|Darkness falling on the long Mulsanne Straight|
Neel Jani has easily set a new lap record of 3:16.887 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Wednesday's first two-hour qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to score the provisional pole in the session that may well set the grid for this weekend's race.
The previous mark had been a 3:18.513 by Stephane Sarrazin set in 2008, with a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, while last year’s pole time was a 3:21.789 by Kazuki Nakajima in the Toyota TS040 Hybrid.
Evening sun greeted the start of the two-hour qualifying as 14 LMP1 cars in a grid of 56 fought for pole position, which is awarded to the fastest single lap time from any of the three qualifying sessions.
The contest was interrupted at half distance by a red flag, reducing running time by around half an hour as safety barriers were repaired following an accident.
Conditions were ideal for drivers and cars to set their best laps in cooling temperatures and a dry track.
It didn’t take long for the lap record to fall, as first Timo Bernhard and then Neel Jani immediately blitzed Sarrazin’s previous mark.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Bernhard took the red No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid to 3:17.767 to open the session, with Jani blowing past him by a further eight tenths on his first flying lap, at 3:16.887 in the black No. 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid.
It put the two Porsches on the front row from the off, with Nick Tandy bringing the third Porsche into the top three 25 minutes into the session after his first flying lap of 3:19.297.
The three Audis were next, with Loic Duval best of the three Audi R18 e-tron quattros in fourth place at 1:19.866 in the No. 8 car. The Nos. 9 and 7 Audis were fifth and sixth.
Benoit Treluyer had an incident just shy of the one-hour mark in the No. 7 Audi, following a spin on corner exit in the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight.
With the emphasis firmly on set-up development and tire evaluation over long stints rather than qualifying position, both Toyota TS040 HYBRIDs continued the constructive work started at last month’s official test day.
The #2 Toyota of Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway was the fastest TS040 HYBRID and earned provisional seventh on the grid, with the #1 of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in eighth.
Another Frenchman, in the form of race debutante Gaetan Paletou in the No. 41 Greaves Motorsport Gibson 015S Nissan, had an incident at Mulsanne corner at the end of the straight.
Paletou’s incident brought out the first and only red flag of the session with an hour and one minute remaining, and lasted until 11:25 p.m. A notice from the stewards was released that read, “Due to local law, session must end at midnight 24:00."
Toyota was unable to better a 3:23.543 in the session, with the No. 2 Toyota TS040 Hybrid driven by Stephane Sarrazin, Alexander Wurz and Mike Conway ending in seventh.
The fastest of the debuting Rebellion R-One AERs got into the 3:26 range, with the No. 12 car at 3:26.874, while the best Nissan, the No. 23 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO, posted a best time of 3:38.468.
Richard Bradley set the early mark in LMP2 with the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan at 3:38.032, and his lap was not eclipsed for the rest of the session. Bradley shares the car with Matthew Howson and Nicolas Lapierre.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]The pair of Gibson 015S Nissans were second and third in class, with the No. 41 Greaves car ahead of the No. 38 Jota Sport car. The fastest of the Ligier JS P2 Nissans was the No. 26 G-Drive Racing entry in fourth.
Aston Martin swept the GTE classes, with Richie Stanaway and Pedro Lamy quickest in GTE-Pro and GTE-Am, respectively.
Stanaway took the No. 99 Hanergy-backed Aston Martin Vantage V8 to the overall best time in GTE with a 3:54.928, and Lamy was only 0.174 of a second behind at 3:55.102 in one of the three Gulf-liveried cars, the No. 98 Aston Martin.
The defending Le Mans-winning No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia was second in GTE-Pro, ahead of the two remaining Aston Martins and No. 63 Corvette C7.R.
Two further qualifying sessions follow on Thursday, from 7 to 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. local time.
First Qualifying Results
|1||LMP1||Neel Jani||Porsche Team||Porsche||3m16.887s|
|2||LMP1||T.Bernhard, M.Webber, B.Hartley||Porsche Team||Porsche||3m17.767s|
|3||LMP1||N.Hulkenberg, E.Bamber, N.Tandy||Porsche Team||Porsche||3m19.297s|
