Toyota Racing's Kazuki Nakajima becomes first Japanese in pole at Le Mans, sets fastest qualifying lap for hybrids
Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima steered to the first-ever Le Mans pole position for a Japanese driver with a lap time of 3:21.789 in the #7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid. Nakajima also set the qualifying lap record for hybrid-powered cars. Frenchman Romain Dumas broke what appeared to be a Toyota front row lock out as he slotted the #14 Porsche 919 Hybrid in between with a 3:22.416 laptime to share the front row with Toyota. The #8 TS040 Hybrid was in third spot with the provisional pole setting #20 Porsche beside it in 4th.
The #1 R18 e-tron quattro of Audi Sport Team Joest crashed by Loïc Duval was completely rebuilt to rejoin its sister cars for both qualifying sessions. Brazilian Lucas di Grassi set a 3:25.814 lap for an impressive 7th position on the grid despite the car having to be built up from scratch overnight.
ELMS championship leader Thiriet by TDS Racing claimed a first ever pole position with the new #46 Ligier JS P2 driven by Tristan Gommendy for the LMP2 class. The JOTA Sport's Zytek, starts alongside the Ligier with the OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 HPD following closely behind in third. First of the FIA World Endurance Championship runners was the #26 G-Drive Racing Morgan Nissan of Olivier Pla, his fastest lap of 3:38.000 just four tenths of a second behind the class pole.
The new ‘slow zone’ system was successfully deployed during the 150 minute night session, during which drivers were required to complete a minimum of three laps to qualify for the race, as several cars exited the track.
The LMGTE class was dominated by AF Corse, which claimed a double pole position; Gianmaria Bruni did the honors in the Pro class in the #51 Ferrari 458 Italia. The Italian clocked 3:53.700, a full second ahead of the second-placed car in the class - the #73 Corvette. Third in class was the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Stefan Mücke with a best lap of 3:54.891.
British driver Sam Bird steered the #81 Ferrari 458 Italia to a superb lap time of 3:54.665 just ahead of the #73 Corvette and another full second ahead of the #98 Aston Martin Vantage which claimed second in class. The Danish crewed #95 Vantage V8 claimed third.
Unlike other rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the qualifying format for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a one-lap, one driver, shoot-out and not an aggregated time. The grid is now set for the third round of the FIA WEC, and teams will use tomorrow (Friday) to prepare for the race as there is no track action.
Ferrari F1 star Fernando Alonso will be flagging off the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans.