Porsche sweeps front row, Ford on GTE-Pro pole at Le Mans
Porsche has swept the front row for the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Neel Jani claiming his second consecutive pole for the twice-around-the-clock French endurance classic.
Thursday's two qualifying sessions was mostly a washout, with few improvements, hampered by heavy rain in the final session that resulted in a lengthy one-hour red flag for track conditions.
It ensured Jani's 3:19.733 time in the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid from Wednesday's session stood as the pole-winning lap.
The Swiss driver, who becomes the first repeat Le Mans pole winner since Stephane Sarrazin in 2007-2009, will share his Porsche with Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas.
The sister No. 1 entry of defending FIA World Endurance Champions Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley will roll off second, thanks to the German driver's 3:20.203 lap.
Toyota Gazoo Racing will roll off from the second row, with Sarrazin in the No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid edging out teammate Antony Davidson by nearly a second.
Both of the Audi R18s, meanwhile, hit trouble on Wednesday and didn't manage to set representative times. The diesel-powered prototypes will roll off fifth and sixth overall.
The No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER was quickest of the LMP1 Privateers, thanks to a 3:26.586 lap by Dominik Kraihamer.
LMP2 class pole honors went to G-Drive Racing's Rene Rast, who took his No. 26 Oreca 05 Nissan to a quick lap of 3:36.605, also set on Wednesday.
The Audi factory driver, on-loan to the Jota Sport-run squad, edged out the No. 35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine A460b Nissan of Nelson Panciatici by 0.570 seconds.
Orecas or the Alpine-badged Orecas swept the top four positions in class, with the No. 49 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda of Laurens Vanthoor the best of the rest in fifth.
The American squad, however, will be forced to serve a five-minute stop-and-hold penalty sometime in the first half of the race due to undergoing an engine change.
Ford has claimed class pole in GTE-Pro, with the American manufacturer taking four of the top five positions in its Le Mans return.
Dirk Mueller led a Ford GT 1-2, with the German ace taking his Ford Chip Ganassi Racing entry to a best lap of 3:51.185 in the final moments of Wednesday's qualifying session.
Mueller pipped the No. 69 Ford of Ryan Briscoe by 0.312 seconds, giving the two IMSA-based entries a proverbial sweep of the front row in class.
The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of Gianmaria Bruni split the four Fords, having qualified his turbocharged Prancing Horse third in class at a 3:51.568.
The Nos. 67 and 66 Fords completed the top-five, respectively, ahead of the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari and No. 82 Risi Competiizione entry, which all showed a significant pace advantage over the competition in the dry.
In fact, the quickest non-Ford or Ferrari was the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR in seventh, some 3.7 seconds slower than Mueller's pole-winning lap.
American favorites Corvette Racing will start from the rear of the GTE-Pro class field in 13th and 14th, after struggling in qualifying with its Corvette C7.Rs.
Clearwater Racing grabbed GTE-Am pole honors, thanks to a 3:56.827 lap by Rob Bell in the No. 61 Ferrari 458 Italia.
The Englishman edged out the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Pedro Lamy by 0.371 seconds, with the No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche set to start third.
It was one of only nine cars to make improvements in Qualifying 2, thanks to Patrick Long's 3:57.513 lap set prior to the arrival of rain Thursday evening.
The 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets underway Saturday at 3 p.m. local time. Live coverage begins on FS1 at 8:30 a.m. ET.