Audi on pole for WEC swansong in Bahrain

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Audi will start its final race in the FIA World Endurance Championship from pole position after Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi topped qualifying for the 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Audi announced last month that it would be quitting the WEC following the final race of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit, ending its LMP1 program after 18 years.

Despite trailing rivals Porsche throughout practice, Audi hit back in qualifying as Jarvis and di Grassi combined for an average of 1:39.207 to secure their third pole of the season.

Porsche heads into the final race of the year pushing to add the drivers’ championship to its manufacturers’ success secured last time out in China, with the no. 2 crew of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb needing a sixth-place finish to wrap up the title.

The trio could only qualify third on Friday in Bahrain, losing out to the sister no. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid car after a late improvement spearheaded by Timo Bernhard that reduced the pole-sitting Audi’s advantage to just two-tenths of a second.

The no. 7 Audi R18 ended the session fourth, half a second off the pole time from across the garage, while the Toyotas lagged over a second behind in P5 and P6.

LMP2 saw G-Drive Racing take pole with its no. 26 Oreca Nissan, edging out the championship-winning no.36 Signatech Alpine entry by just 0.018 seconds. The no. 44 Manor slotted into third place, finishing a further three-tenths of a second further back.

Aston Martin Racing continued to dominate proceedings in the GTE Pro class by clinching a one-two finish, headed up by the no. 97 Vantage V8 shared by Jonny Adam and Darren Turner. Remarkably, the duo set the exact same lap time to the thousandth of 1:56.953, handing them class pole by just over one-tenth of a second.

The championship-chasing no. 95 AMR entry of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen ended up second in class, while the no. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 ended up third, a further three-tenths of a second behind.

Aston Martin also tasted success in GTE Am as Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana combined to take class pole, ensuring that the title fight will continue until race day. The no. 83 AF Corse crew had been able to clinch the title by scoring pole, but ended up three-tenths of a second behind in P2.