After the second round of qualifying, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing appeared poised to take up the entire second row of the GTE-Pro grid at this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, with the No. 66 and No. 68 Ford GTs third- and fourth-fastest in their class, respectively. Qualifying round 3 saw the two compatriots split by the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, however, pushing the No. 68 car back to the third row with the fifth-fastest qualifying lap in GTE Pro.
Another row back is the No. 69 Ford GT, which will start from seventh, while the No. 67 Ford GT is another two rows further downfield in eleventh. The No. 66 in third and No. 67 in eleventh were separated by about 1.2 seconds in qualifying.
Amazingly, there’s an even bigger gulf between the top Ford GT and the GTE-Pro pole winner, the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR: roughly 1.7 seconds. Gianmaria Bruni drove the No. 91 Porsche through a blistering 3-minute, 47.5-second qualifying lap on Wednesday, which no one else in the class was able to touch. The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR will start from second, having come closest with a 3-minute, 49.1-second lap.
Porsche will very likely be the team to beat at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 911 RSR, which switched to a mid-engine layout after 2016, was the only car not to be hit with any Balance-of-Performance changes heading into qualifying, although according to Motorsport, it’s since been hit with a 10-kg weight penalty. The Ford GT saw its boost further restricted, although it received a 13-kg weight reduction heading into qualifying. Since yesterday, it’s been handed 8 kg of weight back.
The Aston Martin Vantage GTE, which won last year’s Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class, was given a sizeable boost increase and extra fuel capacity even before qualifying, but it’s still not competitive; Aston wound up in 16th and 17th in qualifying, out of 17 positions. It’s hoped that the new, post-qualifying penalties dealt to Porsche and Ford will help level the playing field a tad more.