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Kobayashi Puts No. 7 Toyota on Provisional Pole

Kamui Kobayashi goes fastest in first qualifying session as non-hybrids split Toyotas…

Photo: John Dagys

Kamui Kobayashi went quickest in the first of three Qualifying sessions ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, putting his No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid on provisional pole on Wednesday evening.

The Japanese driver posted a best time of 3:17.161 early in the two-hour session to put his Toyota Gazoo Racing car ahead of the field by 0.472 seconds.

The sister No. 8 Toyota placed fourth, however, with non-hybrids performing better than expected at this stage.

SMP Racing was the best of the non-hybrids with its No. 17 BR Engineering BR1 AER going second early in the session with Egor Orudzhev at the wheel, posting a 3:17.633, while Thomas Laurent was the fastest Rebellion Racing driver in third.

The Frenchman moved his No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson up the order but still two seconds off SMP’s lead BR1, with a 3:19.603.

Fernando Alonso put in a late flier to move the No. 8 Toyota up to fourth from sixth, running 2.471 seconds slower than Kobayashi, while DragonSpeed placed fifth.

Toyota did have to bring its No. 7 Toyota into the pits after Mike Conway had contact with Roberto Gonzalez’ DragonSpeed Oreca 07 Gibson at the Ford Chicane, but both cars went back out on track after repairs.

In fact, both cars topped their respective classes, with Pastor Maldonado having already took the DragonSpeed LMP2 entry to the top of the class with a 3:26.804.

The clash at the Ford Chicane came when Gonzalez spun off track and rejoined into Conway’s path, causing the Toyota to momentarily go airborne.

Signatech Alpine Matmut was second quickest in LMP2, while Filipe Albuquerque put his United Autosports car into third as the best-placed Ligier JS P217 Gibson.

Ford Quickest in Competitive GTE-Pro Class

Harry Tincknell moved Ford Chip Ganassi Racing up the order at the end of the session to lead GTE-Pro with his No. 67 Ford GT, setting a best time of 3:49.530.

The Fords had been down the order for most of the two hours, with Porsche and Aston Martin Racing battling it out at the head of the field.

Porsche filled positions two, four, five and six, with Nick Tandy quickest for the German manufacturer, while Maxime Martin put his No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE third.

The best-placed cars from Ferrari, BMW and Corvette were eighth, ninth and 11th, respectively.

Porsche led the way in GTE-Am as Dempsey-Proton Racing headed the order, with Matteo Cairoli going top on a 3:52.454.

Team Project 1 and the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton car completed the top three ahead of the No. 98 Aston Martin.

Amongst the several minor incidents in the session were Olivier Pla going into the tire barriers at the exit of Porsche Curves, in an incident that also caught up Jeff Segal (JMW Motorsport) and Stephane Richelmi (Jackie Chan DC Racing).

Qualifying 2 will get underway at 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. EDT) on Thursday, with the third and final two-hour session at 10 p.m. (4 p.m. EDT).

RESULTS: Qualifying 1

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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