Porsche will head into the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the fourth grid spot. In the final two qualifying sessions prior to the last round of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC season in France, Nick Tandy clocked the fastest lap time of all Porsche drivers with 3:48.907 minutes. With this result, the British driver planted the ca. 510 hp 911 RSR with the starting number 93, which he shares with Patrick Pilet (France) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand), on the second grid row.
In sunny conditions and temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius for the second qualifying session, only small improvements in times were possible. Only at the beginning of the third qualifying session in the evening, when the 13.626-kilometre racetrack offered more grip, could lap times be slashed. At this point, Tandy managed to leap ahead, while his colleagues in the sister cars were plagued by bad luck. Multiple caution phases, interruptions to the session and a dirty track surface in the second half of the final run hampered them from turning faster laps.
The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR, shared by the drivers’ championship leaders Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) with Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor, takes up the race from position seven. Their factory driver colleagues, Gianmaria Bruni from Italy, Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France), will tackle the world’s toughest endurance race from 13th on the grid in the No. 91 car. Works driver Sven Müller (Germany) and the Porsche Young Professionals Mathieu Jaminet from France and Dennis Olsen from Norway head into the race from position 15.
In the GTE-Am class, Porsche’s customer teams underlined their strong performance in the first qualifying with five 911 RSR cars in the top six. The No. 88 vehicle fielded by Dempsey Proton Racing takes up the Le Mans 24-hour race from pole position. Posting a time of 3:51.439 minutes, Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) sliced around a second off his top time from the previous day. Cairoli is joined in the cockpit of the 911 campaigned by the German customer squad by his compatriot Giorgio Roda and Satoshi Hoshino from Japan. Just 0.206 seconds behind, Matt Campbell (Australia) planted last year’s winning car with the starting number 77 on the second grid spot.
Porsche Young Professional Thomas Preining (Austria) and Michael Wainwright and Ben Barker from Britain head into the FIA WEC season finale from P3 with Gulf Racing’s No. 86 car. Vincent Abril (France) and the Italian father/son duo Philippe and Louis Prette take up the race in the identical vehicle with the No. 78 from fifth. The Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Project 1 achieved position six. Works driver Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) shares driving duties at the wheel of the No. 56 Art Car with Egidio Perfetti (Norway) and the American Patrick Lindsey. The No. 99 Porsche 911 campaigned by Dempsey Proton Racing will not contest this year’s 24-hour race after an accident in free practice on Wednesday.
The track will be closed to competitors on Friday (14 June), however fans, teams and drivers can look forward to a highlight. From 5pm, the drivers will take part in the traditional parade in the Le Mans city centre. The 87th running of the world’s toughest long-distance race begins on Saturday, 15 June, at 3pm. At this year’s event, Porsche legend Hurley Haywood assumes the honorary role of Grand Marshal. The American won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1977, 1983 and 1994 driving a racing car from the Stuttgart sports car manufacturer.
Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsport): “In the GTE-Am class, we have three 911 RSR on the first three grid spots and five cars in the top six. Everything ran perfectly. We had less luck with our factory cars. We were constantly hampered by incidents and heavy traffic. Our cars are well prepared for the race. We’ll do better over the distance than in qualifying.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “I was really unlucky. The conditions were good when I attempted my hot lap in the last qualifying session. The sector times indicated a significant improvement, but then the yellow flag came out in the Porsche corners and I had to reduce speed. After that we focussed on preparing for the race.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “We’re actually better than the qualifying result indicates. On my flying lap I had to let two prototypes pass in the middle sector, and then I had to overtake a GT car. This cost me a lot of time. Of course we would have preferred to start from further up the grid, but our car is really well balanced, which means we’ll be able to make up a lot of ground in the race. I’m heading into the season finale feeling really good.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #93): “You can’t compare the qualifying at Le Mans with any other race. Most of the time, you have to work on the setup rather than going for fast lap times. At some point you give it a go with little fuel and fresh tyres, but everything has to come together perfectly. This decisive attempt worked better for us than for many of the others. Fourth on the grid isn’t perfect, but it’s totally fine for the start of a 24-hour race.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 RSR #94): “Fifteenth is disappointing for us. Still, we just have to deal with it. Our car is definitely better than it might seem at first glance. In the race we’ll be able to set a good pace. And that’s all that matters.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #88): “This is my second pole position in a row at Le Mans – I’m blown away! My fastest lap was good, but I still lost a little time in some places. At the end I was nervous because it looked as if some other Porsche 911 RSR might still pose a threat. But it was enough. We’re heading into the big race feeling terrific.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “Second is a great starting position. But much more important is the fact that our Porsche 911 RSR has a very good setup. Our speed over the distance will be consistently high. In a 24-hour race, that is always one of the key factors for a top result.”
Thomas Preining (Porsche 911 RSR #86): “Pole position would have been possible for us. Unfortunately, after top times in the first two sectors, I lost a bit of time in the last section. Never mind, P3 is a good position to tackle such a long race. We three drivers in the number 86 car are more than happy with our Porsche 911 RSR. The race can begin.”
1. Thiim/Sörensen/Turner (DK/DK/GB), Aston Martin Vantage, 3:48.000 minutes
2. Priaulx/Tincknell/Bomarito (GB/GB/USA), Ford GT, + 0.112 seconds
3. Magnussen/Garcia/Rockenfeller (DK/E/D), Corvette C7.R, + 0.830 seconds
4. Pilet/Bamber/Tandy (F/NZ/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.907 seconds
7. Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor (DK/F/B), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.196 seconds
13. Lietz/Bruni/Makowiecki (A/I/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.921 seconds
15. Müller/Jaminet/Olsen (D/F/N), Porsche 911 RSR, + 2.278 seconds
1. Hoshino/Roda/Cairoli (J/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 3:51.439 minutes
2. Campbell/Ried/Andlauer (AUS/D/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.206 seconds
3. Wainwright/Barker/Preining (GB/GB/A), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.505 seconds
5. Prette/Prette/Abril (I/I/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.995 seconds
6. Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.311 seconds