Kamui Kobayashi set a blistering lap of 3m15.267s to put the No. 7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID on pole for the 88th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours in the inaugural “Hyperpole” qualifying shootout.
With a relatively clear track, the pace was astonishing for the quickfire session to decide the top six grid slots in each class from tomorrow’s race.
It wasn’t an easy run to pole for Toyota, as Rebellion showed a real flash of pace with American Gustavo Menezes, who set a 3m15.822s early in the session to put the No. 1 Rebellion R-13 on provisional pole. To put that lap into context, it was the fastest non-hybrid LMP1 lap at Le Mans ever, a few tenths faster than the previous best by SMP Racing.
Unfortunately though, it wasn’t quite enough, as Kobayashi’s 3m15s came shortly after and put the No. 7 atop the times on the second lap of his first fresh set of tires. He then went on to attempt to break the all-time lap record, which he set back in 2017 (3m14.791s), and was on course to do so but had to abandon the lap just as the checkered flag came out while passing through the final sector. Nevertheless it was a truly exciting session, a real endorsement for the new format.
Rebellion, while slightly disappointed it couldn’t steal the headlines, will be satisfied to have split the Toyotas on pace with its lead car. The No. 8 Toyota will start third after Kazuki Nakajima set a 3m16.649s. The No. 3 Rebellion will line up alongside on the second row in fourth.
In LMP2, Paul di Resta was the man of the moment, the Scotsman in the No. 22 United Autosports ORECA taking class pole by a few tenths with a 3m24.528s. Second in the session was Jean-Eric Vergne for G-Drive Racing, the double Formula E champion managing a 3m24.860s.
A late flyer from Nyck de Vries put Racing Team Nederland into the top three, a strong recovery from the F2 champion after a trip through the gravel early in the session.
GTE Pro featured all three marques in the top three. Best of the bunch was Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR 19, a real feat for himself and the team which prior to this week had no experience with the current 911 at La Sarthe due to the cancellation of the Test Day. His time was a 3m50.874s.
James Calado put the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari second, while Marco Sorensen placed the WEC points-leading No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage AMR in third. The top six in the class was completed by the No. 97 Aston, No. 71 Ferrari and No. 92 Porsche respectively.
In Am it was a record-breaking performance from Come Ledogar in the Luzich Racing Ferrari that led the way. The former McLaren factory driver posted a 3m51.266s, the fastest ever GTE Am qualifying time at Le Mans. It was only just good enough though, as Matt Campbell’s best time in the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche was just 0.056s off. Making it a Porsche 1-2-3 was Matteo Cairoli in the No 56 Team Project 1 911.
Race day is tomorrow at the Circuit de la Sarthe, the race set to start at 2:30 p.m. local time.