Le Mans 24 Hours: Toyota claim historic pole position

Courtesy of Kamui Kobayashi, the #7 Toyota holds the ultimate lap record around the Circuit de la Sarthe - meaning that the Japanese manufacturer take their first Le Mans pole for 3 years. G-Drive #26 takes pole in LMP2 whilst Aston Martin #97 celebrates topping GTE Pro, whilst Corvette #50 takes the spoils in GTE Am.

Le Mans 24 Hours: Toyota claim historic pole position
Toyota celebrate a well earned pole. | Photo: Twitter/FIA WEC

For the first time since 2014, Toyota claimed pole position for the 24 Hours of Le Mans after Kamui Kobayashi's stunning, record-breaking lap in Qualifying 2 earlier in the evening could not be broken in the week's second and final night-time Qualifying session.

Kobayashi's 3:14.791 - owed to a rare clean lap - was enough to shatter Neel Jani's previous ultimate lap record at the current configuration of the Circuit de la Sarthe, set in 2015, by over two seconds.

Toyota could enjoy a top two lockout for the first time in 18 years, with the #8 sister car at the hands of Kazuki Nakajima able to see off the threat of the mighty Porsches.

In LMP2, G-Drive celebrated a class lap record as well as top spot, the same can be said for Aston Martin in GTE Pro, whilst the vivid liveried Larbre Competition Corvette saw off the competition in a hotly contested GTE Am.

LMP1: Toyota rule the day

Having finished Wednesday on provisional pole, much was expected of the Toyota challenge as they look for their first overall Le Mans win in their history, having come painfully close last year.

Kobayashi in car #7 set them on their way with a time of 3:18.561, lowering his own fastest time from yesterday, before Erik Maris caused the session to be stopped for 50 minutes after his crash in the #33 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier P2 car damaged the barriers at the fearsome Porsche Curves.

As the session resumed, the former Toyota, Sauber and Caterham Formula One driver went even faster, obliterating the lap record at Le Starthe, his 3:14.791 enough to warrant the rest of the field packing up until Saturday morning's warm-up. Bar major developments in the next few years, it looks to be a record that will have some staying power. However, everyone said that about Jani's time...

Jani didn't have the pace to go and reclaim his record in the #1 Porsche, but took second from the ailing Toyota #8 - Sebastien Buemi saw his running cut short after just two laps by an oil supply fault and a resulting precautionary engine change. After last year's disaster, the Japanese marque are taking no gambles.

Then the sister #2 Porsche, wrestled round by Timo Bernhard claimed third, nearly three and a half seconds adrift of the flying Kobayashi, who settled for what he had.

The third Toyota, the #9 car was hit with unfortunately placed traffic on its fast runs and then a session ending red flag; Yuji Kunimoto unable to improve on the fifth place they'd held since Wednesday.

Into the evening session, Nakajima improved on the resurrected #8 car's time, getting back into second place with a 3:17.128 - still over two seconds away from Kobayashi.

Porsche had troubles of their own - Brendon Hartley ground to a halt at Indianapolis in the #2 car after an excursion at Mulsanne, caused by an alleged electrical problem. Meanwhile, Andre Lotterer couldn't provide one of his famous late charges in the #1 car as the dark consumed the province of Maine.

Porsche had to settle for third and fourth. | Photo: Twitter/Porsche LMP1 Team
Porsche had to settle for third and fourth. | Photo: Twitter/Porsche LMP1 Team

In the sole LMP1-L entry, Oli Webb managed to bring the ByKolles car within a respectable 10 seconds of the leading Toyota, clear of the best of the P2 field.

LMP2: G-Drive take it late

Having started the day top, Matthieu Vaxiviere and his colleagues in the #28 TDS Racing car slid down the order, fellow Frenchman Thomas Laurent lowering the benchmark in the early evening to a 3:26.776 in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry.

He remained there until Vitaly Petrov went a second clear of the rest of the class in the #25 Manor, a 3:25.549 enough to top Qualifying 2.

And it looked like the Russian would stay there, until young Brit Alex Lynn in the #26 G-Drive took the ascendency early in the night session by two-tenths, yet another record broken at Le Mans.

Alex Lynn and G-Drive took P2 pole. | Photo: Twitter/FIA WEC
Alex Lynn and G-Drive took P2 pole. | Photo: Twitter/FIA WEC

Petrov held on for a comfortable second, despite a late showing from Ho-Pin Tung in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car - enough for the Chinese to claim a promising third.

