Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Kamui Kobayashi turned in a lap at 156.137 mph Friday (Sept. 18) during the new Hyperpole session to win the overall pole for this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is not a track record, but within a couple of tenths of a second.
In the new-for-2020 qualifying format at Le Mans, the top six teams from the regular qualifying session on Thursday advanced to the Hyperpole session. Since there are only five cars entered in the headlining LMP1 class, the whole class was able to participate. Those who did not make the Hyperpole session will line up in the order they qualified on Thursday.
In a somewhat surprising show of pace, Rebellion Racing’s Gustavo Menezes was able to split the Toyotas on his only lap at speed. Menezes’ lap was still more than half a second off of Kobayashi’s pace, but much closer than they were to the Toyotas earlier in the race weekend. Kazuki Nakajima in the No. 8 Toyota qualified third, followed by the second Rebellion R13 of Nathanael Berthon. ByKolles Racing Team’s Tom Dillmann qualified fifth.
In LMP2, United Autosports’ Paul Di Resta took time away from his Sky Sports F1 TV gig to set a class record with a lap at 149.067 mph to win the pole. He will start sixth overall.
Di Resta’s lap was one-third of a second faster than G-Drive Racing’s Jean-Eric Vergne. Racing Team Nederland’s Nyck de Vries qualified third, followed by High Class Racing’s Kenta Yamashita. Alex Brundle qualified the second United Autosports entry in fifth. All six LMP2 cars in the Hyperpole session were ORECA 07-Gibson chassis. The fastest non-ORECA 07 in LMP2 was Cetilar Racing’s Dallara P217, which qualified 17th in class on Thursday.
GTE-Pro saw Porsche GT Team’s Gianmaria Bruni set the class pole with a lap at 132.056 mph. The lap of record is Bruni’s second lap at speed. His first lap was actually six-hundredths of a second faster, but was deleted due to violation of track limits.
Bruni’s lap was a quarter of a second faster than AF Corse’s James Calado. Aston Martin Racing’s Marco Sorenson was third quickest, followed by teammate Alex Lynn, who was quickest in practice prior to qualifying. Sam Bird was fifth in the second AF Corse Ferrari.
The fastest GTE-Am drivers were able to cut into the GTE-Pro class Friday. Here, the class pole was won by Luzich Racing’s Come Ledogar, who turned in a lap at 131.833 mph. This lap was good enough for fourth of all GTE teams in the Hyperpole session.
Ledogar’s lap was six-hundredths of a second faster than the Porsche of Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Matt Campbell. Team Project 1’s Matteo Cairoli was third fastest, while Ross Gunn was fourth in the Am-class entry from Aston Martin Racing. TF Sport’s Charles Eastwood was fifth quickest.
Unlike past years, most of the field only got a single one-hour session to put down their best laps. Like the Hyperpole session, a single driver determined the order. Average lap times between multiple drivers did not come into play like most WEC events.
Here, Kobayashi was fastest with a lap at 154.694 mph, a quarter of a second faster than Nakajima. Rebellion Racing’s Bruno Senna was third fastest, but a full four and a half seconds off the pace. Dillmann was fourth fastest, while F2 regular Louis Deletraz was fifth in the second Rebellion R13.
LMP2 was topped by de Vries with a lap at 147.538 mph, good for sixth overall. The lap was nearly a half-second faster than Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Will Stevens. Di Resta was third quickest, then Vergne and Brundle.
Sorenson was fastest in GTE-Pro with a lap at 132.058 mph. This lap was two-thousandths of a second faster than the lap that Bruni set in Hyperpole to win the GTE-Pro pole on Friday.
Sorenson’s lap was five-hundredths of a second faster than Lynn. AF Corse’s Alessandro Pier Guidi was third in the No. 51 Ferrari, while Davide Rigon was fourth in the No. 71. Bruni ended up fifth fastest, more than a second off the pace.
In the regular session, the fastest GTE-Am teams did not split the Pro teams. Gunn was fastest in class with a lap at 130.977 mph, good for 35th overall. The lap was one-sixth of a second faster than the similar Aston Martin of Eastwood. The Gulf Racing Porsche of Ben Barker was third fastest, followed by Ledogar and Campbell.
Four teams failed to set times in the session. Both of the IDEC Sport entries did not participate. The No. 28 was heavily damaged in a practice crash with Paul Lafargue at the wheel. Meanwhile, the Era Motorsport-partnered No. 17 had issues of their own near the pit-in that required repairs. In the GTE-Pro class, Risi Competizione’s No. 82 Ferrari did not participate, as did the GTE-Am Ferrari from AF Corse.
With the exception of the Risi Ferrari that will be started by Sebastien Bourdais, the cars that failed to set times on Thursday will have to start at the rear of the field. The race is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. ET Saturday. Coverage in the United States will be available flag-to-flag on Motor Trend. For those of you with Motor Trend OnDemand, you will have access to six in-car cameras. These will consist of both Toyotas, the No. 1 Rebellion R13, the No. 21 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 that Juan Pablo Montoya will drive, the No. 38 JOTA Sport ORECA 07-Gibson and the No. 50 Richard Mille Racing Team ORECA 07-Gibson (which was originally scheduled to be driven by Katherine Legge before her crash at Paul Ricard). Unfortunately, no GTE cars will have streaming in-car cameras available, but the regular race broadcast would more than likely make use of them.