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Le Mans 2017

Records fall in qualifying for Le Mans 2017

Toyota announced a strong statement of intent during qualifying on Thursday evening, as they locked out the front row of the grid and set a new circuit lap time in the process of claiming pole position. Porsche had to settle for the second row as the Japanese manufacturer grabbed the Le Mans 2017 headlines.

Toyota at Le Mans
The first qualifying session on Thursday evening was curtailed following an accident by the Eurasia Motorsport Ligier, that caused damage to the barriers. This meant all eyes were on the second and final qualifying session and the drivers didn’t disappoint in any of the classes. Kamui Kibayashi, at the wheel of the No.7 Toyota, was out early in the session and took full advantage. With a relatively clear track, new tyres & favourable breezes down the straight, the Japanese driver astonished everyone (possibly including himself) setting a new qualifying lap record (13:14.791) by more than two seconds. It was a quite remarkable lap that nobody else was able to get close to throughout the rest of the session. Porsche rallied and improved their times, but the new record was never really under threat as darkness fell at Le Mans.

G-Drive Racing at Le Mans
The new LMP2 cars have already proven to be extremely quick. In fact, they have been clocked faster than the LMP1 cars down parts of the Mulsanne straight. Lack of downforce elsewhere in the circuit means their fastest lap (3:25.549) was more than 10 seconds behind the LMP1 pole. Make no mistake though this is quick and some 7 seconds ahead of the previous LMP2 class record. With so many similar powered cars in LMP2 this class is going to be hugely difficult to predict, and all through qualifying the provisional pole kept changing hands. In the end, the fastest time in the class was set by the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca, with Alex Lynn getting the best from the car. Not far behind were the No. 25 CEFC Manor TDS Racing Oreca and the No. 38 Jackie Chan Racing Oreca. The Gibson powered Oreca appears to be the car to have this year.

Aston Martin Racing
Another close battle for pole took place in the LMGTE Pro class and another qualifying lap record fell in the final session. British driver Darren Turner brought the No. 97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage around in 3:50:837 to claim pole and cue the back slapping in the garage. There has been much criticism of the Balance of Performance regulations in this class, but judging from the qualification alone, they seem to have got most things right. Provisional pole changed a number of times throughout the session, with Ferrari, Corvette and Ford all having a shot at provisional pole. In the end it was the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari that pushed Aston Martin the most with James Calado, making it good evening for the Brits.

Larbre Competition
Not to be outdone the GTE AM battle was equally close and once again the qualifying lap record fell (3:52:843). This time however, it was the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette that took the honours and class pole for the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours. Fernando Rees was the driver to get the best from the Corvette, although he was pushed all the way by the No. 98 Aston Martin and the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.

As the chequered flag fell to signal the end of the session, all participating cars had set qualifying times less than 4 minutes (another record) indicating that the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017 will probably go down in the history books again once the race gets going this weekend. One not to miss!

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

Porsche set the pace in Le Mans qualifying

Porsche set the pace in Le Mans qualifying

Following a disrupted and damp last practice session, all cars took to the track for Wednesday night’s first qualifying session, keen to impress. With the weather forecast for Thursday’s two qualifying sessions uncertain, all the teams wanted to claim a provisional pole. Porsche managed to do this in some style and set a new qualifying record for this Le Mans circuit in the process.

porsche-qualy-500-2

With a strong performance, the three Porsche 919 Hybrids finished first, second and third in the first of three qualifying sessions for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The best overall lap time for the field of 56 cars was achieved by Neel Jani, who lapped the 13.629 kilometre long circuit in 3:16.887 minutes. The Swiss has now established a new qualifying record for the current track length by beating Peugeot’s pole position time from 2008 (3:18.513 min). Jani shares car number 18 with Romain Dumas (FR) and Marc Lieb (GER). Timo Bernhard (GER) achieved the second fastest time today, which was also good enough to beat the old record. Just like Jani, he was in the car as soon as qualifying began before his teammates Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AUS) took over the number 17 prototype later in the session. For the third trio, with the Le Mans rookies Earl Bamber (NZ) and Nico Hülkenberg (GER) sharing car number 19 with Nick Tandy (GB), it was the Britain who did their fastest lap with the around 1,000 HP hybrid race car in 3:19.297 minutes to come third.

The three Audi cars followed on from the Porsches, with the 2 Toyotas behind the Audis. The other factory team, Nissan, struggled for pace and were swallowed up by the LMP2 field.

porsche-qualy-500

Le Mans has three qualifying sessions that are held with each of them lasting for two hours. The best lap time achieved in these six hours is the one that decides each car’s grid position. Because the weather conditions are currently tending to be changeable, it is not clear what Wednesday’s time sheets from the dry session may be worth in terms of grid positions.

It is clear from this one session that Porsche have the quickest car at Le Mans in these conditions. The times set in qualifying may indeed be enough to secure pole position for Saturday’s race. However, Le Mans is an endurance race and not a sprint. Having the fastest car is not enough at Le Mans. You only have to look to last year’s result, where the Toyota qualified on pole, yet Audi secured the victory.

If nothing else, the results form the qualifying session on Wednesday show that the race is going to be another good one.

The second qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans will take place on Thursday from 19:00-21:00 hrs, with the third and final qualifying following in the dark from 22:00-24:00 hrs (local times).