Porsche takes pole for FIA WEC Six Hours of Fuji

Porsche drivers (L-R) Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard after winning the pole for the FIA WEC Six Hours of Fuji.

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Porsche, as expected, scored pole for Sunday’s Six Hours of Fuji, although it came after a strong challenge by Audi in qualifying for the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard combined for a best two-lap average of 1:22.783 in the heated 20-minute qualifying session at Fuji Speedway.

It was another Porsche 1-2, thanks to a 1:23.127 time set by Marc Lieb in his final flying lap to elevate the No. 18 Porsche from third to second. Lieb teamed with Romain Dumas.

Lieb bumped the No. 7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer of the front row, following Audi’s best qualifying effort of the season.

The World Championship leaders combined for a 1:23.082 average, just three-tenths slower than the pole-sitting Porsche, which Webber and Bernhard will share with Brendon Hartley on Sunday.

The No. 8 Audi rebounded from a gearbox change in Free Practice 3 to qualify fourth, with the best of the Toyotas, the No. 1 entry of Sebastien Buemi and local hero Kazuki Nakajima, completing the top five overall and in LMP1.

Quickest in LMP1 non-hybrid was the No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER of Alexandre Imperatori and Daniel Abt, which was nearly six seconds slower than the overall pole-sitting Porsche.

G-Drive Racing, meanwhile, scored its fourth class pole of the season, and third for the No. 26 Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Sam Bird and Julien Canal, leading a 1-2 for the Russian-backed squad in LMP2.

Bird and Canal’s 1:31.529 average was just over two-tenths quicker than teammates Gustavo Yacaman and Sam Bird, which will line up second in class.

The SARD-Morand qualified a season-best third with its Morgan-Judd, followed by the championship-leading No. 47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan, which hit the wall in qualifying in the hands of Nick Tandy, but recovered to set a time late in the session.

AF Corse swept the front row in GTE-Pro qualifying, with James Calado and Davide Rigon giving the No. 71 Ferrari F458 Italia its first pole of the season.

Calado and Rigon combined for a best two-lap average of 1:38.295, outpacing teammates, and defending GTE-Pro champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander by 0.108 seconds.

It marked the first GTE-Pro pole positions for both drivers, as the pairing, and championship contenders, search for their first class victory of the season tomorrow.

The No. 99 Aston Martin Vantage V8, qualified by Alex MacDowall and Fernando Rees, will roll off third in class, followed by the pair of Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSRs in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Larbre Competition broke through to give the Corvette C7.R its first class pole in GTE-Am.

Paolo Ruberti and Gianluca Roda’s average of 1:39.901 was more than two-tenths quicker than class championship leaders Aleksey Basov and Victor Shaytar in the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari, which was second.

Ruberti and Roda will share driving duties tomorrow with WEC debutant Nicolai Slyvest in the French entry, which received a 20 kg minimum weight reduction prior to the weekend.

The No. 98 Aston Martin, No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari and No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche, which claimed pole last month at Circuit of The Americas, completed the top five.

The FIA WEC Six Hours of Fuji gets underway Sunday at 11 a.m. local time. (Sat., 10 p.m. ET).