Le Mans 24h: Kobayashi smashes lap record in second qualifying

Kamui Kobayashi ensured Toyota remains on provisional pole for the Le Mans 24 Hours with a sensational record-breaking lap during Thursday's second qualifying session.

Le Mans 24h: Kobayashi smashes lap record in second qualifying
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Stéphane Sarrazin
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Stéphane Sarrazin
#25 CEFC Manor Oreca 07 Gibson: Roberto Gonzalez, Simon Trummer, Vitaly Petrov
#84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE: Robert Smith, Will Stevens, Dries Vanthoor
#90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey, Rob Bell
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy
#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage: Darren Turner, Jonathan Adam, Daniel Serra
#9 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid: Jose Maria Lopez, Yuji Kunimoto, Nicolas Lapierre
Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota Gazoo Racing

The Japanese driver’s 3m14.791s flyer came on his first lap out of the pits after a red flag period, helped by the ex-Formula 1 star encountering zero traffic.

It puts the #7 TS050 Hybrid he shares with Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin on provisional pole by a full 2.468s from the #1 Porsche, and was 2.096s up on the 2015 lap record of Neel Jani on the current configuration of the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Conway had already beaten Kobayashi’s Wednesday benchmark on his first run, producing a 3m18.651s – which stood as the fastest time when the session was stopped after 17 minutes due to a crash for Erik Maris’s #33 Ligier at the first Mulsanne chicane.

It took around 50 minutes for the session to resume after lengthy barrier repairs, shortly after which Kobayashi posted his 3m14s tour at an average speed of 251.9 km/h.

Jani’s 3m17.259s put the #1 Porsche nearly 2.5 seconds in arrears of the leading Toyota, while a 3m18.067s for Timo Bernhard in the sister #2 919 Hybrid was enough for third.

The #8 Toyota failed to turn a timed lap in second qualifying, Sebastien Buemi forced to crawl back to the pits after stopping early in the session with an oil supply issue.

Toyota changed the car’s engine as a precaution, and Buemi was able to return to the track just before the session was red-flagged for a second time with 10 minutes to go after a crash for Timothe Buret in the #23 Ligier at the Porsche Curves.

The #8 crew remains fourth in the provisional classification on the strength of its Wednesday time.

Fifth was the #9 Toyota thanks to a 3m19.889s lap from Le Mans rookie Yuji Kunimoto, which put the Japanese driver five seconds behind compatriot Kobayashi. 

ByKolles was seventh overall behind the best of the LMP2 cars, with Dominik Kraihamer setting the #4 ENSO CLM’s best time, a 3m26.026s.

Petrov takes top LMP2 spot for Manor

Former Renault F1 driver Vitaly Petrov earned the #25 Manor Oreca provisional pole position in the LMP2 class with a lap of 3m25.549s.

The #28 TDS Oreca of Matthieu Vaxiviere started the session on top, having set the pace on Wednesday night, but early in the session Thomas Laurent put the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car fastest with a lap of 3m26.776s.

That was during the brief blast of running before the red flag, but soon after the track re-opened Petrov put in his time to secure top spot – outpacing the LMP1 ByKolles in the process with the fastest-ever LMP2 lap at Le Mans.

The #38 Oreca held onto second place, with the #24 Manor Oreca of Jean-Eric Vergne also improving on Wednesday's time to take third shortly after the restart.

Eighth overnight, the #13 Rebellion Oreca jumped to fourth with Mathias Beche at the wheel, ahead of the sister #31 car that Bruno Senna improved in shortly before the session was brought to a premature close.

The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca ended up sixth thanks to Alex Brundle following an overnight engine change, a result of the oil pressure problem that curtailed its running on Wednesday night.

Seventh was the #26 G-Drive car, with Roman Rusinov at the wheel, followed by the #36 Signatech Alpine of Gustavo Menezes.

Vaxiviere was at the wheel of the #28 TDS Oreca when the session was stopped for the final time, but did not have the chance to improve and ended up shuffled down to 11th.

The best non-Oreca was the #48 Villorba Corse Dallara in 13th, one place up on the best-placed Ligier, the #45 Algarve Pro Racing entry.

Le Mans rookie and ex-Ferrari F1 ace Rubens Barrichello was 19th in the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara.

Aston stays on top in GTE

Only two GTE Pro cars beat Marco Sorensen’s fastest lap in the #95 AMR Aston Martin from Wednesday, and the fastest of them was the sister #97 car shared by Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra.

Adam set that car’s flying lap of 3m51.860s shortly after the green flag, while James Calado slotted the #51 AF Corse Ferrari into second with a 3m52.087s just before the second red flag.

None of the #95 car’s drivers improved on its fastest time of 3m52.117 from the first qualifying session, so it remained third.

The #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari, which had its times struck off for a parc ferme infraction after first qualifying, ended up fourth thanks to a 3m52.138s by Giancarlo Fisichella.

Will Stevens took provisional GTE Am pole with a late 3m53.981s in the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, overturning the previous best of 3m54.456s set by Mathias Lauda in the #98 Aston.

Euan Hankey also demoted the works Vantage, slotting into second place in the TF Sport-run Vantage with a 3m54.319s.

Qualifying results (top 10):

Pos.#DriversCarClassTimeGap
1 7 france Stéphane Sarrazin 
japan Kamui Kobayashi 
united_kingdom Mike Conway 
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 3'14.791  
2 1 germany Andre Lotterer 
switzerland Neel Jani 
united_kingdom Nick Tandy 
Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 3'17.259 2.468
3 2 germany Timo Bernhard 
new_zealand Brendon Hartley 
new_zealand Earl Bamber 
Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 3'18.067 3.276
4 8 united_kingdom Anthony Davidson 
japan Kazuki Nakajima 
switzerland Sébastien Buemi 
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 3'19.431 4.640
5 9 france Nicolas Lapierre 
argentina Jose Maria Lopez 
japan Yuji Kunimoto 
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 3'19.889 5.098
6 25 russia Vitaly Petrov 
switzerland Simon Trummer 
mexico Roberto Gonzalez 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'25.549 10.758
7 4 italy Marco Bonanomi 
united_kingdom Oliver Webb 
austria Dominik Kraihamer 
ENSO CLM P1/01 LMP1 3'26.026 11.235
8 38 united_kingdom Oliver Jarvis 
china Ho-Pin Tung 
france Thomas Laurent 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'26.776 11.985
9 24 france Jean-Eric Vergne 
switzerland Jonathan Hirschi 
thailand Tor Graves 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'26.871 12.080
10 13 brazil Nelson Piquet Jr. 
denmark David Heinemeier Hansson
switzerland Mathias Beche 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'27.021 12.230

Click HERE for full session results.

Additional reporting by Stuart Codling

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