Elsewhere, a superb effort from Mikhail Aleshin in saw the all Russian #27 SMP Racing entry make it into the top 10 - the only Dallara car to do so.

GTE Pro: Aston on top in an exciting class

In a day that saw Aston start and end at the head of the class, most of the action could be found in the premier GT category. Wednesday's times started to tumble early on, James Calado's fine lap in Qualifying 2 in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari the only blemish on the British company's copybook.

But, it wasn't all good for Ferrari, Giancarlo Fisichella and co.'s #82 Risi Competizione car saw its Wednesday times wiped after a transgression of the parc-ferme rules. They could only muster 11th best in class.

The Aston's came back out to play at night, but faced stiff competition not only from the Ferraris, but the rejuvenated Fords and Corvettes. Six lead changes in the final two hour session saw Darren Turner in the #97 Aston eventually break the GTE Pro lap record with a 3:50.837 to knock teammate Richie Stanaway off of the lead in the #95 car.

Darren Turner took an enthralling pole in GTE Pro. | Photo: Twitter/Aston Martin Racing
Darren Turner took an enthralling pole in GTE Pro. | Photo: Twitter/Aston Martin Racing

Calado ensured that at least one Ferrari was to be in the top two slots - a late 3:51.028 enough to split the two Astons - the fastest Ford in fifth.

Porsche had an underwhelming two days, Kevin Estre and the #92 car having to settle for 7th, whilst a rare mistake from Frederic Makowiecki at Arnage meant that his best lap was ruined and the #91 car starts last in class. However, the Frenchman can take solace from the whole class being separated by just 1.7 seconds.

GTE Am: Labre Corvette shines

The punters had this down as an Aston Martin topped class, and on Wednesday night, that looked like a good shout - but Ferrari and Corvette had different ideas.

In the #84 JMW Motorsports Ferrari, Will Stevens - fresh from his win at Zolder with Audi in the Blancpain Sprint Series last weekend - lowered the benchmark that Mathias Lauda had set less than 24 hours beforehand in the #98 Aston by around half a second.

At night, it returned to the top at the very capable hands of Pedro Lamy, but it was a former Aston Martin driver who took the prize - Fernando Rees in the bright #50 Labre Competition Corvette going fastest by nearly four-tenths late on.

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION - AFTER FINAL QUALIFYING

