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Nakajima Puts Toyota on Provisional Pole

Toyota holding provisional front-row lockout after opening qualifying session at Le Mans…

Photo: Olivier Beroud Images

Kazuki Nakajima set the fastest lap during Wednesday night’s opening qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as Toyota Gazoo Racing provisionally locked out the front row of the grid.

Nakajima drove the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid to a time of 3:17:270 in the first ten minutes of the two-hour session that stood until proceedings ended at midnight.

The Japanese driver’s effort was consolidated by a 3:17.337 from Kamui Kobayashi in the sister No. 7 car, while the quickest LMP1 non-hybrid lapped two seconds off the pace.

SMP Racing offered the closest challenge through Stephane Sarrazin’s 3:19.483 in the No. 17 BR Engineering BR1 Gibson, while the fourth-placed No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson ended on a 3:19.662 courtesy of Bruno Senna.

Rebellion’s sister machine completed the top five, while Ben Hanley ushered the No. 10 DragonSpeed BR1 Gibson into sixth and ahead of the No. 11 SMP before the car stopped on-track at the Dunlop Chicane with a wheel issue.

Problems also affected the No. 5 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachrome, which came to a halt at the same section with a suspected electrical problem.

In LMP2, Paul-Loup Chatin set the fastest lap in the IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson.

The Frenchman’s time of 3:24.956 ousted the previous best set by Loic Duval in the TDS Racing Oreca, as the French manufacturer filled out the top five places.

Porsche Locks Out Both GTE Classes

Gianmaria Bruni laid down a scintillating pace in the Rothmans-themed No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR to give the German manufacturer the edge after Q1.

The Italian, who is making his Le Mans debut with the marque after nine years with Ferrari, clocked in a 3:47.504 that topped the class by one and a half seconds.

Furthermore, Bruni’s time was 3.3 seconds faster than Darren Turner’s pole marker set last year in a previous-generation Aston Martin Vantage, although the Porsche driver didn’t get a chance to improve after he spun off into the Dunlop Chicane gravel on his next flyer.

The car did not return to action after completing only two laps.

Second in the GTE-Pro charts was Michael Christensen in the No. 92 “Pink Pig” Porsche, while Ford Chip Ganassi Racing ran third and fourth.

Olivier Pla’s best in the No. 67 was a 3:49.181 that resisted a midway charge from Dirk Mueller in the No. 68.

The best Ferrari lap came courtesy of James Calado, who was 2.3 seconds adrift of Bruni, while BMW, Corvette and Aston Martin were all at least three seconds off.

Porsche also led the way in GTE-Am, with the pair of Dempsey-Proton Racing cars locking out the provisional class front row.

Matt Campbell became the first driver this week to duck under Fernando Rees’ pole time from last year with a 3:51.930, before Matteo Cairoli went even quicker with a 3:50.728.

Qualifying 2 is scheduled to take place on Thursday between 7-9 p.m local time.

RESULTS: Qualifying 1

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.



  1. AudiTT

    June 13, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Very poor session. Few clear laps after first 15 minutes.

    • Just another fan

      June 13, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      I disagree. The times overall were amazing. Clear laps at Le Mans are a myth that only becomes reality mid way through the race once several cars retired. Otherwise, most laps are done with traffic.

  2. Monoq

    June 13, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Is Ginetta still allowed to change the aerodynamics from their cars as they said multiple times? If so when are they going to do it as this was probably the last dry qualifying

    • Douglas D

      June 13, 2018 at 11:25 pm

      When I wrote that this Ginetta effort reminded me of Nissan and Aston Martin a few years back My post was quickly taken off

  3. therandomguy

    June 13, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    So the Toyota EOT showed its might. LMP2 Oreca are too OP. As well concerned by the too much gap of GTE Pro. This is not good for Le Mans if it carrys on like this for the netural as it will be just mostly a 1 horse race in most classes.

  4. jack

    June 13, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    toyota was really the only car who 1,had a clean lap, and 2 had a driver going for a fast lap, smp was geting the 5 lap night requirement and rebellion got stuck behind cars.

  5. BirdBrick

    June 13, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Interesting story in GTE. Porsche are clearly the fastest but they can’t stay on track.

