Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Kamui Kobayashi was fastest overall in the opening round of qualifying Wednesday (Aug. 18) for this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kobayashi’s lap of 147.801 mph was three seconds faster than any lap set in the opening practice session and more than a second faster than the quickest lap during the official Test Day Sunday.
Kobayashi set the quick time of the session just a few minutes in on his first lap at speed. The lap was eight-tenths of a second faster than Signatech Alpine’s Matthieu Vaxiviere. Brendon Hartley was third in the second Toyota, followed by Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus’ Olivier Pla, who was quickest on the Test Day Sunday. Romain Dumas was fifth in the second Glickenhaus.
In the opening session, the goal wasn’t necessarily to be the fastest overall (although, it couldn’t hurt to do so). Outside of the Hypercar class, the goal was to be in the top six in your class. That advances you to the Hyperpole session on Thursday.
In LMP2, one of the favorites for pole, IDEC Sport’s No. 48 ORECA 07-Gibson, will not start there. Paul-Loup Chatin clipped the grass when he hit the brakes for Tertre Rouge. That’s all it took for him to spin out less than 10 minutes into the session and hit the tires. The hit into the tires knocked the rear wing off of the car. In addition, the No. 48 ended up with gearbox issues from the hit. In the WEC, unlike IMSA and INDYCAR, you keep your best lap regardless of whether you cause a stoppage. At the time he crashed, Chatin was third quickest. That lap utimately earned him the 10th starting spot in LMP2.
Late in the session, JOTA Sport’s Antonio Felix da Costa set a lap at 146.012 mph to top the class and put himself fifth overall. Da Costa’s lap was four-tenths of a second faster than G-Drive Racing’s Nyck de Vries. Team WRT’s Louis Deletraz was third fastest, then Panis Racing’s Will Stevens and United Autosports teammates Nico Jamin and Paul di Resta.
Likely the biggest surprise here was that United Autosports’ No. 22 failed to make the top six. Filipe Albuquerque appeared to have one of the fastest cars out there, but slower traffic and slow zones meant that he could only muster the 12th fastest lap in class. He was very upset with himself afterwards.
GTE-Pro saw AF Corse’s Daniel Serra continue his strong form from earlier in the day. He was quickest of the GT runners with a lap at 134.898 mph. The lap was more than half a second faster than teammate James Calado. Porsche GT Team’s Kevin Estre was third quickest, followed by Corvette Racing’s Nick Tandy. HubAuto Racing’s Dries Vanthoor was fifth in his Porsche, while Porsche’s Gianmaria Bruni snagged the last Hyperpole spot.
In GTE-Am, Aston Martin Racing’s Paul Dalla Lana also had a short session. 25 minutes in, Dalla Lana spun near where the Bugatti Circuit exits from the Circuit de la Sarthe. Dalla Lana didn’t hit anything, but he did get stuck in a gravel trap. Dalla Lana’s visit to the trap resulted in a slow zone being instituted in order to retrieve the car.
Later on, Iron Lynx’s Rahel Frey spun her Ferrari 488 GTE EVO into the trap at the Dunlop Chicane to bring out another slow zone. The slow zone ruined what could have been a pole-sitting lap for IDEC Sport/Era Motorsport’s Thomas Laurent in the LMP2 class. Laurent had been fastest of all in the first two sectors on-track, but was forced to slow down right before the start-finish line. Laurent ended up 16th in class with that lap despite it being spoiled.
At the end of the session, it was Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Julien Andlauer that was fastest with a lap at 133.358 mph, eighth of the GT cars. Andlauer’s lap was nearly a half-second faster than the similar Porsche of GR Racing’s Ben Barker. The Ferrari of Cetilar Racing’s Antonio Fuoco was third fastest, then Inception Racing’s Ben Barnicoat. Team Project 1’s Matteo Cairoli was disappointed with fifth, but still advanced. A late penalty to TF Sport’s Ross Gunn for going too fast in a slow zone meant that Felipe Fraga in the other TF Sport Aston Martin ended up in the final Hyperpole spot.
For the 39 teams that did not qualify for their class Hyperpole sessions, their grid positions are set for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For the 23 remaining teams, they’ll fight it out Thursday (Aug. 19) for the overall pole. The Hyperpole session, only 30 minutes in length is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET and will be streamed live at MotorTrendOnDemand.com (subscription required).
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