Toyota #7 clinches Le Mans pole; Aston Martin head GTE
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s #7 car clinched pole position for the 24 Hours of Le Mans while Aston Martin prevailed in a tightly contested GTE-Pro field.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López proved fastest as lap times tumbled on the final day of Qualifying by almost two seconds in LMP1.
Kobayashi’s pole time, a 3:15.497s was set in Qualifying 2 on Thursday afternoon (local time), while a heavily interrupted Qualifying 3 in the evening saw no major changes outright.
It came after the team had to replace the monocoque on the #7 Toyota after Wednesday’s qualifying shunt.
The #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima qualified four tenths behind from its sister car, while SMP Racing’s #17 entry was the first of the non-hybrids in third, a further two tenths back.
Qualifying 3’s interruptions meant that the #8 Toyota had limited opportunity to pip the sister car from the top; Nakajima starting a flying lap in the ‘happy hour’ period just as a red flag came out for debris.
Numerous slow zone interventions broke up the on-track rhythm for the remainder of the two-hour session, despite a late effort from Buemi in the #8 who was ultimately not able to improve.
Pole position in LMP2 went the way of Graff’s #39 Oreca driven by Vincent Capillaire, Jonathan Hirschi and Tristan Gommendy.
GTE-Pro was hotly contested as the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Marco Sørensen, Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner emerged on top in class in 29th outright with a lap time of 3:48.000s early in Qualifying 3.
Five different manufacturers graced the top five in GTE-Pro, the #67 Ford GT in second, Corvette Racing’s #63 C7.R in third after a late lap from Antonio García, followed by the #93 Porsche of Earl Bamber and the #82 BMW M8 GTE.
Ryan Briscoe’s #69 Ford GT ended the session 10th in class, 38th outright.
Leading the GTE-Am pack was the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche of Satoshi Hoshino, Giogio Roda, and Matteo Cairoli in 45th outright.
They bettered the sister #77 car of Matt Campbell, Julien Andlauer and Christian Ried by two tenths.
Qualifying 2 was red-flagged for 25 minutes after Thomas Laurent stopped on track prior to Mulsanne Corner, due to an engine failure on his #3 Rebellion.
Meanwhile, the #1 Rebellion also suffered an engine failure in Qualifying 3 stopping before Arnage.
Notably, the 62-car field has been reduced by one, with the #99 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche withdrawn due to driver Tracy Krohn not being cleared to race following a heavy shunt in Free Practice.
Friday marks a break in track activity for teams while a warm-up session on Saturday morning (local time) will be the last hit out ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans which begins on Saturday at 2300 AEST (1500 local time).