|4||LMP1||L.di Grassi, L.Duval, O.Jarvis||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi||3m19.866s|
|5||LMP1||F.Albuquerque, M.Bonanomi, R.Rast||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi||3m21.081s|
|6||LMP1||M.Fassler, A.Lotterer, B.Treluyer||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi||3m21.839s|
|7||LMP1||A.Wurz, S.Sarrazin, M.Conway||Toyota Racing||Toyota||3m23.543s|
|8||LMP1||A.Davidson, S.Buemi, K.Nakajima||Toyota Racing||Toyota||3m23.767s|
|9||LMP1||N.Prost, M.Beche, N.Heidfeld||Rebellion Racing||Rebellion/AER||3m26.874s|
|10||LMP1||A.Imperatori, D.Kraihamer, D.Abt||Rebellion Racing||Rebellion/AER||3m31.933s|
|11||LMP2||M.Howson, R.Bradley, N.Lapierre||KCMG||ORECA/Nissan||3m38.032s|
|12||LMP1||O.Pla, J.Mardenborough, M.Chilton||Nissan Motorsports||Nissan||3m38.468s|
|13||LMP2||G.Hirsch, G.Paletou, J.Lancaster||Greaves Motorsport||Gibson/Nissan||3m38.958s|
|14||LMP2||S.Dolan, M.Evans, O.Turvey||JOTA||Gibson/Nissan||3m39.004s|
|15||LMP2||R.Rusinov, J.Canal, S.Bird||G-Drive Racing||Ligier/Nissan||3m39.867s|
|16||LMP2||P.Thiriet, T.Gommendy, L.Badey||Thiriet by TDS Racing||ORECA/Nissan||3m39.923s|
|17||LMP2||C.Cumming, L.Vanthoor, K.Estre||Oak Racing||Ligier/HPD||3m40.058s|
|18||LMP1||S.Trummer, P.Kaffer, T.Monteiro||Team ByKolles||CLM/AER||3m40.368s|
|19||LMP2||N.Panciatici, P-L.Chatin, V.Capillaire||Signatech Alpine||Alpine/Nissan||3m40.438s|
|20||LMP2||G.Yacaman, L.Derani, R.Gonzalez||G-Drive Racing||Ligier/Nissan||3m40.967s|
|21||LMP1||H.Tincknell, M.Krumm, A.Buncombe||Nissan Motorsports||Nissan||3m41.400s|
|22||LMP2||P.Ragues, O.Webb, Z.Amberg||Team SARD Morand||Morgan/SARD||3m42.015s|
|23||LMP2||L.Roussel, D.Cheng, H-Pin Tung||Pegasus Racing||Morgan/Nissan||3m42.023s|
|24||LMP2||M.Mediani, D.Markozov, N.Minassian||SMP Racing||BR Engineering/Nissan||3m42.077s|
|25||LMP2||N.Leventis, D.Watts, J.Kane||Strakka Racing||Dome/Nissan||3m42.237s|
|26||LMP2||M.Aleshin, K.Ladygin, A.Ladygin||SMP Racing||BR Engineering/Nissan||3m42.417s|
|27||LMP2||K.Chandhok, M.Patterson, N.Berthon||Murphy Prototypes||ORECA/Nissan||3m44.513s|
|28||LMP2||S.Sharp, R.Dalziel, D.Hansson||Extreme Speed Motorsports||Ligier/HPD||3m44.675s|
|29||LMP2||T.Krohn, N.Jonsson, J.Barbosa||Krohn Racing||Ligier/Judd||3m44.899s|
|30||LMP2||P.Perret, I.Bellarosa, J.Ibanez||Ibanez Racing||ORECA/Nissan||3m45.350s|
|31||LMP1||T.Matsuda, M.Shulzhitskiy, L.Ordonez||Nissan Motorsports||Nissan||3m45.807s|
|32||LMP2||E.Brown, J.van Overbeek, J.Fogarty||Extreme Speed Motorsports||Ligier/HPD||3m46.165s|
|33||LMP2||J.Nicolet, J-M.Merlin, E.Maris||Oak Racing||Ligier/HPD||3m52.843s|
|34||GTE Pro||F.Rees, A.MacDowall, R.Stanaway||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin||3m54.928s|
|35||GTE Am||P.D.Lana, P.Lamy, M.Lauda||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin||3m55.102s|
|36||GTE Pro||G.Bruni, T.Vilander, G.Fisichella||AF Corse||Ferrari||3m55.306s|
|37||GTE Pro||D.Turner, S.Mucke, R.Bell||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin||3m55.466s|
|38||GTE Pro||M.Sorensen, C.Nygaard, N.Thiim||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin||3m55.783s|
|39||GTE Pro||J.Magnussen, A.Garcia, R.Briscoe||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet||3m55.963s|
|40||GTE Am||F.Perrodo, E.Collard, R.Aguas||AF Corse||Ferrari||3m56.723s|
|41||GTE Pro||O.Gavin, T.Milner, J.Taylor||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet||3m57.081s|
|42||GTE Pro||R.Lietz, M.Christensen, J.Bergmeister||Porsche Team Manthey||Porsche||3m57.192s|
|43||GTE Pro||D.Rigon, J.Calado, O.Beretta||AF Corse||Ferrari||3m57.216s|
|44||GTE Am||V.Shaitar, A.Bertolini, A.Basov||SMP Racing||Ferrari||3m57.271s|
|45||GTE Pro||P.Pilet, F.Makowiecki, W.Henzler||Porsche Team Manthey||Porsche||3m57.667s|
|46||GTE Am||C.Ried, K.Al Qubaisi, K.Bachler||Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing||Porsche||3m58.259s|
|47||GTE Am||P.Mann, R.Giammaria, M.Cressoni||AF Corse||Ferrari||3m58.478s|
|48||GTE Am||P.Dempsey, P.Long, M.Seefried||Dempsey Racing – Proton||Porsche||3m58.822s|
|49||GTE Am||B.Sweedler, T.Bell, J.Segal||Scuderia Corsa||Ferrari||3m58.946s|
|50||GTE Am||J.Bleekemolen, B.Keating, M.Miller||Riley Motorsports-Ti Auto||SRT/Dodge||3m59.054s|
|51||GTE Am||D.Cameron, M.Griffin, A.Mortimer||AF Corse||Ferrari||3m59.091s|
|52||GTE Am||G.Roda, P.Ruberti, K.Poulsen||Larbre Competition||Chevrolet||3m59.522s|
|53||GTE Am||A.Al Faisal, K.Giermaziak, M.Avenatti||JMW Motorsport||Ferrari||4m00.551s|
|54||GTE Am||R.Goethe, S.Hall, F.Castellacci||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin||4m01.160s|
|55||GTE Am||H.C.Chen, G.Vannelet, M.Parisy||Team AAI||Porsche||4m03.117s|
|56||GTE Am||J.San Chen, A.Kapadia, X.Maassen||Team AAI||Porsche||4m04.827s|