  6. Yetimania

    June 13, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    I’d love to see a proper shoot out final Qualifying Session with the top 5 of each class having the track alone for themselves. 20 minutes for each class and see who’s got the big balls out there.
    Something is wrong when LMP2’s beat all Gibsom powered LMP1’s on the Speedtrap…bring back 110kg/h fuel flow to privateers!!! +2 seconds off the pace is NOT a well measured EoT!!!

    • Just another fan

      June 13, 2018 at 7:41 pm

      Unfortunately, the Superpole concept hasn’t proved popular elsewhere. As for the speeds, it could all be due to setup. At the test, the P1s were on top. As for EoT and lap times, you may have reason to be concerned as the privateers were 2 or more seconds slower than Toyota on their regular laps. As for the difference between pole and 2nd place? Last year, the Toyota pole car put the 2nd Toyota at 2.3s and the first Porsche at near 2.5s. So, the difference seen this year is nothing new.

  7. Burninrubber

    June 13, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    What a surprise, the ACO screweing over Corvette racing

    • gmfansaredelusional

      June 14, 2018 at 8:43 am

      Typical GM fan. If their POS ain’t out front, it’s because they are getting “screwed over”.

      It’s the oldest car out there and with antiquated pushrod engine. I guess they should BOP everyone else so this antique can can be competitive.

      Burninrubber, maybe you should look at the BOP from a few days ago. They run lighter than the Porsche 4 liter with their 5.5 liter, there is .8mm difference in the restrictor, and the fuel mixture difference (lambda) is .01 difference between them and Porsche.

      The ‘vette is the lightest car in the class.

      I know, I know, GM should always win no matter how much the have to bend the rules to achieve it, right………

      GM crybabies.

      • greg

        June 14, 2018 at 10:48 am

        lol, a reply about as productive as the original comment…

        If you are going to go that route, seriously let me know where I can buy a mid-engined 911. Gag is I’m not sure who is showing what, fehan said he didn’t seem concerned with the bop so curious what their out-right pace is, bmw and am still seem a way’s off, but minimally you’ve got a 3 horse race with the 911, GT and ferrari, would like to see the vette in the mix just so everyone has to push all race, let the best teams show what their stuff…

  8. MalthusUnderestimated

    June 13, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    The Nakajima lap at 2.2 secs over the fastest non-hybrid is just a glimpse. Toyota wasn’t even giving it the full beans I’ll wager. The other LMP1 drivers know this. Clean laps or no clean laps, there is simply no comparison and all talk of Toyota “being slowed down” and “giving up performance” to the non-hybrids is irrelevant nonsense.

    Likewise is the argument that Le Mans fans are too unsophisticated to understand the intricacies of EoT. They understand perfectly well the fact that Toyota has been handed an obvious competitive advantage for political/commercial reasons.

    • Just another fan

      June 13, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      Calm down. This was one of the best qualifying sessions in recent years and yes, I include the entire hybrid era. 2 seconds from first to second? That was the difference between last year’s pole man and the every body else. I am happy to see plenty of LMP1 cars very close and under 3:20, which for non-hybrid and non diesel cars, it’s a first.
      LMP2 was close and GTE-AM wasn’t that bad but GTE-PRO, uau! So many cars at 3:50! For those a bit older, that was GT1 pole time during the Aston Martin DBR9 and Corvette C6.R era. The Porsche above the rest, must surely had some qualifying magic that one day we will know about as it run for two laps, got stuck and never get going again for some reason even though the session was at its beginning.

      For the “EoT-is-evil” brigade there is something much worry some. The regular lap time from the Toyotas was around 3:22-3:23 whereas the non-hybrids was 3:25 and slower. If those times showed the true race pace, there will be a true 2s+ a lap difference at all times. They were supposed to be closer but when you look at the speech from Onroak regarding the fight with Oreca in LMP2, that might not as bad as it looks. Le Mans is a long race and having a trouble free run and being lucky with the slow zones and safety cars as well as being fast and clean with the overtakes matters. Allan Mcnish shared a map of the track. It was full of cars at one point so the there will always be a fight for space. How one manages to drive fast and safely in a busy track will have a good race. Ultimate pace is not everything. Just ask all the crews from the leading Toyota’s who lost the race for one reason or another throughout the years.

      • MalthusUnderestimated

        June 13, 2018 at 9:41 pm

        I do believe you’ve missed the point. Toyota set a lap time 2-plus seconds quicker while they were likely coasting – not pushing.

        The race pace gap will probably be larger as you suggest if for no other reason than non-hybrid teams will be trying to preserve their undeveloped, largely untested equipment.

