Toyota Gazoo Racing have dominated qualifying ahead of this years edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kamui Kobayashi in the second qualifying session, set an incredible lap of 3:14.781 therefore smashing the previous record set by Neel Jani during qualifying in the 2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid which was 3:16.887.
You have to also consider that Kobayashi set this time, in a period that the ACO has been actively trying to reduce the speed of the LMP1 prototype lap times at Le Mans. It seems the rulemakers therefore have somewhat lost the battle over the engineers when it comes to managing the pace of these cars.
It should also be noted that the overall lap record at Le Mans, prior to the chicanes being added on the Mulsanne straight was a 3.13.9, set by Pedro Rodriguez in 1971.
This means that Conway, Kobayashi and Sarrazin start on pole, ahead of Davidson, Buemi and Nakajima at a 3:17.128 with Porsche’s Neel Jani, Nick Tandy and Andre Lotterer starting third with a 3:17.259.
Neither Porsche or Toyota had a flawless day though in terms of reliability. The #8 Toyota having a precautionary engine change during Qualifying II after slowing on track and Porsche also having issues in Qualifying III, which resulted in Brendon Hartley stopping the car out on track for precautionary reasons. It is therefore rather interesting for the race as to which one of the two LMP1 manufacturers will have the upper edge when it comes to reliability during the 24 Hours. I’m sure Toyota don’t want to remember what happened last year but I’m also sure it is a fear for them.
Meanwhile the new, faster LMP2 prototypes for 2017, saw the G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 of Romain Rusinov, Pierre Thiriet and Alex Lynn. They took class pole at a 3:25.170, which is faster than the pole position lap of the Audi R18 LMP1 pole sitting lap from 2011. The last non hybrid car to qualify on pole at Le Mans to date.
In the GTE Pro class, it was the Venerable, Prodrive Aston Martin V8 Vantage which claimed pole position, driven by Darren Turner, Johnny Adam and Daniel Serra at a 3:50.837 ahead of AF Corse and the sister Aston Martin Racing GTE PRO entrant.
In the GTE Am class, pole is held by the Larbre Corvette team of Fernando Rees, Romain Brandela and Christian Philippon at 3:52.843