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Toyota’s Kobayashi Takes Fourth Le Mans Pole in Five Years

Kamui Kobayashi earns first Le Mans pole of Hypercar era as Toyota locks out front row…

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi earned his fourth 24 Hours of Le Mans pole position in five years by setting the fastest lap during Thursday evening’s Hyperpole qualifying session.

Kobayashi added to his Le Mans poles aboard Toyota LMP1 machinery in 2017, 2019 and last year to claim the first pole of the French enduro’s new Hypercar era.

The Japanese star wasted little time in scaling the leaderboard, with his final attempt of 3:23.900 coming on his first flying lap aboard the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid.

That initially put Kobayashi a huge 1.2 seconds ahead of his teammate Brendon Hartley, but the margin came down over the remainder of the 30-minute session as the New Zealander wound up his No. 8 Toyota LMH machine. 

Hartley ended up bringing the difference down to 0.295 seconds after mustering a time of 3:24.195, but couldn’t prevent Kobayashi from scoring another Le Mans pole.

Nicolas Lapierre qualified third for Alpine Endurance Team, ahead of the two Glickenhaus 007 Pipo LMHs driven by Olivier Pla and Romain Dumas.

Pla improved on his final lap but was only able to scratch at Lapierre’s 3:25.574 behind the wheel of the ex-Rebellion grandfathered LMP1 car now known as an Alpine A480 Gibson.

The best non-hybrid Glickenhaus LMH was classified 1.7 seconds behind the pole-setting Toyota.

Only the Hypercar-class entries and a handful of LMP2s managed a flying lap before the session was red-flagged after Kevin Estre’s Porsche 911 RSR-19 crashed at Indianapolis, causing the clock to be stopped while the Frenchman’s car was retrieved.

The session resumed with 12 minutes left on the clock, after which the GTE cars could get their first laps in.

Antonio Felix da Costa claimed the LMP2 class pole, with the JOTA driver beating Team WRT’s Louis Deletraz by half a second.

Da Costa went quickest with a 3:28.574 shortly after the red flag, but stayed out in a bid to take off further time.

That decision proved crucial, as Deletraz improved to a 3:28.470 which would have been good enough for pole, had the JOTA driver not already produced his most competitive time of 3:27.950.

Will Stevens was third for Panis Racing, edging out recently-crowned ABB FIA Formula E world champion Nyck De Vries driving for Algarve Pro Racing.

European Le Mans Series cars qualified from second through fifth, as Nico Jamin completed the top-five for United Autosports. His teammate and last year’s pole-sitter Paul di Resta ended up sixth as the only LMP2 driver not to break the 3m 30s barrier.

HubAuto Beats Factory Entries in GTE-Pro

Dries Vanthoor handed a surprise GTE-Pro pole position to privateer outfit HubAuto Racing with a 3:46.882 flying lap.

Taiwanese squad HubAuto, which is receiving support from Team Project 1 for its debut with the latest GTE-spec Porsche, beat factory entries from the likes of Porsche GT Team, AF Corse/Ferrari and Corvette Racing.

Vanthoor, who normally drives Audi GT3 machinery, was fourth-fastest after the opening set of laps following the red flag for Estre’s accident in the opening stages.

The Belgian then scaled the GTE-Pro class with 10 minutes to go, beating Daniel Serra’s original best of 3:47.063 in the No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo by 0.181 seconds.

Nick Tandy delivered the third-fastest lap at around the same as Vanthoor landed pole, with the British driver planting thee No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R third on the grid for its Le Mans debut.

Tandy was the only Corvette driver in hyperpole, after the No. 63 Corvette failed to make the cut during Wednesday evening’s collective qualifying practice.

James Calado from Ferrari and Gianmaria Bruni from Porsche completed the top five, while Estre was unable to set a lap time after his Porsche sustained heavy damage during its accident.

Porsche took pole in both GTE categories courtesy of Julien Andlauer backing up Vanthoor’s Pro-class exploits to lead GTE-Am for Dempsey-Proton Racing.

The Frenchman clocked in at 3:47.987 to take just over three seconds off Come Ledogar’s 2020 pole time and ended up half a second clear of Ben Barker in second.

Barker handed a front-row start to GR Racing, while Matteo Cairoli was third for Team Project 1 to hand Porsche a 1-2-3 in the class.

Antonio Fuoco and Ben Barnicoat were fourth and fifth in Ferraris entered by Cetilar Racing and Inception Racing respectively, while Felipe Fraga rounded out the Hyperpole order in TF Sport’s No. 33 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

RESULTS: Hyperpole

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

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