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Porsche beats Toyota to Spa WEC pole after stunning Jani lap

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SPA, Belgium – Porsche will start Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps from pole position after Neel Jani’s stunning lap saw it beat Toyota to top honors in qualifying.

Toyota led all three stages of practice at Spa in the lead up to qualifying, only for Porsche to strike back when it mattered and claim its first pole of the season.

Jani turned in a fastest lap of 1:53.756 during his first run in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, with teammate Andre Lotterer adding his time to create a two-lap average of 1:54.097.

Toyota’s No. 9 car had been on provisional pole after Stephane Sarrazin went 0.098 seconds faster than Jani, but Nicolas Lapierre could not match Lotterer’s time, losing his first run after a spin for the ByKolles car caused yellow flags at the final corner.

The No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid emerged as Porsche’s closest rival for pole, finishing half a second back in P2. The No. 9 followed in third ahead of the No. 8 Toyota. Porsche’s No. 2 car was fifth overall, 1.3 secons off the pole time.

G-Drive Racing secured pole in LMP2 through Alex Lynn and Pierre Thiriet in the No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson, heading up a closely-knit field. Signatech Alpine followed in second and third with its No. 36 and No. 35 cars respectively, while Manor finished fourth, with the quartet being separated by just 0.03 seconds.

GTE Pro saw AF Corse edge out Ford in a tight battle for pole, with the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE shared between Sam Bird and Davide Rigon recording a two-lap average of 2:15.017. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing followed in P2 and P3 with the No. 66 and 67 Ford GTs, finishing four-tenths of a second adrift, while the No. 51 Ferrari followed in fourth.

Pedro Lamy led Aston Martin Racing to pole in GTE Am behind the wheel of the No. 98 Vantage GTE, squeezing in a last-gasp effort as the checkered flag fell to improve the car’s average to 2:18.659 to edge out Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR by four-tenths of a second.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”