Audi on top once again in second Nürburgring WEC practice

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NÜRBURGRING – Audi set the pace in the second free practice session ahead of this weekend’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring as its duel with Porsche at the top of the timesheets continued.

Following a two-month break, the FIA World Endurance Championship returns this weekend at the Nürburgring for the fourth round of the 2015 season.

As we saw at Le Mans in June, Audi and Porsche are set to battle for top honors at their home circuit, and with just 0.079 seconds separating the top three cars in FP2, a thrilling battle appears to be on the cards.

Audi’s no. 7 car of Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer bounced back from an early excursion into the gravel to top FP2 with a fastest lap of 1:37.862 seconds.

Treluyer’s late lap was enough to displace the no. 17 Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley from the top of the timesheets, which finished just 0.059 seconds behind in second place.

Porsche’s pace was underpinned by the no. 18 car of Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani, which finished a further 0.02 seconds down in P3. The Audi no. 8 car rounded out the top four, albeit a second back from its rivals.

Toyota endured another difficult session as its cars finished fifth and sixth overall, over 1.7 seconds down on the Audi in fourth place.

In LMP2, G-Drive led the way once again with a one-two finish in a reverse order to Friday’s FP1 session. The no. 26 of Julien Canal, Roman Rusinov and Sam Bird finished 1.7 seconds clear of the no. 28 car. Strakka Racing’s no. 42 rounded out the top three a further 0.044 seconds behind.

Aston Martin Racing hit back in GTE Pro to lock out three of the top four positions in class. The no. 99 of Fernando Rees, Richie Stanaway and Alex MacDowall finished just 0.038 seconds clear of AF Corse’s no. 51 car. The no. 97 and no. 95 followed within seven-tenths of the leading GT car.

SMP Racing bounced back from a difficult morning to top the GTE Am class standings, posting a fastest lap of 1:56.238 to finish half a second clear of AMR’s no. 98. Larbre Competition’s Corvette rounded out the top three a further three-tenths of a second back.

The drivers will get one final chance to practice at the Nürburgring on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying in the afternoon. The six-hour race kicks off at 1pm local time (CET) on Sunday.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.