s combined time was a 1:35.231, just 0.071 off pole.
The best of the Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050s was the #8, the best Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima could manage was a 1:35.355 after switching to intermediates late in the session. The #7 ended up fourth.
Vaillante Rebellion meanwhile, took top honours in LMP2, David Heinemeier Hansson and Nelson Piquet Jnr in the team’s #13 ORECA 07 Gibson setting a 1:44.196 to take the crew’s first pole of 2017 by an impressive seven tenths, despite using the same set of intermediate Dunlops throughout the session.
Like Porsche, Rebellion also made it a front-row lockout in its class. The #31, which sits second in the points, ending the 20 minutes of running with a 1:44.925.
The best of the rest was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA, ahead of the Signatech Alpine A470 which narrowly missed out on a top three grid slot.
The G-Drive Racing 07 will start fifth.
“The car was great, after the practice we just had to find a few tenths here and there,” Piquet Jnr said. “David did an amazing job putting it together in Qualifying.”
In GTE Pro, Porsche GT Team will start from Pole, after two exceptional laps in the tricky conditions by Richard Lietz and Fred Makoweicki in the #91 911 RSR, another car seeing its first pole position of 2017. The pair set a 1:47.561 and 1:47.573 respectively to combine for a 1:47.577 average.
“It’s good to be back. Richard did a great lap,” Makoweicki said. “We’ve struggled this year in Qualifying, we wanted to do well here. Japan is like my second home, so I’m really happy to be back.”
Second and third on the grid in the class will be two Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GTs, the #67 leading the #66. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the #67 gave it their all to take Pole, and a point, but despite their best efforts and a late charge by Priaulx, they ended up just under five tenths shy of the Porsche’s benchmark.
The #71 AF Corse Ferrari finished up fourth, with the second of the Porsches recovering to fifth with a 1:48.265 after multiple offs by Michael Christensen early in the session.
Clearwater Racing was the class of the field in GTE Am, the knowledge and experience of the Singaporean effort proving valuable, after Weng Sun Mok and Matt Griffin combined for a 1:49.734 to take the team’s first ever WEC pole, Griffin putting in a storming first effort and team-mate Weng revelling in his circuit knowledge to provide some very solid support.
Behind, their title rivals in the Dempsey Proton Porsche and Aston Martin Racing Vantage completed the top three in the class, setting up what should be a thrilling contest in tomorrow’s race.
The 2017 6 Hours of Fuji is set to begin at 11am local time in Japan, tomorrow, weather permitting.