24h Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans – Toyota takes provisional pole position!
After a tricky free practice due to rain, the 62 competitors in the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans headed into the first qualifying session today. Lap times continued to improve on the newly dry track.
Teams were raring to go as soon as the qualifying session began at 22:00. For Swiss team Rebellion Racing was André Lotterer at the wheel of the #1 Rebellion R13-Gibson and Gustavo Menezes at the wheel of the #3 Rebellion R13-Gibson. For Toyota was Kamui Kobayashi driving TOYOTA GAZOO Racing's #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid at 21:00 and Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel of the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid.
The desire to hit the track with more grip and less traffic was also felt in LMGTE Pro: 2018 pole-sitter Gianmaria Bruni hit the track at the wheel of Porsche GT Team's #91 Porsche 911 RSR.
And the show didn't stop. A time of 3:17.633 for Egor Orudzhev driving SMP Racing's #17 BR Engineering BR1-AER was clocked in the first lap! That's faster than any time this year, including Test Day and the free practice. In the sister car, a time of 3:20.934 for Stoffel Vandoorne at the wheel of SMP Racing's #11 BR Engineering BR1-AER, with Kamui Kobayashi driving TOYOTA GAZOO Racing's #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid clocking 3:17.161. The classication did not change. Toyota in the lead, SMP Racing and Rebellion Racing in its shadow.
Shortly after 23:10, Mike Conway (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing's #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid) struck Roberto Gonzalez (DragonSpeed's #31 ORECA 07-Gibson). In a fast lap during the best part of the late evening, Conway hit the front of Gonzalez's LMP2. The car seemed severely damaged, but still returned to the track thanks to work done by the entire team.
The battle in LMP2 also reached fever pitch at the beginning of the session. Nicolas Lapierre (Signatech Alpine's #36 Alpine A470-Gibson) was the first to clock a promising time (3:26.935). Then Pastor Maldonado (DragonSpeed's #31 ORECA 07-Gibson) followed suit. The Venezuelan driver clocked the fastest time in the class, in 3:26.804, clinching the provisional pole for good.
In LMGTE Pro, Ford has the advantage with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing's #67 Ford GT. In 3:49.530, the American car driven by Harry Tincknell is one of two cars to clock a time below the bar of 03:50.00 (with Porsche GT Team's #93 Porsche 911 RSR in 3:49.558 thanks to Nick Tandy).
In just a year, Aston Martin has made outstanding progress. Alex Lynn (Aston Martin Racing's #97 Aston Martin Vantage) placed the car on the third step of the provisional podium in 3:50.037. There was plenty of action in the class with Scott Dixon (Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA's #68 GT) leaving the track at the Raccordement and the #64 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R dealing with a flat tyre.
In LMGTE Am, Porsche dominated: Dempsey-Proton Racing's #88 Porsche 911 RSR clocked ahead of Team Project 1's #56 Porsche 911 RSR and Dempsey-Proton Racing's #77 Porsche 911 RSR. They find themselves in the middle of the LMGTE Pros.