Driving the #2 Audi R18 3-tron quattro, Allan McNish flew around the Bahrain International Circuit to land the pole for Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship’s night race in Sakhir. McNish was 0.074 seconds faster than Marcel Fässler in the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
McNish commented, "Qualifying was good and we were seven hundredths ahead, which is a lifetime compared to Silverstone. We went back to the e-tron quattro for this race, so the mechanics had quite a lot of work to do to build a complete new car when they got here. While it was stressful for them they did a really good job and they made sure that from the first moment we ran the car it was fast and reliable.”
The Scot’s best lap of 1:45.814 earned him the qualifying record. Fässler’s best lap was 1:45.888. The 20 minute session had one red flag to retrieve a dislodged bollard that the marshalls retrieved quickly to allow the fight for the pole in the LMP1 and LMP2 categories to continue. The Audi boys were the stars of the show; however, Nicolas Lapierre gave it his best in the #7 Toyota Racing TS030 Hybrid.
Lapierre had to settle for third on the grid with a time of 1:46.254. “I only did two quick laps with no traffic. They were quite good and we saw a big step compared to this morning in terms of lap time, but not quite enough to get on the front row, which is a bit disappointing. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow," he said.
Neel Jani in the #12 Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota earned the LMP1 privateer entries with his flying lap of 1:47.638. Behind Jani was a gaggle of Hondas. “I think the race will be a different story, I think the others will be a lot closer. Qualifying in the heat was a one shot attempt, we knew the tyres would be good for the first lap and the second lap would be five to six tenths slower. We nailed it on the first lap and that gave us the margin but I think tomorrow it will be a lot closer.”
Strakka Racing’s Danny Watts was second best in the class in the #21 HPD ARX 03a with a 1:48.446.
Starworks Motorsports’ Stéphane Sarrazin earned the LMP2 pole with a fast lap of 1:51.798 in the team’s #44 HPD ARX 03b Honda. The Frenchman had quite a battle with Olivier Pla in the #24 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan at the start of the session. Also climbing to the top fast was Pla’s teammate Dominik Kraihamer in the #35 Morgan-Nissan. It was a fierce fight but in the end, John Martin sailed to the second fastest time of 1:52.285 for the #25 ADR-Delta Oreca 03-Nissan.
Just one-tenth of a second adrift of Martin was Pla followed by Kraihamer.
Sarrazin said, “Today everything went right; we have a good balance in the car. The team did a good job yesterday working hard to improve it and today it was very good. We have a good potential for the race and we will try to fight for the victory again to increase our championship lead.”
Stefan Mücke was hot on the desert circuit in the #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8. He went out the gate flying to grab the LMGTE Pro class pole position; his fastest lap was a 2:00.234. Nearly three-tenths off Mücke’s best lap was Richard Lietz in the #77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche. Taking third was Giancarlo Fisichella for the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia.
“The Aston Martin is running really good here and the team did a great job. The track, which suits our car well, is very fast so I think everyone was a bit surprised about the lap times. The Porsche is very close, just a few tenths, behind us so it will be an interesting race tomorrow. We’ve finished a lot in second and third places so of course we hope for a win tomorrow,” said Mücke.
For the LMGTE Am category, it was Rui Aguas who took the spotlight when he grabbed the pole position in the #61 AF Corse-Waltrip Ferrari. Making his return to the WEC, Aguas’ fast lap was 2:02.812; 0.441 seconds faster than his nearest rival. Second was claimed by Fernando Rees in the #50 Larbre Compétition Corvette C6.R. Third place will be the #88 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche; Paolo Ruberti had the qualifying honors.
Aguas said, “I’m very pleased to take pole after being out of the car for a while. Everything went well, the car was good and I think the track was better today. We improved the car from Free Practice and I hope we can have a good race. I hope we can finish on the podium.”
The competitors will take the green flag at 4:00pm local time.