Brendon Hartley was the star of the Le Mans 24 Hours Hyperpole shootout, securing the outright pole position for Toyota Gazoo Racing with its No. 8 GR010 HYBRID. In what was a thrilling, frantic session full of fast times and many deleted laps, the Kiwi set a 3m24.408s to beat the sister No. 7 GR010 of Kamui Kobayashi to the top spot in the final moments of the session.
In the end both Toyotas were left with one final chance to take pole and stole the show in formation. Kobayashi set a 3m24.585s right after Hartley’s best effort, but while it wasn’t good enough for pole, it was enough to lock the front row for the weekend’s 24 Hours.
Prior to the final times set by the Toyotas, it looked like Alpine had secured pole position. The French make’s A480 was atop the times after a blistering 3m24.850s set by Nicolas Lapierre. The Frenchman pushed the Alpine to the limit to fight for pole and managed a stunning time in the 3m24s, aided by a late BoP change which saw the car handed a power increase ahead of the session. But it wasn’t enough, despite the Toyotas losing time in Sector 3 after being held up by a factory Porsche on their penultimate tours of the circuit.
“It feels awesome,” said Hartley. “I came close to pole last year. Sorry to Kamui who was looking for his fifth pole, but the car felt amazing. It was the best feeling to experience a clear track. Now we focus on the race.”
The pair of Glickenhaus 007 LMHs slotted in fourth and fifth, Ryan Briscoe and Olivier Pla not quite able to produce raw times to challenge the Toyotas, setting laps 1.4 and 1.9s off the ultimate pace. It should be noted, though, that on multiple occasions, Briscoe in the No. 709 — like many other drivers in the session — had fast laps deleted for track limit violations at the final chicane.
In LMP2, WRT took the top spot, with the No. 31 ORECA leading the way courtesy of a 3m28.394s from Robin Frijns. Norman Nato took second in the No. 41 Realteam WRT entry to make it a 1-2 for WRT-run 07 Gibsons.
“I’m very happy with the lap I did. I had one deleted for track limits so the pressure was on. But I’m really pleased to have put a lap together at the end,” related Frijns.
Best of the rest was the No. 22 United Autosports example of Filipe Albuquerque. Alex Lynn in the sister No. 23 United ORECA briefly slipped into the top three but he had a lap deleted and slipped to sixth behind the No. 38 JOTA and No. 9 Prema ORECAs.
The story of GTE Pro was domination from Corvette Racing. Its C8.Rs locked out the class front row after strong performances from Nick Tandy and Antonio Garcia. Tandy set the pole time in the No. 64, with a 3m49.985s, the Briton the only driver in a GTE car to set a sub 3m50s time.
“It feels fantastic to have taken pole,” Tandy said. “I’m seeing lots of Corvette flags at the circuit, it’s great for everyone who is here to support us. Let’s hope we can keep these cars out front for 24 hours. The GTE cars are so fun to drive with fresh tires and low fuel.”
A late improvement from Garcia in the No. 63 was good enough for second, pushing the No. 91 Porsche of Fred Makowiecki to third after he and teammate Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 92 opted to sit out the first half of the 30-minute shootout.
It was a rather quiet run for AF Corse, its pair of Ferraris only capable of fifth and sixth, setting times in the 3:51s.
It was better news for Ferrari in Am, however, Vincent Abril put the No. 61 AF Corse 488 GTE on class pole with a 3m52.594s. Mikkel Jensen made it a Ferrari 1-2 in the No. 57 Kessel example, while Harry Tincknell set a late flyer to put the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche into the top three. The Northwest AMR Aston Martin will start fourth, with the No. 54 AF Corse and No. 85 Iron Dames Ferraris fifth and sixth.
UP NEXT: Track action continues later this evening with the final practice session that’s set to get underway at 10:00 p.m. local time.