        Le Mans is obviously a long race but the twin risks of accidents and unreliability are factors in almost any kind of professional motor race. To say that Toyota may not win because of these and that “ultimate pace is not everything” is simply cliché.

        For a start Toyota will not have to run anywhere near ultimate pace – a fact of life not only determined by the relative lack of organizational and funding based competitive levels of the other teams but, crucially, by a rulebook designed to favor them heavily.

        Given the resource, experience and developmental advantages Toyota has, it would still be the favorite if EoT legislated that the TS050s run two seconds “slower” per lap than non-hybrids. Handing Toyota average lap time and stint advantages is beyond comical as anyone with a mild acquaintance of racing can see.

        Anyone care to wager how many of the non-hybrids will even be on track beyond 6 hours-in? Barring on-track accidents or mistakes and the unlikely spectre of a comparative reliability deficit, Toyota will be several laps ahead by that point.

        The other classes may indeed present some close racing and competition even with the BoP tinkering. That’s good but it’s apparently too much to ask for the premier class at Le Sarthe.

        For the majority that sours the race. I wish Alonso luck but he knows he’s racing the track and his team mates, not the other LMP1 cars.

        That is disappointing and off-putting.

        • Just another fan

          June 14, 2018 at 10:07 am

          I don’t really know to answer you. You have such a pessimistic and destructive way to look at things and I have an opinion so different from yours than I doubt that we will reach a consensus. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. EoT is not great but BOP is worse and none would kill LMP1. I am not sure what you really want but at this point I want to divert my focus to what’s happening on the track which, to me, has been a great show. I am enjoying it as it is. Whether the cars will last for long or not, that doesn’t matter. The cars I was rooting for in 98, the Mercedes, didn’t last for long and the race went on and I was still able to enjoy it.

          • Paul

            June 14, 2018 at 10:52 am

            Problem is that this years EoT diverts the attention from the track. The winner might be found on the track, but much more likely (even for luckless Toyota) it was found months ago somewhere else.
            There´ll be plenty to watch, certainly, but chances are that there wont be much in the top class, unless you happen to care if there’s a 7 or an 8 on the side of the winning car.
            Toyota is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Fail of the generation if they don’t win and nobody cares (beacuse of the EoT) if they do.

    • Steven

      June 13, 2018 at 9:00 pm

      Peugeot had 3 second/lap advantage on Audi in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and lost 2 out of the 3.
      Pescarolo Sport had a 3-4 second/lap advantage on the handicapped Audi in 2005 and lost.
      Toyota had a 2-3 second/lap advantage on Porsche in 2017 and lost.

      Reliability is still the name of the game at Le Mans. To win Le Mans, first, you have to survive it with limited time in the garage.

      • Paul

        June 14, 2018 at 3:58 am

        And how reliable does the LMP1-P seem to be vs Toyota?

        • Just another fan

          June 14, 2018 at 10:15 am

          It remains to be seen. For reference, someone at another site claimed that out of the 13 Toyotas that raced at the Le Mans since 2012, only 2 finished the race without suffering major problems. It’s not a great reliability record by any means.

  9. Dave

    June 13, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    I always find that the best way to get someone to calm down is to start my address to them with “Calm down” 🙂 Anyway, Le Mans has been so all over the board throughout the years you can cherry pick statistics to suit any narrative. We should be getting better at evening the competition not finding new ways to screw it up. Even still, I can’t wait for Saturday.

    As for Porsche, they have always struggled with pace and I am sure hey are trading DF for speed which = offs. At least until the drivers get used to it.

  10. Kingsnake

    June 13, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    I’ll try not to be shocked.

  11. Tom

    June 13, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    This will properly be the grid

  12. JG

    June 14, 2018 at 1:19 am

    Toyota is still 2.5 seconds off last year’s pole of 3:14.8, meaning they must have done something to slow the LMP1-H’s down because with normal development and no rule changes they should be able to do a 3:12 or even a 3:11. I realize they may have not gone all out yet but I would have expected at least a 3:15 for the first practice day.

    Didn’t the ACO say they were targeting a 3:13 for the non-hybrids? They aren’t even remotely close to that.

