Toyota on pole at Le Mans 24 Hours
Toyota on pole at Le Mans 24 Hours
Pole position was secured by Kazuki Nakajima to give Toyota the prime starting position for the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend.
The ex-Formula 1 racer found almost one second in the opening stages of the third qualifying session to head his challengers in the Toyota TS040 HYBRID LMP1 car.
The fast action came in the first part of the session before the sun set, with Nakajima the only driver able to get under the 3m22s bracket with a 3m21.789s fastest lap.
“Pole is important and to start from pole position – even though it is 24 hours – is great,” said Nakajima as he celebrated afterwards.
“It’s a very good feeling and I am really happy with the car. I was struggling with the traffic but I managed to get one lap and it was just enough. It’s going to be a tough race but tonight I am happy,” continued the delighted Japanese driver.
Porsche secured a front row position for its return to Le Mans by setting a 3m22.146s in the hands of former ALMS regular – Romain Dumas. The new Porsche 919 Hybrid was set to challenge for the pole but a late session yellow ‘slow zone’ procedure finished any potential attempt.
Ex Toro Rosso F1 driver, Sebastien Buemi, took the second Toyota TS040 HYBRID to third place to ensure that Toyota are the best placed of the ‘big three’ manufactures at the front of the field for the start of the 82nd running of the great race.
The #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which held provisional pole after Wednesday’s first qualifying session, did not improve its time, leaving it fourth on the grid ahead of the three Audi R18 e-tron quattros.
One of the stories of qualifying has been the travails of the #1 Audi. After the drama of Wednesday evening when Loic Duval was temporarily hospitalised after a considerable accident at Porsche Curves, the crack Audi engineers performed near-miracles to build up a new package for Thursday running. Despite a smaller accident by Lucas Di Grassi at Indianapolis corner in the first session, this car lines up 7th just behind its sister Audi R18 e-tron quattros.
Tristan Gommendy took his Ligier-Nissan to pole position in LMP2 for TDS Racing, his 3m37.609s quick enough to beat the Jota Zytek of up and coming UK racer, Harry Tincknell
The Prancing Horse ruled the roost in the LMGTE PRO class with Gianmaria Bruni taking GTE Pro pole for the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia. The Italian beat the provisional pole sitting #73 Corvette C7.R despite the best efforts of a fired up Antonio Garcia.
“I had a very good qualifying lap today,” Garcia said. “It’s always difficult to know exactly how much you can push, especially on Thursday when you more or less know that these laps in the last session are the last laps before race day. You don’t want to take too many risks and we have seen on quite a few occasions this year and in the past that if it goes wrong here, it goes wrong big time.”
The second Corvette Racing C7.R will start in 4th place with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook shares the second row with the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
Dempsey Racing will start another Le Mans adventure in a highly creditable 7th place in the LMGTE AM category. Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Joe Foster were all comfortable with their program during the practice and qualifying periods and have established a strong platform to challenge for top positions in the 18 car class.
There were differing fortunes for other US drivers in the LMGTE AM class with both Bret Curtis and Frankie Montecalvo suffering incidents in their ProSpeed Competition Porsche and 8 Star Ferrari respectively.
Le Mans: Watch It on FOX Sports (Saturday, June 14-Sunday, June 15 – all times ET)
- 8:30 a.m-4 p.m., Saturday, June 14 (FOX Sports 1)
- 4-5 p.m., Saturday, June 14 (FOX Sports 2)
- 5-6:30 p.m., Saturday, June 14 (FOX Sports GO)
- 6:30 p.m., Saturday, June 14-1 a.m., Sunday, June 15 (FOX Sports 2)
- 1-7:30 a.m., Sunday, June 15 (FOX Sports 1)
- 7:30-9:30 a.m., Sunday, June 15 (FOX Sports 2)