The reigning world champions, Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU), took pole position for the eighth and penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Shanghai. The current championship leaders, Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE), will start sixth on the grid for the six-hour race on Sunday. Today’s pole is the third one this season for the Porsche 919 Hybrid, the around 900 HP strong hybrid racing car also started from P1 in Spa and in Le Mans. Since its debut in 2014, the 919 now has 15 quickest times in qualifying to its tally, and eight of these were achieved by Bernhard/Hartley/Webber.
“It all started pretty well,” commented Hartley. “I went P1 on the first lap, but ran wide in the last corner, which resulted in the lap time being deleted. Mark did a mega lap to put us back into contention, and the pressure was back on for my final attempt. Awesome team effort to get the pole. Over the whole weekend we worked pretty hard on the car for the long runs. We feel pretty good for tomorrow, it will be a tight battle again.”
The #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing TS050 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima qualified second, just 0.060secs behind the pole position-winning Porsche #1 in a session which saw the top six separated by only 0.589secs.
In the WEC the average of the two fastest laps of two drivers counts for the qualifying result. In China the qualifying drivers were Hartley/Webber (car number 1, position 1, 1:44.462 minutes) and Jani/Lieb (car number 2, position 6, 1:45.051 minutes). Extra excitement came into play when the lap times of both the drivers who were at the wheel first were deleted. For Brendon Hartley this was because of exceeding track limits in the last corner, for Marc Lieb the reason was slightly exceeding the allowed fuel consumption. Both drivers got another set of fresh tyres for their second attempt.
The six-hour race on the 5.451 kilometre long Chinese Formula One circuit starts on Sunday at 11:00 hrs (04:00 hrs in central Europe). In Shanghai early title decisions are possible. Continuing ‘friendly’ weather conditions promise tough and close racing until the very last minute.