Nakajima, Toyota capture Le Mans pole

June 14, 2018

Nakajima, Toyota capture Le Mans pole

June 14, 2018

Kazuki Nakajima didn’t quite go as fast in qualifying as Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Kamui Kobayashi did in 2017.

But for the second straight year, a Japanese driver in a Toyota TS050 Hybrid has captured the pole for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Japanese driver lowered his mark from Wednesday’s provisional best time of 3:17.270 by nearly two full seconds in Q3 on Thursday.

Nakajima got down to a 3:15.377. That time is exactly two seconds faster than his countryman, Kobayashi did this year.

Alas, Nakajima came up short of Kobayashi’s lap record set last year in qualifying at 3:14.791.

The No. 8 Toyota features Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso. The two-time Formula 1 World Champion is garnering a significant amount of media attention this week as he makes his race debut. (Photos of Nakajima and No. 8 team courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing).

Toyota will lead the field with both its cars in pursuit of its elusive first Le Mans victory. An overall win by Michelin,would be its 21st in a row, in a streak that dates to 1998.

The team’s second car, driven by Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez, will start second.

Porsche retained pole position in both of the GTE classes. Gianmaria Bruni’s staggering lap of 3:47.504 in his No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR was never challenged.

The No. 92 Porsche, No. 66 Ford and No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari are next up in class. The best Corvette, BMW and Aston Martin are ninth, 12th and 16th, respectively.

In GTE-Am, Porsche has locked out the top three as well. Matteo Cairoli set the best time yesterday in his No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche, which stood for pole. Gulf Racing’s No. 86 car and the second Dempsey Proton Porsche were next up.

Among the extra class entries with significant U.S. and IMSA presence, Ebimotors starts seventh, JMW Motorsport starts ninth, Keating Motorsports starts 11th and Proton Competition (Black Swan Racing partnership) starts 12th.

Michelin completed a sweep of pole positions in all four classes. In LMP2, Paul Loup Chatin took the top spot for IDEC Sport, in the No. 48 Oreca 07 Gibson at 3:24.842. He shares that car with Paul Lafargue and Memo Rojas.

The race starts at 3 p.m. CET and local time on Saturday. This is at 9 a.m. ET in the U.S. Race coverage is on the Velocity network.

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