Le Mans 24h: Toyota seals pole after Nakajima flyer

The #8 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso will start the Le Mans 24 Hours from pole as the Japanese manufacturer locked out the front row.

Nakajima, who had set the initial qualifying benchmark of 3m17.270s in Wednesday's first session, blitzed his previous best by close to two seconds with his first flying lap in the final part of qualifying on Thursday evening.

That effort was less than six tenths slower than Kamui Kobayashi's record 3m14.791s lap from 2017, which was set in far more favourable weather than the overcast and drizzly conditions that were a factor for much of the final part of qualifying.

"It was more or less at the maximum with no traffic, so I can't complain," said Nakajima. "The track conditions were much better than yesterday and the lap was more or less as we expected. I was pushing hard to try to beat [Kobayashi's] record, so maybe I could have done better in places."

Nakajima's lap and the failure of any driver in the #7 Toyota to improve on Kobayashi's fastest lap means the #8 he will share with Formula E frontrunner Buemi and two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso ended up securing pole by exactly two seconds.

Improvements from both Rebellions at the start of the final two-hour session looked to have secured the leading privateer outfit a second-row lockout, only for the faster #3 car to have its time removed.

Thomas Laurent set a time 0.875s slower than the second Toyota, but that lap was one of a number removed by officials after the session had ended as a result of Laurent missing the scrutineering light in the pitlane.

Stephane Sarrazin's 3m19.483s lap set in Wednesday's first qualifying session remained the #17 SMP car's fastest time, which was enough to split the two Rebellions after the #3's time was removed.

It also made it the fastest BR1 by 1.6s over the DragonSpeed entry that qualified sixth.

The #11 SMP car shared by Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin and 2009 F1 champion Jenson Button was a further three tenths back and will start seventh courtesy of Petrov's fastest time, ahead of the sole ByKolles entry.

#11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov, Jenson Button
#11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov, Jenson Button

Photo by: JEP / LAT Images

Tom Dillmann had set a lap below the 3m21s barrier on Wednesday evening that would have given the ENSO CLM P1/01-Nissan sixth on the grid, but that time was disallowed for excessive fuel consumption.

The two Manor Ginettas were ninth and 10th fastest on best times at the end of the session before the #5 car had its time removed for the same scrutineering infringement as the #3 Rebellion.

Alex Brundle had dragged the #6 car up to ninth in Thursday's earlier qualifying session, and the car eventually ended up with a fastest time of 3m23.757s that left it 8.380s off the ultimate pace and a little more than a second off the next slowest car.

Leo Roussel had hoisted the sister car just over a second behind the #6, but it the dropped to 14th in the classification behind four LMP2 cars when its fastest time was removed.

IDEC Sport keeps LMP2 pole

Paul-Loup Chatin claimed pole position in LMP2 for IDEC Sport after fellow Oreca entrant TDS Racing lost its best time for failing to stop at the scrutineering light.

Chatin's time of 3m24.842s had been shaded by 2013 event winner Loic Duval in the #28 TDS car, only for the stewards' intervention to bump the car he shared with Matthieu Vaxiviere and Francois Perrodo back to fourth.

Chatin also claimed a new record for the fastest-ever LMP2 lap of Le Mans, a little over half a second faster than last year's pole time set by Alex Lynn.

The 2014 European Le Mans Series champion shaved a tenth off his Wednesday benchmark in the session's opening runs, which proved enough to keep the IDEC car ahead of Nathanael Berthon's #31 DragonSpeed Oreca, also running on Michelins, by just 0.041s. 

#48 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson: Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin, Memo Rojas
#48 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson: Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin, Memo Rojas

Photo by: JEP / LAT Images

Jean-Eric Vergne also lapped under last year's pole time in the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca, but was only fourth quickest until the sister TDS car's time was wiped, promoting him to third, albeit a further three tenths behind Chatin in the best of the Dunlop-shod cars.