    • Paul

      June 14, 2018 at 3:59 am

      that 3,14,8 lap encopuntered no traffic, that’s very rare

    • Andres

      June 14, 2018 at 1:55 pm

      The track was not in good conditions, that was said bye every driver i heard commenting on the tv broadcast

  13. Lieblingsleguan

    June 14, 2018 at 4:15 am

    I don’t see the problem with Toyota being the fastest team. They are the only ones to really have put money into it and if all the other works teams withdraw, they win. That’s how it always was. Remember 2000 for example.

    It would be a lot more comical if those teams that have no hybrid system would be allowed to be faster than or equal fast as the hybrid car. I mean, you could also define that the same rules apply for all LMP1 combustion engines (and fuel tank size, stint length, fuel flow rate and so on) and if you do not have a hybrid system on board, than that’s your problem. Obviously if it were like that, there would only be 2 LMP1 cars. The ACO tried to put in a LMP1 race for the fans while not screw over the Toyota effort which is a difficult task. Yet those fans don’t seem to be grateful at all. Maybe some of them would be if they remembered the boring only-Audi years better.

    Also, we do get a great GT battle which wasn’t the case during those Audi years.

    • Jack Coffey

      June 14, 2018 at 5:08 am

      Nail on the head.

    • toyotafanssuckasbadasgmfans

      June 14, 2018 at 8:54 am

      Toyota has had many chances to win against others spending just as much money and couldn’t do it. In fact, they finished behind the winning P2 car last year.

      Now, they are like the dummy who can’t graduate from high school so he sticks around and bullies the smaller kids. If they win, it will be a hollow victory and should be marked with an asterisk.

      WEC is flatly stating that the Toyotas have to be faster or the car that dares to run as fast as they do will be penalized. That’s truly pathetic.

      Where you get that only 2 cars would be in P1 if they did all that you said is the really comical part. It’s comical to have all the cars on equal footing in P1? That’s what you think? What a joke.

      Toyota should be ashamed for participating in this sham and their drivers should be embarrassed.

      • Lieblingsleguan

        June 14, 2018 at 9:18 am

        I am not a Toyota Fan.
        You simply haven’t understood. If the privateers would have to stick to the same technical rules than Toyota, they wouldn’t be 2 seconds slower without a hybrid system but maybe around 20-30. The Nissan LMP1 ran without a working hybrid system, so there you can see the difference that would normally be there. Of course, no private team would undertake that and therefore the ACO gives the non hybrid privateers advantages to make them faster – but not faster than the expensive hybrid car because that would be screwing over Toyota completely.
        Accept it, not the ACO is handing Toyota the win, it is handed to them by Porsche, Audi, Nissan, Peugeot and all the other manufacturers not involved in LMP1. Same as Audi in 2000 when Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, BMW, Porsche and Nissan withdrew.

        • Paul

          June 14, 2018 at 10:56 am

          BS. Their opponents couldn’t get mid race penalties for lapping “too fast”!!! Toyotas will if they do.

      • Just another fan

        June 14, 2018 at 10:22 am

        FYI, Toyota had a much smaller budget than Porsche and Audi and it was both VW brands that pushed the rules to be as expensive as they are. Then they quit and now Porsche is spending what’s left from the LMP1 budget to turn their fantastic machine in a worthless time-attack beast instead of allowing the cars to be raced in this years’ WEC by well-funded privateers.

    • Paul

      June 14, 2018 at 10:54 am

      So its better to lure in some privateers and then screw then over?

      • Lieblingsleguan

        June 14, 2018 at 12:27 pm

        I don’t think they are screwed over. They are given help for an outside shot at the overall win which is more than private teams usually get when a works team is around. That is why so many signed up.
        Also, all those private teams knew what they signed up for. Toyota on the other hand didn’t. Imagine you were a manufacturer, the last one left, putting in millions of dollars and then you are told “As there are no competitors left, we’re allowing teams to build a car less expensive and less complex than yours, but equally fast because of more relaxed rules.” You would probably pull the plug on the program immediately. And rightly so, you have a responsibility towards all your employees, not only the race team.
        The ACO is trying to get manufacturers signed up for 2021 and beyond and under the circumstances, I think they found a solution which is making the best that could be achieved out of that two transition years.
        I also think that we won’t see a penalty for “lapping to fast”. This potential measure was put in place to prevent sandbagging and I hope the privateers got the message.

        Fwiw, I still somehow doubt that Toyota will take the win. Why should their streak of bad luck suddenly end… Well, a close last lap fight between SMP and Rebellion or something like that would surely be nice ;).

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