Pos No. Class Team Drivers Time Gap
1 7 LMP1-H Toyota Gazoo Racing Conway/Kobayashi/Sarrazin 3:14.791 -
2 8 LMP1-H Toyota Gazoo Racing Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima 3:17.128 +2.337
3 1 LMP1-H Porsche Team Jani/Lotterer/Tandy 3:17.259 +2.468
4 2 LMP1-H Porsche Team Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley 3:18.067 +3.276
5 9 LMP1-H Toyota Gazoo Racing Lapierre/Kunimoto/Lopez 3:18.625 +3.834
6 4 LMP1-L ByKolles Racing Team Webb/Kraihamer/Bonanomi 3:24.170 +9.379
7 26 LMP2 G-Drive Racing Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn 3:25.352 +10.561
8 25 LMP2 CEFC Manor TRS Racing Gonzalez/Trummer/Petrov 3:25.549 +10.758
9 38 LMP2 Jackie Chan DC Racing Tung/Laurent/Jarvis 3:25.911 +11.120
10 31 LMP2 Vaillante Rebellion Prost/Canal/Senna 3:26.736 +11.945
11 13 LMP2 Vaillante Rebellion Piquet Jr/Heinemeier Hansson/Beche 3:26.811 +12.020
12 24 LMP2 CEFC Manor TRS Racing Graves/Hirschi/Vergne 3:26.871 +12.080
13 28 LMP2 TDS Racing Perrodo/Vaxiviere/Collard 3:27.108 +12.317
14 35 LMP2 Signatech Alpine Matmut Panciatici/Ragues/Negrao 3:27.517 +12.726
15 37 LMP2 Jackie Chan DC Racing Cheng/Gommendy/Brundle 3:27.535 +12.744
16 27 LMP2 SMP Racing Aleshin/Sirotkin/Shaytar 3:27.782 +12.991
17 36 LMP2 Signatech Alpine Matmut Dumas/Menezes/Rao 3:28.051 +13.260
18 39 LMP2 Graff Guibbert/Trouiller/Winslow 3:28.368 +13.577
19 40 LMP2 Graff Allen/Matelli/Bradley 3:28.891 +14.100
20 22 LMP2 G-Drive Racing Rojas/Hirakawa/Gutierrez 3:28.937 +14.146
21 32 LMP2 United Autosports Owen/de Sadeleer/Albuquerque 3:29.151 +14.360
22 21 LMP2 Dragonspeed Hedman/Hanley/Rosenqvist 3:29.777 +14.986
23 29 LMP2 Racing Team Nederland Lammers/van Eerd/Barrichello 3:29.976 +15.185
24 47 LMP2 Cetilar Villorba Corse Lacorte/Sernagiotto/Belicchi 3:30.014 +15.223
25 45 LMP2 Algarve Pro Racing Patterson/McMurry/Capillaire 3:30.164 +15.373
26 23 LMP2 Panis Barthez Competition Barthez/Buret/Berthon 3:31.346 +16.555
27 34 LMP2 Tockwith Motorsports Moore/Hanson/Chandhok 3:32.536 +17.745
28 49 LMP2 ARC Bratislava Konopka/Calko/Breukers 3:33.921 +19.130
29 17 LMP2 IDEC Sport Racing Lafargue/Lafargue/Zollinger 3:36.230 +21.439
30 43 LMP2 Keating Motorsport Keating/Bleekemolen/Taylor 3:37.007 +22.216
31 33 LMP2 Eurasia Motorsport Nicolet/Nicolet/Maris 3:42.660 +27.869
32 97 GTE Pro Aston Martin Racing Turner/Adam/Serra 3:50.837 +36.046
33 51 GTE Pro AF Corse Calado/Pier Guidi/Rugolo 3:51.028 +36.237
34 95 GTE Pro Aston Martin Racing Thiim/Sorensen/Stanaway 3:51.038 +36.247
35 71 GTE Pro AF Corse Rigon/Bird/Molina 3:51.086 +36.295
36 69 GTE Pro Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Briscoe/Westbrook/Dixon 3:51.232 +36.441
37 63 GTE Pro Corvette Racing Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor 3:51.484 +36.693
38 92 GTE Pro Porsche GT Team Christensen/Estre/Werner 3:51.847 +37.056
39 66 GTE Pro Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Mucke/Pla/Johnsn 3:51.991 +37.200
40 67 GTE Pro Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Priaulx/Tincknell/Derani 3:52.008 +37.217
41 64 GTE Pro Corvette Racing Gavin/Milner/Fassler 3:52.017 +37.226
42 82 GTE Pro Risi Competizione Vilander/Fisichella/Kaffer 3:52.238 +37.347
43 68 GTE Pro Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Hand/Muller/Kanaan 3:52.178 +37.387
44 91 GTE Pro Porsche GT Team Lietz/Makowiecki/Pilet 3:52.593 +37.802
45 50 GTE Am Larbre Competition Rees/Brandela/Philippon 3:52.843 +38.052
46 98 GTE Am Aston Martin Racing Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda 3:53.233 +38.442
47 62 GTE Am Scuderia Corsa MacNeil/Sweedler/Bell 3:53.312 +38.521
48 77 GTE Am Dempsey-Proton Racing Ried/Cairoli/Dienst 3:53.381 +38.590
49 55 GTE Am Spirit of Race Cameron/Scott/Cioci 3:53.641 +38.850
50 84 GTE Am JMW Motorsport Smith/Stevens/Vanthoor 3:53.977 +39.186
51 83 GTE Am DH Racing Krohn/Jonsson/Bertolini 3:54.088 +39.297
52 90 GTE Am TF Sport Yoluc/Hankey/Bell 3:54.319 +39.528
53 99 GTE Am Beechdean AMR Howard/Gunn/Bryant 3:54.328 +39.537
54 93 GTE Am Proton Racing Long/Al Faisal/Hedlund 3:54.621 +39.830
55 61 GTE Am Clearwater Racing Sun/Sawa/Griffin 3:54.955 +40.164
56 60 GTE Am Clearwater Racing Wee/Katoh/Parente 3:54.994 +40.203
57 88 GTE Am Proton Racing Bachler/Lemeret/Al Qubaisi 3:55.458 +40.677
58 54 GTE Am Spirit of Race Flohr/Castellacci/Beretta 3:56.301 +41.510
59 86 GTE Am Gulf Racing Wainwright/Barker/Foster 3:56.469 +41.678
60 65 GTE Am Scuderia Corsa Nielsen/Balzan/Curtis 3:58.249 +43.458

 


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