Toyota seals front row for 2017 Le Mans

16th Jun 2017 3:07 pm

Kamui Kobayashi’s record-breaking Le Mans lap time put the No.7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid on pole.

Toyota will start the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours from the front row after sealing first and second positions in the final qualifying session.

Kamui Kobayashi's record-breaking 3m 14.791s lap from the second qualifying session was never threatened in the final two hours of running, meaning he and his teammates in the #7 TS050 Hybrid, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin, will begin Saturday's race from pole. They will be joined on the front row by the sister #8 machine thanks to a lap of 3m 17.128s from Kazuki Nakajima shortly after the start of the third session, which was enough to beat the #1 Porsche by just over a tenth.

Neither of the two Porsches could improve on their earlier times in the final qualifying session, and will therefore start from the second row of the grid in third and fourth.

Neel Jani ended up best of the Porsches after recording a 3m 17.159s in the #1 car – 2.468 seconds down on Kobayashi's sensational pole time and eight-tenths up on Timo Bernhard's best effort in the #2 919 Hybrid.

The #2 car sat out much of the session when Brendon Hartley slowed and eventually ground to a halt at Indianapolis, a precaution taken due to rising oil temperatures.

Nicolas Lapierre logged an improvement early on in the session in the #9 Toyota but couldn't improve on fifth with his time of 3m 18.625s.

Having lagged behind the best of the LMP2s after the second qualifying, Oliver Webb hauled the #4 ByKolles CLM up to sixth overall with a best time of 3m 24.170s, nine seconds off the pace.

Lynn secures LMP2 pole for G-Drive

Alex Lynn sealed LMP2 pole position for the #26 G-Drive Oreca, banging in a lap of 3m 25.352s early in the final session to elevate the car he shares with Roman Rusinov and Pierre Thiriet from seventh place. That was two-tenths faster than the time Vitaly Petrov set in the #25 Manor Oreca at the end of Thursday's earlier qualifying session.

The battle for third went down to the closing minutes, with Bruno Senna first putting the #31 Rebellion Oreca into the position before Ho-Pin Tung reclaimed it for the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca. The #13 Rebellion Oreca, which Mathias Beche improved to a 3m 26.811s, ended up fifth.

Manor's #24 Oreca will start sixth after Jean-Eric Vergne was unable to improve on the time he set early in Thursday's first session.

Aston on top in ultra-tight GTE fight

Last year's GTE Pro-class pole position time of 3m 51.185s only fell in the final half hour of the session as Richie Stanaway took the #95 Aston Martin round in 3m 51.038s, only to be supplanted by Darren Turner in the sister car with a 3m 50.837s.

James Calado managed to split the Astons with a 3m51.028s in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari during the final minutes, and might have improved again but for yellow flags as the chequered flag flew. Sam Bird was fourth in the sister #71 entry, just 0.048s off Stanaway.

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