Toyota, Porsche ante up in second Le Mans qualifying
With two thirds of qualifying now complete at Le Mans, Toyota looks poised to take pole, its TS050 HYBRIDs provisionally sitting first and second in the times.
The improvements for the Japanese marque came quickly. The Wednesday night pace-setter, the No. 7, topped the times early in the session with a 3m15.497s from Kamui Kobayashi, who went a tenth slower than last year’s pole time (3m15.37s).
Second was taken by the No. 8 Toyota, which improved its time by almost four seconds from last night, with a 3m15.908s from Kazuki Nakajima, moving the car up LMP1 ranks from fourth place on Wednesday night.
The No. 11 SMP Racing BR1 AER ended up slotting in third. The Russian prototype was another car to improve, Mikhail Aleshin setting a 3m16.953s, by far the fastest LMP1 privateer lap of the week. Rebellion Racing’s No. 1 ended up fourth, with the No. 17 SMP Racing BR1 fifth.
LMP2 was once again topped by DragonSpeed’s No. 31 ORECA 07 Gibson, but with an improved time of 3m26.490s by Pastor Maldonado. The No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA, which is fighting for the FIA WEC LMP2 title this weekend, moved up to second, thanks to a 3m26.821s from Ho Pin Tung.
In addition to improving the team’s provisional grid slot, Tung also marked improvement for Dunlop. After Michelin dominated the top of the class yesterday, he put the constructor provisionally on the front row.
Signatech Alpine ended up completing the top three, with the TDS Racing ORECA fourth.
The first of the other chassis in the class ended up fifth, after United Autosports was able to get its No. 22 Ligier into the top two in Q1, it was Racing Team Nederland that claimed the ‘best of the rest’ moniker here with a 3m27.107s with its Dallara P217. The No. 22, meanwhile, dropped to sixth.
GTE Pro was still tight after another two hours of qualifying, though there was plenty of moving and shaking.
Ford topped the times last night, and this evening it was the No. 92 Porsche, which leads the FIA WEC points tally, that would take the top spot, after a late flyer from Michael Christensen.
Second in the times after late improvements was the No. 63 Corvette Racing C7.R, after an encouraging 3m49.424s from Antonio Garcia.
The No. 67 Ford made it three marques in the top three, with its 3m49.530s. Behind the No. 93 and No. 91 Porsches ended up fourth and fifth respectively, ahead of the first of the Aston Martins, the No. 97, which moved into sixth.
Porsche also continued to pace GTE Am during the session, the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche. It wasn’t a 1-2-3 for the Stuttgart brand, though, as the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari moved up into third spot after a 3m52.826s from Giancarlo Fisichella, the Italian just a tenth off its title rivals in the No. 56 Project 1 Porsche which remains second.
The only car which didn’t set a time in the session was the No. 99 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, which has been withdrawn from the event, Tracy Krohn not cleared to race after his off in Free Practice.
There were also plenty of incidents, though none too major. Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 92 Porsche almost hit the Inter Europol Ligier JS P217 at Mulsanne Corner, and spun in evasive action. The Keating Motorsport Ford also had an off-track excursion in the session, Ben Keating ending up in the barriers head on.
Red flags also made another appearance after the No. 3 Rebellion Racing R-13 spread oil on the track half an hour in.