Le Mans 2014: Thursday wrap-up

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Below is a summary of all that took place at Le Mans Thursday.

Thursday was qualifying day at Le Mans. 54 teams battled for pole position in four separate classes. In case you missed it or just want a refresher, here is a rundown of everything that went down.

The day kicked off with some interesting news. Lotus unveiled their brand new LMP1-L machine.

Lotus T129 LMP1 presentation: Pierre Kaffer, Christophe Bouchut and Christijan Albers unveil the new Lotus T129 LMP1
Lotus T129 LMP1 presentation: Pierre Kaffer, Christophe Bouchut and Christijan Albers unveil the new Lotus T129 LMP1

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Lotus T129 LMP1 presentation: the new Lotus T129 LMP1
Lotus T129 LMP1 presentation: the new Lotus T129 LMP1

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Lotus T129 LMP1 presentation: the new Lotus T129 LMP1
Lotus T129 LMP1 presentation: the new Lotus T129 LMP1

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Porsche went into the second round of qualifying 1-2, but they would not stay there. Kazuki Nakajima put down a time of three minutes and 22.589 seconds with just a minute remaining, taking over the top spot.

No. 1 machine returned to the track after a tireless night of work from the Audi crew. Lucas Di Grassi took the machine out for an installation lap, which went smoothly. Unfortunately, that would just about be the only thing that went smoothly for the No. 1 in the session. As Di Grassi made another run, he got up on the curb while exiting Indianapolis and crashed. Yes, the No. 1 Audi crashed again. The car careened nose-first into the armco, but luckily, only suffered cosmetic damage.

Crash for #1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene, Tom Kristensen
Crash for #1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene, Tom Kristensen

Photo by: Patrick Payany

Crash for #1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene, Tom Kristensen
Crash for #1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene, Tom Kristensen

Photo by: Patrick Payany

Crash for #1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene, Tom Kristensen
Crash for #1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene, Tom Kristensen

Photo by: Patrick Payany

The dramas didn't end there however. As the No. 29 Pegasus Morgan-Nissan attempted to pass Di Grassi as he returned his wounded Audi to the pits, disaster struck. The Morgan-Nissan clipped the grass and lost control when he tried to avoid the Audi, which was driving somewhat erratically. It was a massive shunt, but driver Leo Roussel was okay. Both drivers were called to race control as a result of the incident. The Audi team was able to quickly repair the car, with the damage being cosmetic only. A video of the accident can be seen below.


On a happier note, this is a fairly cool photo, showing Loic Duval's name has not been removed from the Audi paddock. His name remains on the car as well.

Pit sign for #1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro
Pit sign for #1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

The driver of the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari, James Calado, was involved in a heavy crash at the Porsche Curves. That's the same corner that ended Craft-Bamboo's Le Mans bid on Wednesday and where the Loic Duval went airborne in the Audi, Calado taken to the hospital, suffering a concussion in the crash. Pierre Kaffer will replace him in the car. Also, the team rebuilt the Ferrari with a new chassis.

He was not the only driver told he can't race this weekend after an accident. Bret Curtis had a major impact in the final session of the day, driving the No. 79 ProSpeed Porsche. The American will join Calado on the sidelines, but the ACO has decided to to approve his replacement driver, Sebastien Crubilé. That leaves ProSpeed with the first two-man roster at Le Mans since 2009. They're being forced to switch from GTE Am to GTE Pro as a result of the smaller lineup too.

The final round of qualifying ended in a very anticlimactic manner due to an accident by Karun Chandhok in the No. 48 Murphy Oreca-Nissan, prompting 'slow zones' to be established at that section of the track. In the end, it was the No. 7 car that gave Toyota's its first pole at Le Mans since 1999. Driver Kazuki Nakajima makes history as the first Japanese racer to ever earn pole in the race's 91 year history.

The winning lap time ended up being three minutes and 21.789 seconds. The No. 14 Porsche placed second, the No. 8 Toyota third, and the No. 20 Porsche fourth. Audi will start behind all of their main rivals, placing fifth (No. 2), sixth (No. 3), and seventh (No. 1) on the grid. That's Audi's worst showing in qualifying since 2010, where all three cars qualified int hose exact positions. They won pole in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Pole winners Kazuki Nakajima celebrates
Pole winners Kazuki Nakajima celebrates

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Pole winner Kazuki Nakajima celebrates with teammates Stéphane Sarrazin and Alexander Wurz
Pole winner Kazuki Nakajima celebrates with teammates Stéphane Sarrazin and Alexander Wurz

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Pole winner Kazuki Nakajima celebrates with teammate Alexander Wurz
Pole winner Kazuki Nakajima celebrates with teammate Alexander Wurz

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Tristan Gommendy in the Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan earned pole honors in the LMP2 category. AF Corse swept the GTE classes with Gianmaria Bruni in No. 51 Ferrari earning the honor in GTE Pro and the No. 81 Ferrari of Sam Bird following suit in GTE Am. It's also interesting to note that all four class poles were faster than last year's race.

The Nissan ZEOD qualified 26th, beating the leading GTE car by 3.5 seconds, but falling approximately 6.7 seconds short of the last-place LMP2 prototype.

Afterwards, the ACO revealed that a number of cars are under investigation for speeding in 'slow zones.'

To see detailed reports from Thursday's action, check out all the links below.

Kazuki Nakajima on pole for Le Mans...Full Qualifying Results Included

Video Qualifying Highlights

Second Qualifying Session Recap

James Calado Suffers Concussion

Bret Curtis To Miss Le Mans

Motorsport.com Complete Le Mans Video Gallery

Motorsport.com Complete Le Mans Photo Gallery

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Series LEMANS
Event 24 Hours of Le Mans
Article type Special feature
Tags le mans, qualifying

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