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24H Le Mans

Kobayashi, Toyota on Provisional Pole at Le Mans

Kobayashi leads Toyota to provisional 24H Le Mans pole…

Photo: John Dagys

Kamui Kobayashi secured provisional pole for the 24 Hours of Le Mans by leading Toyota Gazoo Racing to a 1-2 result in the first qualifying session on Wednesday night.

Having also set the fastest time at the Le Mans test day, Kobayashi continued his recent good form at the Circuit de la Sarthe by turning in the fastest lap through Q1, narrowly failing to beat last year’s pole time.

Kobayashi’s time of 3:18.793 early in the session was enough to give him P1 in the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, with compatriot Kazuki Nakajima finishing six-tenths further back in second.

Porsche’s lack of pace in the pre-race test was not as pronounced through Q1 as the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid finished within a second of the fastest time thanks to Timo Bernhard.

Toyota’s No. 9 car followed in fourth place ahead of the No. 1 Porsche, the latter lagging 2.3 seconds off the pace at the top of the class.

LMP2 saw Matthieu Vaxiviere lead TDS Racing to provisional pole in the No. 28 Oreca 07 Gibson after being one of the few drivers to improve late in the session.

After recovering from a foot injury that forced him to miss last month’s Spa six-hour race, Vaxiviere was able to edge out Bruno Senna by half a second in the closing stages of qualifying to give the French team P1 in class.

CEFC Manor TRS Racing had looked set for a one-two in LMP2 before the late laps from Vaxiviere and Senna, with Vitaly Petrov and Jean-Eric Vergne taking third and fourth in the No. 25 and No. 24 entries respectively.

Aston Martin Racing swept to the top of the time sheets in both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am on Wednesday night to take a pair of provisional pole positions.

Nicki Thiim posted the fastest time in GTE-Pro early in qualifying behind the wheel of the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, edging out the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE by just one-tenth of a second.

The second AF Corse entry, No. 51, was a further second back, while Aston Martin’s No. 97 car followed in fourth place.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s apparently early Le Mans struggles continued as it could only finish fifth fastest with Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 Ford GT, two seconds behind Thiim.

Pedro Lamy carried the No. 98 Aston Martin’s impressive practice pace over into qualifying, taking provisional pole with a lap of 3:55.134.

Lamy’s effort was more than half a second quicker than what the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing crew could muster, while TF Sport rounded out the top three with its No. 90 Vantage, a further three-tenths of a second behind.

The session saw drivers receive only 100 minutes of track time after starting late due to barrier repairs warranted by a crash in the Road to Le Mans practice session.

A number of slow zone and yellow flag periods also limited the amount of meaningful running, but teams were able to make use of the gentler pace to ensure their drivers completed the minimum required number of night-time laps to qualify.

Drivers will complete a further four hours of qualifying on Thursday, with the sessions running from 7-9 p.m. (1-3 p.m. ET) and 10 p.m. to midnight local time (4-6 p.m. ET).

RESULTS: Qualifying 1

Luke Smith is a British motorsport journalist who has served as NBC Sports’ lead Formula 1 writer since 2013, as well as working on its online sports car coverage.

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