Audi upsets Porsche to lock out front row for WEC Silverstone opener

© Audi Sport

Porsche’s 11-race pole position streak in the FIA World Endurance Championship came to an end on Saturday at Silverstone as Audi locked out the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s six hour race.

Porsche enters the 2016 season with a refined version of its all-conquering 919 Hybrid car from 2015, while Audi and rivals Toyota have completed aggressive overhauls of their challengers.

Practice suggested that the status quo from the end of 2015 remained as Porsche finished well clear of Audi, sweeping to a one-two finish in both sessions on Friday.

However, both the no. 1 and no. 2 cars had no answer to the pace delivered by the Audi R18s in qualifying, with the esteemed trio of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler taking pole by one-tenth of a second.

Lotterer and Fassler split driving duties in qualifying and were so evenly matched that their lap times were just 0.006 seconds apart, delivering a two-lap average of 1:53.204.

Although Lucas di Grassi clocked the quickest time of qualifying in the sister Audi, he and Loic Duval could only finish one-tenth of a second further back, but did enough to secure second place on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

As a result, for the first time since the 6 Hours of Spa in 2014, neither Porsche will start on the front row of the grid as the no. 1 car finished nine-tenths of a second off the pole time in third place. The no. 2 will start fourth, while the two Toyotas start fifth and sixth after struggling in qualifying.

In LMP2, defending champions G-Drive started the season in style by taking class pole thanks to a strong display by Rene Rast in his first qualifying outing for the Russian team. The no. 26 car finished 1.2 seconds clear of Pipo Derani and Chris Cumming in the no. 31 ESM car, while the debutant RGR team qualified third.

Ferrari’s AF Corse team gave the new 488 GTE car an impressive baptism by taking class pole courtesy of the no. 71 car shared by Davide Rigon and Sam Bird. The result marks Bird’s third WEC pole at Silverstone, all coming in different classes after successes in GTE Am and LMP2.

The fastest time of qualifying in GTE Pro was set by James Calado in the sister no. 51 Ferrari, yet an engine failure meant that Gianmaria Bruni was unable to set a lap time, leaving the car at the back of the field and with a three-minute penalty in the race so that the unit could be replaced.

The only Porsche on pole at Silverstone surprisingly came in GTE Am as the no. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing car headed its class, followed by another 911 RSR in the shape of the new Gulf Racing entry.

To see the full results from qualifying, click here.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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