Motorsport: Porsche sweeps top two spots in Le Mans qualifying

France's Romain Dumas drives his Porsche 919 Hybrid N2, during Le Mans practice. Photo / Getty Images
France's Romain Dumas drives his Porsche 919 Hybrid N2, during Le Mans practice. Photo / Getty Images

Mark Webber is predicting the closest Le Mans 24-hour race on record even though his Porsche team has locked out the top two spots in preliminary qualifying at the 84th running of the French endurance classic.

Neel Jani has provisional pole position in his Porsche 919 Hybrid, ahead of the Webber car driven by Timo Bernhard, with the factory teams all lining up in formation.

The two Porsches are followed by a pair of Toyota TS050 hybrids and then the two Audi R18 diesel hybrids, with a gap of just 3.047 seconds from fastest to slowest.

"Effectively we're all together. It's going to be an incredible race," says Webber.

The only other Australian driver in the field, American-based Ryan Briscoe, was quickest of the GTE Pro class until the final minutes but is still provisionally second in his Ford GT.

In the outright battle, Jani - who also had pole position last year - says he has more speed if his rivals get close in second qualifying on Thursday night.

"There is some left. I hit a lot of traffic. I did lose quite a bit of lap time. We know we have quite a bit left in our pockets, if we need it tomorrow," says Jani.

With rain predicted for Thursday qualifying, and plenty of incidents among the 60-car field, the big guns all went for their hot laps early in qualifying.

Jani did the best job in a well-tweaked Porsche to lap in 3 minutes 19.733 seconds at an average speed of 245.6km/h, edging Bernhard by just 0.470 seconds. Stephane Sarrazin was the quickest Toyota driver on 3:20.737 with Lucas di Grassi best of the Audi men with a time of 3:22.466.

The weather forecast for the race weekend is mixed, with a strong likelihood of rain showers, which means far more worries and variables for the teams and drivers.

"It adds a lot more stress, and a lot more decisions into the equation," says Webber.

"You need cool heads. It's such a long race. Just navigate your way through."

Briscoe is also looking good, although Dirk Muller - in another of the Ford GTs created to celebrate Ford's outright victory at Le Mans with its GT40 in the 1960s - snatched top spot.

"I got my clear lap at the end. Then, finally, the last lap was it," says Muller.

"I'm a happy man right now."

- news.com.au

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