Qualifying #2 PORSCHE TEAM / DEU / Porsche 919 Hybrid - Hybrid / Timo Bernhard (DEU) / Earl Bamber (NZL) / Brendon Hartley (NZL) - WEC 6 Hours of Fuji - Fuji Speedway - Oyama - Japan. Image © FIA WEC/Adrenal Media

Trying to avoid the expected heavy rain, qualifying got underway a bit earlier than planned this afternoon. The GTE cars kicked off todays qualifying session in mixed conditions, but managed to get out with intermediate tyres. By the time the qualifying session for the LMP’s got underway conditions got worse again, pulling out the full wets again.

Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz scored their first pole position of the season in the GTE Pro class with their #91 Porsche 911 RSR. With an average laptime of 1.47.577 they kept both Ford GT’s behind them. Andy Priaulx & Harry Tincknell were second fastest, 0.441 seconds behind the Porsche. Stefan Mücke & Olivier Pla parked their #66 Ford on third place, just over half a second behind the #67. The #71 AF Corse Ferrari and #92 Porsche completed the top 5.

Clearwater racing took their first pole position in the World Endurance Championship, maximising their advantage of track knowledge as the sole Asian team in the class. Weng Sun Mok and Matt Griffin set a time of 1.49.408, holding off Matteo Cairoli & Christian Ried in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche and Pedro Lamy & Paul Dalla Lana in the #98 Aston Martin. The 3 teams battling for the championship on the top 3 spots of the class, GTE Am will be one to watch tomorrow !

Conditions got worse when the LMP cars went on track for their 20 minute qualifying session. Some teams still managed to start on intermediate tyres, but had to switch to full wets early in the session.

The battle for pole position again went on between both Porsche 919 Hybrids, who scored their fourth front row lockout of the season. Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber took pole position with an average time of 1.35.068, only 28 thousands of a second faster than Nick Tandy (who set the fastest time overall) and André Lotterer.

The extra point for pole position extends the #2 crews lead in the championship to 52 points. If they finish ahead of the #8 Toyota tomorrow, Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley will be crowned as the 2017 drivers champions. More good news for Brendon Hartley came out yesterday evening, when STR Toro Rosso announced Hartley as their second driver in next weeks F1 race in Austin. That’s 3 different cars in 3 different championships in 3 consecutive weekend for the Kiwi.

Toyota had a frustrating run in qualifying. The #8 TS050 of Sébastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima seemed to have the pace to challenge Porsche for pole position, but was delayed in traffic twice, losing out the best performance of their tyres. With an average time of 1.35.355 they qualified third, ahead of the #7 Toyota which struggled for pace and grip on the wet track.

Vaillante Rebellion also scored a front row lockout in the LMP2 class. Nelson Piquet Jr and David Henemeier Hansson claimed their first pole position of the season in the #13 Oreca 07. With an average laptime of 1.44.196, they were over 0.7 seconds faster than the second Vaillante of Bruno Senna and Julien Canal. Championship leaders Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing took third place in 1.45.078. Austin winners Signatech Alpine put the #36 also on the second row of the grid, the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing completed the top 5.

This morning, on track action started with a “Circuit Safari” … The concept: put race fans & media in a bus on the track and release the race cars.  It’s kind of a Japanese tradition and has been organised for the first time today during a WEC race. Every team had to send out 1 car on track during the session, but eventually all cars went out for an unprecedented show on the Fuji Speedway.  It certainly made for some unique footage as can be seen below: 

In the third and final practice session, Toyota set the pace again after being quickest in yesterday’s afternoon session too. Sébastien Buemi put the #8 TS050 Hybrid on top with a lap of 1.35.414, 0.850 seconds faster than Earl Bamber in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. André Lotterer was fastest again in the #1 Porsche in third, Mike Conway set the best time in the #7 Toyota.

Jackie Chan DC Racing continued to dominate in the LMP2 class, now with the #37 Oreca 07 of Alex Brundle in 1.43.745. Nelson Piquet Jr came 0.002 seconds short in his #13 Vaillante Rebellion to snatch away the top spot. The second Vaillante Rebellion of Bruno Senna was third fastest, 0.316 seconds behind its sister car.

Porsche looked strong again in the GTE Pro class, both Richard Lietz (1:47.724) and Fred Makowiecki (1:48.125 ) in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR outpacing the rest of the field. Michael Christensen was third fastest in the #92 Porsche (1:48.358), ahead of Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT. Matteo Cairoli was oustanding in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche in GTE Am, his time of 1.49.387 putting him right in the mix with the Pro cars. Matt Griffin in the #61 Clearwater Ferrari and Francesco Castellacci in the #54 Spirit of Race completed the final top 3 of the morning session.

This report was originally posted on Club Arnage.