Duval's 3m25.240s from first qualifying on Wednesday was good enough for fourth, while the top five was completed by Will Stevens in the best of the Ligiers entered by Panis-Barthez Competition, another car running on Michelins.

The #47 Villorba Corse Dallara did not re-emerge after a suspension failure caused Giorgio Sernagiotto to crash heavily and bring out the red flags in qualifying two. 

Porsche 1-2 in GTE Pro

Porsche sealed pole in GTE Pro courtesy of Gianmaria Bruni’s 3m47.504s effort from Wednesday evening, which went unbeaten throughout Thursday’s two sessions.

The top three in class remained unchanged from first qualifying, with the #91 Porsche 911 RSR leading the sister #92 Manthey-run car and the best of the Ganassi-run Ford GTs, the #66.

Pole position GTE Pro: #91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni, Frédéric Makowiecki
Pole position GTE Pro: #91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni, Frédéric Makowiecki

Photo by: Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Alessandro Pier Guidi promoted the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo to fourth in the final session with a time of 3m49.494s, demoting the #68 Ford to fifth and denying the Blue Oval a lockout of the second row.

The best of the CORE autosport-run IMSA Porsches also improved in the hands of Patrick Pilet to take sixth, while Richard Westbrook lifted the #69 Ford up to seventh ahead of the #94 Porsche, which didn’t improve from Wednesday.

Completing the top 10 were the best of the Corvette C7.Rs, the #63 car of Antonio Garcia, and the second AF Corse Ferrari, whose best time was set by Sam Bird.

BMW’s pair of MTEK-run M8 GTEs slipped down to 12th and 13th places, while Aston Martin’s new Vantage GTEs failed to improve on their Wednesday times and will start 16th and 17th in class. 

Porsche locked out the top three places in GTE Am, with Matteo Cairoli’s lap from first qualifying in the #88 Dempsey-Proton car proving enough for class pole.

Ben Barker put the #86 Gulf Racing machine up to second with a time 0.663s shy of Cairoli and some six tenths up on the second of Dempsey-Proton cars.

The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari that had been third pre-session fell to fourth place, its best time having been set by ex-F1 star Giancarlo Fisichella in second qualifying.

Additional reporting by James Newbold

Flashback: Toyota's 2016 disaster

Qualifying results:

