Neel Jani took a second consecutive pole position for Porsche at the Le Mans 24 Hours after rain washed out much of the final qualifying session
The #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid’s time of 3m19.733s was set in the first qualifying session by Jani on Wednesday evening, and due to the erratic weather on Thursday was never challenged, giving the Swiss driver back-to-poles along with teammates Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb.
Timo Bernhard’s 3m20.203s lap in the #1 car he shares with Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber, also set on Wednesday, ensured that Porsche locks out the front row for Saturday's race, the Weissach marque repeating its qualifying result from last year.
Unlike last season’s qualifying however, Toyota annexed the second row of the grid as the all-new turbocharged TS 050 Hybrid made significant improvements on its 2015 showing.
Stephane Sarrazin and Anthony Davidson's times from first qualifying put the #6 car ahead of the #5, the former lapping just over a second off the pace.
The #6 car was the fastest in the wet in the final qualifying session, former F1 star Kamui Kobayashi posting a best time of 3m50.934s.
Audi meanwhile had a qualifying to forget, and perhaps lost out most from the poor weather due to lost track time for both of its R18 e-tron quattro cars.
The #7 entry driven by Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer was never able to get a comfortable set-up to exploit the best of the conditions. As a result, they will start fifth.
Just behind came the #8 Audi, which had initially been ahead of its sister car. However, Lucas di Grassi’s best time of 3m22.468s was deleted after the car was found to have breached the limit of fuel consumption, and it lost a position to the #7.
Rebellion Racing starts the race on the fourth row, with the #13 Rebellion R-One-AER car outpacing the #12 entry.
The Swiss team's only competition in the privateer LMP1 class, ByKolles, starts ninth after effecting fire-damage repairs overnight and setting a time eight seconds slower than the lead Rebellion.
G-Drive secures LMP2 pole
G-Drive Racing celebrated top spot in the LMP2 category, as Rene Rast claimed a clear pole position in the JOTA Sport-run Oreca #26 05-Nissan.
The works Audi driver, who is loaned out to G-Drive this season, set two laps which would have been good enough for pole in the car he shares with ex-Manor F1 driver Will Stevens and reigning WEC LMP2 champion Roman Rusinov.
As expected, the Oreca 05-Nissan package controlled the category and claimed the top four places. with the two Signatech-run, Alpine-branded #35 and #36 cars taking second and third places. Nelson Panciatici and Nicolas Lapierre set the times respectively.
Roberto Merhi’s late session time on Wednesday evening in the #44 Manor Oreca was good enough for fourth place on the team's La Sarthe debut, while Laurens Vanthoor’s effort in the Michael Shank Racing entry ensured the American team was the best placed Ligier runner in fifth.
Ford sweeps front row in GTE
The LMGTE Pro class saw Ford take a headline-grabbing and controversial 1-2-4-5 on its first appearance at Le Mans as a works team for 34 years.
Dirk Muller’s time of 3m51.185s in the #68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team USA-entered car (also driven by Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais) beat Ryan Briscoe’s 3m51.497s late on in first qualifying.
With the UK-based Ford GT’s placing fourth and fifth, it was an ultra-successful resumption of the Ford story at La Sarthe, Muller's pole adding to previous overall poles for Ford entries in 1965, 1966 and 1967.
The continuation of the Ford vs Ferrari legend looks set to be renewed as the #51 AF Corse 488 GTE of Gianmaria Bruni, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi will start third with a lap that was just 0.383s off the pole time.
The LMGTE Pro class was effectively split in to two, as the Fords and Ferraris annexed the top seven positions, while the rest, including both works Porsches, Corvettes and Aston Martins, were well adrift.
LMGTE Am sees the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Rob Bell, Keita Sawa and Mok Weng start from pole ahead of the #98 Aston Martin trio Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana.
Rain spoils final session
Parts of the La Sarthe track were flooded when a downpour hit the track after 12 minutes of the final two-hour session.
Many cars didn’t bother venturing out, but with equally poor weather forecast for Saturday, some teams took the opportunity to try wet settings.
But the steady rain soon became torrential and the red flag flew as some cars lost control due to aquaplaning. Matteo Mallucelli had the most lurid gyration as his Risi Competizione Ferraricompleted a high-speed 360 degree spin on the approach to the Dunlop chicane.
