Nakajima puts Alonso’s Toyota on provisional pole

Kazuki Nakajima put the #8 Toyota on provisional pole
Kazuki Nakajima put the #8 Toyota on provisional pole

In tonight’s first qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Kazuki Nakajima laid down a marker by setting the fastest lap to claim provisional pole position for the race to be run this weekend (16/17 June).

The Japanese driver, in the No.8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID which he shares with Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi, set the time of 3:17:270 in the opening ten minutes of the two-hour session and the time was not bettered throughout the evening.

It was not just a Toyota Gazoo Racing 1-2 at the close, but also a Japanese 1-2 as Kamui Kobayashi was close behind with a lap of 3:17.337 in the sister No.7 car.

SMP Racing offered the closest challenge through Stephane Sarrazin’s 3:19.483 in the No.17 BR Engineering BR1-AER, while the No.1 Rebellion R13 Gibson ended up in 4th place with a time of 3:19.662 courtesy of Bruno Senna.

In LMP2, Paul-Loup Chatin set the fastest lap in the IDEC Sport ORECA 07 Gibson, and just 0.284s behind was the TDS Racing ORECA of Loic Duval – the chassis manufacturer once again filling the first four places in the time sheets.

G-Drive Racing was 3rd and DragonSpeed 4th thanks to the Jean-Eric Vergne and Pastor Maldonado respectively.

Porsche dominate LMGTE classes

#91 Porsche fastest in GTE-Pro
#91 Porsche fastest in GTE-Pro

Porsche GT Team’s Gianmaria Bruni was at his very best tonight, in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans for the German manufacturer. His lap of 3:47.504 in the No.91 Porsche 911 RSR was a full 1.5s ahead of his teammate in the No.92, Michael Christensen, thus giving Porsche a 1-2 in the LMGTE Pro class.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing took the second row of the provisional grid, with Olivier Pla in the No.66 edging out Dirk Muller in the No.68 with a lap of 3:51.498. The best Ferrari lap came courtesy of current World GT Champion James Calado in the No.51 488 GTE to place him 5th ahead of another two Porsche 911 RSRs and a third Ford.

BMW, Corvette and Aston Martin were unable to demonstrate the same pace at the Porsches and Fords tonight, but there are another two further qualifying sessions due to be held tomorrow and all to play for.

Corvette Racing went as fast as it ever has in the GTE Pro category around the Circuit de la Sarthe on Wednesday in the first of three qualifying sessions for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Both Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs dipped into the 3:50 bracket and averaged more than 131 mph around the 8.47-mile track.

Antonio Garcia led the way Wednesday in the No. 63 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R with a lap of 3:50.789 (132.041 mph) to rank 11th of 17 GTE Pro entries after the week’s initial two-hour time trial session. He and Jan Magnussen placed third in last year’s GTE Pro race, and they will try for victory this year with Mike Rockenfeller.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Not far behind Garcia was Tommy Milner in the No. 64 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette C7.R at 3:50.952 (131.979 mph). He, Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fässler are teaming at Le Mans for the second year in a row and have a 24-hour victory to their credit – the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Wednesday’s qualifying results bore out what Corvette Racing already knew – that this year’s fight in GTE Pro would be the team’s most difficult in its 19-year run at Le Mans. So close is the battle among the six manufacturers in the category that an improvement of one second in Thursday’s two sessions could move the Corvettes to the third row of the GTE Pro grid.

Qualifying concludes Thursday with a pair of two-hour sessions – 7 to 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight CET.

Porsche also led the way in LMGTE Am with a provisional front row lock out for Dempsey-Proton Racing.

Italian Matteo Cairoli set a blistering pace in the 911 RSR, under the watchful eyes of team owner Patrick Dempsey, with a lap of 3:50.728. Also on the pace was Australian driver Matt Campbell in the No.77 sister car from the Christian Ried-run team.

Third in class was Ben Barker in the No.86 Gulf Racing Porsche, making it an excellent day for the manufacturer celebrating its 70th anniversary.
The second Qualifying session is scheduled to start at 19h00 tomorrow (Thursday) and will last two hours.

The third and final session will run from 22h00 to midnight.

All times can be found HERE

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