Toyota took a highly expected pole position for the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours race, with Kazuki Nakajima placing the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 hybrid on pole position with a fastest lap of 3:15.377. Nakajima’s teammates are Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi.
The sister Toyota #7 entrant starts 2nd overall (Conway, Kobayashi,Lopez) meanwhile the fastest privateer LMP1 honour went to Rebellion Racing’s Rebellion R13-Gibson #1 entrant (Neel Jani / Andre Lotterer / Bruno Senna) with the fastest lap achieved by the Rebellion, 2.8 seconds off the pole sitting Toyota.
In terms of other F1 interest in the LMP1 class: The #10 Dragonspeed BR1 Gibson starts 6th (Pastor Maldonado, Ricardo Gonzalez and Nathanaël Berthon) whilst the #11 BR Engineering SMP Racing Dallara LMP1 starts 7th (Jenson Button, Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov)
In the LMP2 ranks. The class pole went to the Oreca 07 Gibson of IDEC Sport meanwhile in both the GTE PRO and AM classes, Porsche dominated with a 1-2 Porsche front row class lock out in GTE PRO for the factory Porsche team and Dempsey Proton Racing matching this result in the GTE Am class.
I suggest it will take something very special and unusual to happen for Toyota not to claim overall victory on Sunday afternoon at Le Mans. It really is Toyota’s race to lose this year and looks likely to be a battle between the two manufacturer cars, that said nothing is ever a certain at Le Mans. It can be a cruel race to presumptive winners and Toyota know this more than most so wait and see what happens over the course of the weekend before popping the champagne. The battle between SMP Racing, Dragonspeed and Rebellion Racing in the LMP1 ranks should be of particular interest as the race unfolds as well, whilst the LMP2 battle will likely be the one to pay close attention towards in terms of pure racing action.
The Porsche entrants clearly have the BOP advantage in GTE right now, both in Pro and Am however Ford, Ferrari and BMW should provide some interesting opposition given the Porsche’s look fast and brilliant in the ‘pink pig’ and ‘Rothmans’ liveries but difficult to drive. Meanwhile Aston Martin and Corvette Racing appear to need a BOP break and I’m sure alot of politics will play out before Saturday between all the GT manufacturers and the organisers.