Cla#DriversCarClassTimeGap
1 8 spain Fernando Alonso 
japan Kazuki Nakajima 
switzerland Sébastien Buemi 
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 3'15.377  
2 7 japan Kamui Kobayashi 
united_kingdom Mike Conway 
argentina Jose Maria Lopez 
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 3'17.377 2.000
3 1 germany Andre Lotterer 
brazil Bruno Senna 
switzerland Neel Jani 
Rebellion R13 LMP1 3'19.449 4.072
4 17 france Stéphane Sarrazin 
russia Matevos Isaakyan 
russia Egor Orudzhev 
BR Engineering BR1 LMP1 3'19.483 4.106
5 3 switzerland Mathias Beche 
france Thomas Laurent 
united_states Gustavo Menezes 
Rebellion R13 LMP1 3'19.945 4.568
6 10 sweden Henrik Hedman 
netherlands Renger van der Zande 
united_kingdom Ben Hanley 
BR Engineering BR1 LMP1 3'21.110 5.733
7 11 united_kingdom Jenson Button 
russia Vitaly Petrov 
russia Mikhail Aleshin 
BR Engineering BR1 LMP1 3'21.408 6.031
8 4 united_kingdom Oliver Webb 
austria Dominik Kraihamer 
france Tom Dillmann 
ENSO CLM P1/01 LMP1 3'22.505 7.128
9 6 united_kingdom Oliver Turvey 
united_kingdom Alex Brundle 
united_kingdom Oliver Rowland 
Ginetta G60-LT-P1 LMP1 3'23.757 8.380
10 48 france Paul-Loup Chatin 
mexico Memo Rojas 
france Paul Lafargue 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'24.842 9.465
11 31 venezuela Pastor Maldonado 
france Nathanael Berthon 
mexico Roberto Gonzalez 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'24.883 9.506
12 26 france Jean-Eric Vergne 
russia Roman Rusinov 
france Andrea Pizzitola 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'25.160 9.783
13 28 france Loic Duval 
france François Perrodo 
france Matthieu Vaxiviere 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'25.240 9.863
14 5 france Leo Roussel 
united_kingdom Mike Simpson 
united_kingdom Charlie Robertson 
Ginetta G60-LT-P1 LMP1 3'25.268 9.891
15 23 united_kingdom Will Stevens 
france Julien Canal 
france Timothé Buret 
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 3'25.376 9.999
16 36 france Nicolas Lapierre 
france Pierre Thiriet 
brazil Andre Negrao 
Alpine A470 LMP2 3'26.681 11.304
17 39 france Vincent Capillaire 
france Tristan Gommendy 
switzerland Jonathan Hirschi 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'26.701 11.324
18 22 united_kingdom Paul di Resta 
portugal Filipe Albuquerque 
united_kingdom Philip Hanson 
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 3'26.772 11.395
19 38 china Ho-Pin Tung 
monaco Stéphane Richelmi 
france Gabriel Aubry 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'27.120 11.743
20 37 malaysia Nabil Jeffri 
malaysia Weiron Tan 
malaysia Jazeman Jaafar 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'27.226 11.849
21 40 mexico Jose Gutierrez 
france Enzo Guibbert 
australia James Allen 
Oreca 07 LMP2 3'27.280 11.903
22 47 brazil Felipe Nasr 
italy Roberto Lacorte 
italy Giorgio Sernagiotto 
Dallara P217 LMP2 3'27.993 12.616
23 29 netherlands Jan Lammers 
netherlands Giedo van der Garde 
netherlands Frits van Eerd 
Dallara P217 LMP2 3'28.111 12.734
24 32 colombia Juan Pablo Montoya 
united_states  William Owen 
switzerland Hugo De Sadeleer 
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 3'28.159 12.782
25 35 russia Viktor Shaytar 
france Norman Nato 
united_kingdom Harrison Newey 
Dallara P217 LMP2 3'28.629 13.252
26 34 denmark David Heinemeier Hansson 
united_states Ricky Taylor 
france Côme Ledogar 
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 3'29.474 14.097
27 44 italy Andrea Bertolini 
united_states Tracy Krohn 
sweden Nic Jönsson 
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 3'33.585 18.208
28 33 china David Cheng 
united_states Nicholas Boulle 
france Pierre Nicolet 
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 3'35.237 19.860
29 50 france Thomas Dagoneau 
france Romano Ricci 
france Erwin Creed 
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 3'38.206 22.829
30 25 united_states Mark Patterson 
korea_republic_of Tacksung Kim 
netherlands Ate de Jong 
Ligier JSP 217 LMP2 3'39.518 24.141
31 91 italy Gianmaria Bruni 
austria Richard Lietz 
france Frédéric Makowiecki 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 3'47.504 32.127
32 92 denmark Michael Christensen 
france Kevin Estre 
