Porsche 919 LMP1-2-3 at Spa Francorchamps

Porsche 919s dominated LMP qualifying at Spa Francorchamps this evening, eventually claiming the first three grid positions for the 2015 Spa 6 Hours. Bernhard/Hartley took pole position in the number 17 car with a stunning 1:54.767 pole time, three seconds quicker than the previous fastest lap for an LMP car at Spa.

Tandy/Hülkenberg set the second quickest time in 919 number 19, 1:55.025. Marc Lieb/Neel Jani brought up the rear, just two tenths behind on a 1:55.024. The next closest car was Lotterer/Fassler, eight tenths behind the lead Porsche. It was a masterful show of performance from the 2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid.

LMP lap times are worked out on aggregate. Two drivers set their quickest laps, with the average of both lap times counting. Porsche 919 number 17 scored a 1:54.779 from Hartley and a 1:54.755 from Bernhard to go first overall on .767. Number 19 had a 1:55.1 from Hulk with a 1:54.9 from Tandy, giving 1:55.0. Finally, a 55.2 vs 55.3 from Jani and Lieb meant the three 919s were split by just six-tenths of a second. Good going, especially given this is some drivers’ first LMP weekend.

Webber Bernhard Hartley Porsche 919 qualifying Spa 2015

As ever, the times don’t tell it all. “Of course the team is very happy with the qualifying result,” said Marc Lieb. “I lost four-tenths in the first corner of my fast lap because of a slight mistake. That’s why I’m a little bit upset. But the number 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid was unbeatable today.”

Porsche 911 RSRs qualify slowest of the GTE-Pro runners

Down the field, the 911 RSRs suffered as they always do when Spa is dry. Fernando Rees in the GTE-Pro Aston Martin did a magnificent job, taking pole with young team-mate, Richie Stanaway. Behind them, it was Ferrari-Aston-Ferrari-Aston-Porsche-Porsche.

Sven Müller and Kévin Estre outqualified regular works drivers Lietz and Fred Makowiecki by one-tenth of a second on aggregate. The 911 laptimes don’t make for great reading – 2:18.0 for the lead 911 versus 2:16.8 as a pole time – but the RSRs will likely race better than they qualified.

“The result [for the 911s] corresponds to what we expected,” said Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport. “It was clear that we wouldn’t be up the front on this track. We used these laps predominantly to prepare more effectively for the race.”

Porsche 911 RSR Spa WEC 2015-2

In GTE-Am, Patrick Long set a 2:19.9 versus team-mate Patrick Dempsey’s 2:26.0, to qualify P14 overall in GT. I was surprised to learn that this is Dempsey’s first outing at Spa: one might have expected some pre-event testing here in race test days or similar. This means I have currently done more laps than Dr. Dreamy in Belgium.

Spa is a huge track with lots of time out there to lose, so eight seconds off GTE-Pro pole seems OK for a new boy. A number of drivers had fastest quali laps cancelled for running outside of track limits, but Dempsey did better than that.

Porsche 911 RSR Spa WEC 2015-4

All is not lost in GTE-Am, as the number 88 911 of Christian Ried, Khaled Al Qubaisi and Klaus Bachler managed third overall in the category, following a sizeable shunt through Pouhon in free practice three. The car looked good out on track: very impressed that they managed to fix it so quickly, as that corner has claimed many Porsche badges that were not resurrected.

The race is TOMORROW, starting at 14:30 CET. I’m at Donington Historics with EB Motorsport – Mark and James racing the 3.0 RS in the 2.5-hour 1000kms tomorrow evening – so will be watching Spa on the FIA WEC app from a trackside position.

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