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.