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