belgium Laurens Vanthoor 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 3'49.097 33.720
33 66 germany Stefan Mücke 
france Olivier Pla 
united_states Billy Johnson 
Ford GT LMGTE PRO 3'49.181 33.804
34 51 united_kingdom James Calado 
italy Alessandro Pier Guidi 
brazil Daniel Serra 
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 3'49.494 34.117
35 68 france Sébastien Bourdais 
united_states Joey Hand 
germany Dirk Müller 
Ford GT LMGTE PRO 3'49.582 34.205
36 93 united_kingdom Nick Tandy 
france Patrick Pilet 
new_zealand Earl Bamber 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 3'49.589 34.212
37 69 australia Ryan Briscoe 
new_zealand Scott Dixon 
united_kingdom Richard Westbrook 
Ford GT LMGTE PRO 3'49.761 34.384
38 94 france Romain Dumas 
germany Timo Bernhard 
germany Sven Muller 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE PRO 3'50.089 34.712
39 63 denmark Jan Magnussen 
spain Antonio Garcia 
germany Mike Rockenfeller 
Chevrolet Corvette C7R LMGTE PRO 3'50.242 34.865
40 71 united_kingdom Sam Bird 
italy Davide Rigon 
spain Miguel Molina 
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 3'50.246 34.869
41 67 united_kingdom Harry Tincknell 
brazil Tony Kanaan 
guernsey Andy Priaulx 
Ford GT LMGTE PRO 3'50.429 35.052
42 82 portugal Antonio Felix da Costa 
brazil Augusto Farfus 
united_kingdom Alexander Sims 
BMW M8 GTE LMGTE PRO 3'50.579 35.202
43 81 netherlands Nick Catsburg 
germany Martin Tomczyk 
austria Philipp Eng 
BMW M8 GTE LMGTE PRO 3'50.596 35.219
44 88 united_arab_emirates Khaled Al Qubaisi 
italy Matteo Cairoli 
italy Giorgio Roda 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 3'50.728 35.351
45 64 switzerland Marcel Fassler 
united_kingdom Oliver Gavin 
united_states Tommy Milner 
Chevrolet Corvette C7R LMGTE PRO 3'50.952 35.575
46 52 brazil Pipo Derani 
finland Toni Vilander 
italy Antonio Giovinazzi 
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 3'50.957 35.580
47 86 united_kingdom Michael Wainwright 
united_kingdom Ben Barker 
australia Alex Davison 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 3'51.391 36.014
48 77 germany Christian Ried 
australia Matt Campbell 
france  Julien Andlauer 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 3'51.930 36.553
49 54 italy Giancarlo Fisichella 
italy Francesco Castellacci 
switzerland Thomas Flohr 
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 3'51.956 36.579
50 97 united_kingdom Jonathan Adam 
belgium Maxime Martin 
united_kingdom Alex Lynn 
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE PRO 3'52.486 37.109
51 56 germany Jörg Bergmeister 
united_states Patrick Lindsey 
norway Egidio Perfetti 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 3'52.985 37.608
52 90 turkey Salih Yoluc 
united_kingdom Euan Hankey 
ireland Charlie Eastwood 
Aston Martin Vantage LMGTE AM 3'53.070 37.693
53 80 france Erik Maris 
denmark Christina Nielsen 
italy Fabio Babini 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 3'53.402 38.025
54 61 ireland Matt Griffin 
singapore Mok Weng Sun 
japan Keita Sawa 
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 3'53.409 38.032
55 84 united_states Jeff Segal 
united_kingdom Liam Griffin 
united_states Cooper MacNeil 
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 3'53.439 38.062
56 95 denmark Marco Sorensen 
denmark Nicki Thiim 
united_kingdom Darren Turner 
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE PRO 3'53.523 38.146
57 98 portugal Pedro Lamy 
canada Paul Dalla Lana 
austria Mathias Lauda 
Aston Martin Vantage LMGTE AM 3'53.817 38.440
58 85 netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen 
united_states Ben Keating 
germany Luca Stolz 
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 3'54.000 38.623
59 99 united_states Patrick Long 
united_states Tim Pappas 
united_states Spencer Pumpelly 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 3'54.720 39.343
60 70 monaco Olivier Beretta 
japan Motoaki Ishikawa 
italy  Eddie Cheever III 
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE AM 3'54.951 39.574
Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Le Mans
Event 24 Hours of Le Mans
Track Circuit de la Sarthe
Drivers Kazuki Nakajima
Teams Toyota Racing
Article type Qualifying report