Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Kamui Kobayashi didn’t waste any time Wednesday (June 12) putting the No. 7 Toyota on top of the scoring pylon. On only the third lap out of the pits, Kobayashi turned a lap at 154.601 mph. That lap was good enough to claim the provisional pole for Saturday’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Despite the No. 7 team claiming provisional pole, things weren’t all sparkly for the team. With 40 minutes remaining in the session, Mike Conway was hit in the second part of the Ford Chicane by DragonSpeed’s Roberto Gonzalez. The result looked somewhat painful.
— WEC (@FIAWEC) June 12, 2019
Gonzalez had spun on his own and was attempting to rejoin when the contact was made. Both cars suffered significant damage in the incident and had to spent time in the garage.
Conway was uninjured in the crash. Afterwards, he explained the situation to WEC’s Louise Beckett.
“I went into the first chicane…and saw the double yellow [waved flags],” Conway told Beckett in the garage. “I couldn’t see anything. Then, I slowed down into the left and I saw the headlights. That was when [Gonzalez] was moving towards me. I tried to go right, but it was too late.”
Despite the hit resulting in the No. 7 Toyota jumping five feet in the air, only 20 minutes of repairs in the garage were required before teammate Jose Maria Lopez took the car back out. The car appeared to be perfectly fine after the impact
Kobayashi’s was a little less than half a second faster than SMP Racing’s Egor Orudzhev. Rebellion Racing’s Thomas Laurent was third quickest, while Fernando Alonso was fourth in the second Toyota, more than two seconds off the pace. DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley was fifth quickest.
Before Gonzalez got into Conway, teammate Pastor Maldonado was fastest in the LMP2 class with a lap at 147.392 mph, good enough for ninth overall.. Maldonado’s lap was one-eighth of a second faster than Signatech Alpine Matmut’s Nicolas Lapierre. IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regular Filipe Albuquerque was third fastest in the best of the Ligier JS P217-Gibsons. IDEC Sport’s Paul-Loup Chatin was fourth, while Duqueine Engineering’s Nico Jamin was fifth.
Unlike in the prototype classes, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing WEC’s Harry Tincknell turned the fastest lap in GTE-Pro (132.798 mph) with only 15 minutes remaining in the two-hour session. The lap was only three-hundredths of a second faster than Porsche GT Team’s Nick Tandy. Alex Lynn was third quickest in the No. 97 Aston Martin, while Frédéric Makowiecki was fourth in the No. 91 Porsche. Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 94 Porsche was fifth.
Late in the session, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing WEC’s No. 66 ran into trouble when it appeared that Olivier Pla clipped the grass exiting the Porsche Curves. Pla lost control and spun his Ford GT into the tire wall. The crash resulted in a slow zone period while Pla was towed out of the gravel trap. Once extricated, Pla was able to drive the car back to the garage. The No. 66 ended the session at the bottom of the GTE-Pro class in 50th overall.
GTE-Am was led by Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Matteo Cairoli with a lap at 131.128 mph, good enough for 41st overall and 13th of all GTE teams. Cairoli’s lap was three-tenths of a second faster than Team Project 1’s Jörg Bergmeister. Julien Andlauer in the second Dempsey-Porsche was third, followed by Aston Martin Racing’s Pedro Lamy. The Ferrari of Spirit of Racing’s Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth in class.
There are still two more qualifying sessions that will definitively set the field for the 24 hour race, although times from this session can determine final starting positions if the car fails to improve. Qualifying Practice No. 2 is scheduled to go green at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday and last for two hours. Finally, the third and final Qualifying Practice session will go green at 4 p.m. Both sessions will be streamed in their entirety on Motor Trend OnDemand, which is a subscription service that costs $50 a year. There is a free 14-day trial that you can sign up for at MotorTrendOnDemand.com.