CLICK HERE for full 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours Qualifying 1 results
Porsche has firmly established itself as the manufacturer to beat coming into final qualifying for the Le Mans 24 Hours after all three of its cars unleashed their blistering speed during Q1.
Following the rain interrupted free practice session, Q1 – which got underway just as the sun was setting – remained dry throughout, giving the manufacturers their first uninhibited opportunity to reveal the true pace of their cars in qualifying trim.
However, though Porsche – with its powerful 8MJ system – was always expected to be the car to beat over a single lap of the high-speed circuit, the measure of its speed caught everyone by surprise as Neel Jani instantly pumped in a lap of 3m 16.887secs right at the start of the session.
Almost five full seconds faster than Kazuki Nakajima's pole position lap from 2014, with four more hours worth of qualifying remaining, the Swiss driver's effort even puts him within range of the Circuit de la Sarthe's 3m 13.90secs lap record, set back in 1971 before the modern-day chicanes were installed.
Even so, though temperatures are expected to rise on Thursday ahead of Q2 and Q3, stormy weather is also predicted for the late afternoon and early evening, potentially making these Q1 laps critical for the eventual grid come Saturday.
With this in mind, Porsche is sitting pretty at the moment, Timo Bernhard doing the honours in the #17 Porsche to go second with a 3m 17.767secs lap, while Earl Bamber completed the sweep in the #19 919 Hybrid, also going sub 3m 20secs.
The only driver to get close to the mighty Porsche contingent was Loic Duval, though the Frenchman will be bemused to end up fourth given the substantial step up in pace from the Audi compared with 12 months ago.
Even so, it is perhaps Toyota that will be left feeling the damning effects of the vast improvements around it, the #2 and #1 TS040 Hybrids running seventh and eighth, a mammoth 6.5secs off the pace and with seemingly little more to give.
Nissan, meanwhile, also paid the price of the rapid pace out front, the #23 car slipping 21secs off the top time, while the #21 and #22 machines were further down the order, 24 and 28secs down.
In the LMP2 class, KCMG picked up where it left off from free practice by comfortably setting the pace, once more courtesy of Richard Bradley, while Greaves Motorsport turned in the second fastest time despite its driver Gaetan Paletou crashing heavily enough at Mulsanne to necessitate a 25mins red flag period.
The JOTA Sport Gibson was third fastest, ahead of the G-Drive Ligier, courtesy of Sam Bird, while the TDS Oreca rounded out the top five.
In the GT class, Aston Martin carried its dominance through from qualifying, the #99 car of Richie Stanaway, Alex MacDowell and Fernando Rees comfortably quickest in the Pro category, while Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana was top of the GTE Am class.