Porsche drivers Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley took pole position for this weekend's Fuji round of the World Endurance Championship Saturday as they attempt to wrap up the title with teammate Timo Bernhard.Bamber trailed fellow Porsche driver Nick Tandy after the first runs during a session held in wet conditions by less than two tenths of a second. Hartley went quicker than Andre Lotterer to jump ahead of the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, before the German improved his time to reclaim the top spot. The New Zealander then responded to propel the No. 2 car back to the top of the timesheets.Bamber and Hartley ended up with two-lap average for 1:35.160, which put them just 0.071 of a second up on Tandy and Lotterer's 1:35.231.Toyota was less than two tenths of a second behind with the No. 8 TS050 Hybrid qualified by Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi. Nakajima had trailed Tandy's session best of 1:35.068 by almost exactly two tenths and then Buemi whittled his time down to a 1:34.441 to make a run on the Porsches.Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi were over a second back on their teammates in fourth position in the No. 7 Toyota."That was seriously close between the two Porsches and Buemi at the end there was on fast lap,” Hartley said. “The Toyota looked strong on the long runs, so we are expecting a close race tomorrow."
Hartley and his teammates only have to finish ahead of the No. 8 Toyota shared by Buemi, Nakajima and Anthony Davidson. They are 52 points ahead going into the race, the same number that are up for grabs over the final two WEC rounds in Shanghai and Bahrain next month.Nelson Piquet Jr and David Heinemeier Hansson led an LMP2 one-two for the Rebellion team.Piquet Jr headed team-mate Bruno Senna by three tenths after the first runs and then Heinemeier Hansson had more than a second in hand over Julien Canal in the sister ORECA-Gibson 07. That gave the No. 13 car a two-lap average of 1:44.196, seven tenths clear of their teammates.Ho-Ping Tung and Thomas Laurent were less than a tenth back in third aboard the lead Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECAPorsche also took the pole in GTE Pro, with Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki taking the top spot with a 1:47.533s average. That put them four tenths up on the Ganassi Ford GT driven by Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.The Clearwater Ferrari team took its first GTE Am pole with Matt Griffin and Weng Sun Mok.
By Gary Watkins
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