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24H Le Mans

Kobayashi Keeps No. 7 Toyota Ahead as Hyperpole Places Set

No. 7 Toyota leads qualifying as top six in each category advance to hyperpole qualifying…

Photo: MPS Agency

Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest lap during qualifying practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the cars taking part in Thursday’s hyperpole shootout were determined.

Last year’s pole-sitter led the one-hour session with a time of 3:26.279 behind the wheel of the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid that also paced Free Practice 1 on Wednesday afternoon.

All five of the Hypercar-class entries guaranteed their places in hyperpole, which pits the six fastest cars from each of the four categories against each other to establish the respective pole-sitters for this weekend’s race.

Kobayashi led the qualifying practice session by 0.816 seconds from Matthieu Vaxiviere in the Alpine A480 Gibson grandfathered LMP1.

Brendon Hartley was third in the No. 8 Toyota, ahead of the two non-hybrid Glickehaus 007 Pipo LMHs driven by Olivier Pla and Romain Dumas.

With all Hypercars effectively guaranteed a spot in hyperpole, the question marks concerned which entries would make the cut in the other categories.

United Autosports got two of its Oreca 07 Gibsons into the LMP2 shootout as Nico Jamin and Paul di Resta qualified fifth and sixth, however Filipe Albuquerque could only manage 12th in the team’s 2020-winning No. 22 machine.

JOTA driver Antonio Felix da Costa rebounded from a collision in FP1 to set the LMP2 qualifying practice pace with a time of 3:28.807 that ended up almost half a second clear of Nyck de Vries’ attempt in the second-placed G-Drive Racing Aurus-badged Oreca.

Louis Deletraz of Team WRT and Will Stevens of Panis Racing also made it through.

The highest-placed Orecas to miss out on hyperpole were the No. 28 JOTA, which is due to start from seventh on the class grid, as well as Realteam Racing, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, IDEC Sport and Team WRT’s No. 31 WEC car.

Realteam nonetheless secured the Pro-Am pole courtesy of Loic Duval’s 3:29.861 effort.

Potential hyperpole contender IDEC Sport triggered an early FCY period when Paul-Loup Chatin crashed at Tertre Rouge, but the Frenchman had already banked a lap time.

Ferrari 488 GTE Evos went first and second in GTE-Pro as Daniel Serra established a new outright lap record at Le Mans for the GTE formula.

The Brazilian driver, who also applied the FP1 benchmark, turned in a 3:46.011 number to beat Gianmaria Bruni’s record from 2018 by one and a half seconds.

Other drivers were also within the previous record pace, including James Calado who steered the No. 51 Ferrari to second-quickest, Kevin Estre who was third for Porsche GT Team and Nick Tandy aboard the No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.

Dries Vanthoor brought the privateer HubAuto Racing squad into hyperpole with a time of 3:47.599 that took fifth, while last year’s pole-sitter Bruni earned the final place.

This meant the WeatherTech Racing Porsche and the No. 63 Corvette failed to make the cut.

The GTE-Am hyperpole shootout will consist of three Porsches, one Aston Martin Vantage GTEs and two Ferraris.

Julien Andlauer beat Ben Barker’s early marker to top the 23-car category with his No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche, one place ahead of Barker’s GR Racing 911 RSR.

Team Project 1’s Matteo Cairoli was the other Porsche driver to make it through, with the Italian running fifth behind Antonio Fuoco, who charged through right at the end for Cetilar Racing, and Ben Barnicoat driving another Ferrari from Inception Racing.

A late improvement from TF Sport driver Felipe Fraga bumped Callum Ilott’s Iron Lynx Ferrari to the first position outside the cut-off and ensured an Aston in hyperpole.

The Kessel Racing Ferrari of Mikkel Jensen, the No. 99 Proton Porsche of Harry Tincknell and the No. 54 AF Corse Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella also narrowly missed out.

RESULTS: Qualifying Practice

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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