TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 89th Le Mans 24 Hours from pole position after locking out the front row to make Hypercar history at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Kamui Kobayashi’s lap of 3mins 23.900secs in the Hyperpole session, in the #7 GR010 HYBRID he shares with Mike Conway and José María López, secured the first pole position of the Hypercar era and the team’s fifth in succession at Le Mans.
Kamui, who set the record for the fastest-ever Le Mans lap in 2017, set a new benchmark in the Hypercar class. His fourth pole position brings him to within one of the all-time record, held by Jacky Ickx, and means the #7 crew start their battle for an elusive first win at the head of the 62-car field.
Brendon Hartley was a close second, just 0.295secs away, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID he drives alongside Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. His fourth pole position at La Sarthe means he is now one short of the all-time record, held by Jacky Ickx.
“First of all it felt amazing to drive the GR010 HYBRID with low-fuel, new tyres and the sun going down into the night,” commented Hartley. “The car felt great, and a big compliment to the team for preparing it so well after Kazuki’s small moment in practice.
“Congratulations to Kamui who did a fantastic lap. I’m kind of kicking myself because on my fastest lap I made a mistake. I shifted two gears at once up to seventh and lost a bit of time. We definitely had a chance to get pole because the cars were very equal.
“On my second lap I had traffic when I was going quickly so we had the ingredients to do it. There is a little bit of disappointment but still I am pleased to be on the front row and happy for car #7.”
Preparations for Hyperpole did not go according to plan for car #8 in third practice. With 25 minutes to go in the three-hour session, Kazuki hit the tyre wall at Indianapolis left hander, damaging the rear bodywork and forcing the car to miss the remainder of the session.
The #8 car was repaired during the four-hour wait until Hyperpole, so Brendon was ready to go when the session began at 9pm, with both GR010 HYBRIDs leaving the pit lane immediately on the green light.
Each car is permitted two new sets of Michelin tyres for Hyperpole so the battle began with the two GR010 HYBRIDs using fresh rubber and a minimal fuel load. Kamui set an incredible pace from the start, taking advantage of a clear track ahead to set the pole position time on his first effort.
Brendon’s first flying lap was hampered by traffic and he had to wait to improve due to a 10-minute red flag caused by an accident for a GT car. After the restart, both Kamui and Brendon hit the track again on new tyres looking to go even faster.
Kamui was a fraction of a second slower on his first lap before a track limits violation prevented an even quicker time with his final effort. Brendon, on the other hand, found more pace and improved on consecutive laps to move within three tenths of pole.
The team waited out the final few minutes in the garage before the historic pole position was confirmed, with the #36 Alpine 1.674secs behind in third.
Although often referred to as a rest day, Friday will be anything but that for the team. Both cars will be rebuilt by the mechanics while engineers will work intensively to plan race strategies prior to the 89th edition of the legendary race, which begins at 4pm CEST on Saturday.
Free Practice 3:
1st #36 Alpine (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxiviere) 3min 26.594secs 29 laps
2nd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.470secs 34 laps
3rd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.666secs 27 laps
4th #708 Glickenhaus (Derani/Mailleux/Pla) +2.134secs 14 laps
5th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/da Costa/Davidson) +3.619secs 32 laps
6th #22 United Autosports USA (Hanson/Scherer/Albuquerque)+4.066secs 32 laps
1st #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 3min 23.900secs
2nd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.295secs
3rd #36 Alpine (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxiviere) +1.674secs
4th #708 Glickenhaus (Derani/Mailleux/Pla) +1.739secs
5th #709 Glickenhaus (Briscoe/Westbrook/Dumas) +3.756secs
6th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/da Costa/Davidson) +4.050secs
Free Practice 4:
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 3min 29.351secs 29 laps
2nd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.387secs 27 laps
3rd #708 Glickenhaus (Derani/Mailleux/Pla) +0.761secs 26 laps
4th #36 Alpine (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxiviere) +1.393secs 24 laps
5th #709 Glickenhaus (Briscoe/Westbrook/Dumas) +1.758secs 26 laps
6th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/da Costa/Davidson) +3.039secs 25 laps