The session was actually resumed for the final 45 minutes, and although the track dried out slowly, the times being set were a long way from challenging those set in the previous sessions.
|1||2|| Romain Dumas
|Porsche 919 Hybrid||LMP1||3'19.733|
|2||1|| Mark Webber
|Porsche 919 Hybrid||LMP1||3'20.203||0.470|
|3||6|| Stéphane Sarrazin
|Toyota TS050 Hybrid||LMP1||3'20.737||1.004|
|4||5|| Anthony Davidson
|Toyota TS050 Hybrid||LMP1||3'21.903||2.170|
|5||7|| Andre Lotterer
|6||8|| Lucas di Grassi
|7||13|| Alexandre Imperatori
|8||12|| Nick Heidfeld
Nelson Piquet Jr.
|10||26|| Will Stevens
|11||35|| Nelson Panciatici
|12||36|| Nicolas Lapierre
|13||44|| Roberto Merhi
|14||49|| Laurens Vanthoor
Oswaldo Negri Jr
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'38.837||19.104|
|15||31|| Pipo Derani
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'39.366||19.633|
|16||46|| Mathias Beche
|17||42|| Nick Leventis
|18||47|| Matthew Howson
|19||23|| Paul-Loup Chatin
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'39.470||19.737|
|20||33|| Tristan Gommendy
Nick de Bruijn
|21||38|| Giedo van der Garde
|22||43|| Bruno Senna
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'40.899||21.166|
|23||27|| Maurizio Mediani
|24||28|| Leo Roussel
|25||30|| Scott Sharp
Johannes van Overbeek
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'41.406||21.673|
|26||37|| Vitaly Petrov
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'42.088||22.355|
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'42.570||22.837|
|29||48|| Jeroen Bleekemolen
|30||34|| Shinji Nakano
|31||22|| Erik Maris
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'44.347||24.614|
|33||40|| Tracy Krohn
|Ligier JS P2||LMP2||3'45.213||25.480|
|34||68|| Sébastien Bourdais
|Ford GT||LMGTE PRO||3'51.185||31.452|
|35||69|| Ryan Briscoe
|Ford GT||LMGTE PRO||3'51.497||31.764|
|36||51|| Gianmaria Bruni
Alessandro Pier Guidi
|Ferrari 488 GTE||LMGTE PRO||3'51.568||31.835|
|37||67|| Harry Tincknell
|Ford GT||LMGTE PRO||3'51.590||31.857|
|38||66|| Stefan Mücke
|Ford GT||LMGTE PRO||3'52.038||32.305|
|39||71|| Sam Bird
|Ferrari 488 GTE||LMGTE PRO||3'52.508||32.775|
|40||82|| Giancarlo Fisichella
|Ferrari 488 GTE||LMGTE PRO||3'53.176||33.443|
|41||92|| Frédéric Makowiecki
|Porsche 911 RSR (2016)||LMGTE PRO||3'54.918||35.185|
|42||95|| Marco Sorensen
|Aston Martin Vantage||LMGTE PRO||3'55.261||35.528|
|43||91|| Nick Tandy
|Porsche 911 RSR (2016)||LMGTE PRO||3'55.332||35.599|
|44||97|| Fernando Rees
|Aston Martin Vantage||LMGTE PRO||3'55.380||35.647|
|45||77|| Richard Lietz
|Porsche 911 RSR (2016)||LMGTE PRO||3'55.426||35.693|
|46||64|| Oliver Gavin
|Chevrolet Corvette C7R||LMGTE PRO||3'55.848||36.115|
|47||61|| Rob Bell
Mok Weng Sun
|Ferrari F458 Italia||LMGTE AM||3'56.827||37.094|
|48||98|| Pedro Lamy
Paul Dalla Lana
|Aston Martin Vantage V8||LMGTE AM||3'57.198||37.465|
|49||88|| David Heinemeier Hansson
Khaled Al Qubaisi
|Porsche 911 RSR||LMGTE AM||3'57.513||37.780|
|50||55|| Duncan Cameron
|Ferrari F458 Italia||LMGTE AM||3'57.596||37.863|
|51||83|| François Perrodo
|Ferrari F458 Italia||LMGTE AM||3'57.742||38.009|
|52||63|| Jan Magnussen
|Chevrolet Corvette C7R||LMGTE PRO||3'57.967||38.234|
|53||50|| Pierre Ragues
|Chevrolet Corvette C7-Z06||LMGTE AM||3'58.018||38.285|
|54||60|| Christina Nielsen
|Ferrari F458 Italia||LMGTE AM||3'58.760||39.027|
|55||78|| Christian Ried
|Porsche 911 RSR||LMGTE AM||3'59.034||39.301|
|56||62|| Bill Sweedler
|Ferrari F458 Italia||LMGTE AM||4'00.008||40.275|
|57||89|| Marc Miller
|Porsche 911 RSR||LMGTE AM||4'00.107||40.374|
|58||86|| Michael Wainwright
|Porsche 911 RSR||LMGTE AM||4'01.046||41.313|
|59||57|| Mark Patterson
|Chevrolet Corvette C7-Z06||LMGTE AM||4'02.326||42.593|
|60||99|| Gary Hirsch
|Aston Martin Vantage V8||LMGTE AM||4'03.148||43.415|