As qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans begins to draw to an end, it is the Toyota Gazoo Racing duo who hold the advantage at the front of the field. Provisional pole has remained unchanged in LMP2 and GTE Am, with #31 DragonSpeed, #92 Porsche GT Team and #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing in position to take class honours.
Straight out of the gate, Kazuki Nakajima took the #8 to the top of the timing board, making it the predicted Toyota one-two. He missed out on beating the #7 to pole by four-tenths of a second, but took the Toyota duo a second clear of the rest of the field. The SMP Racing #11 climbed to third in class in the hands of Mikhail Aleshin.
After being stripped of its times set yesterday due to an incorrect fuel flow regulator, the #1 Rebellion Racing put itself back to fourth in class. The sister #3 brought out the only red flag of the session when it dropped fluid down the Mulsanne Straight, pouring smoke out of the rear. The #3 did not return to the track for the rest of the session, after causing a 25-minute delay.
Pastor Maldonado remains unbeaten in LMP2 as he took to the circuit at the start of the session to improve on his lap time from yesterday. The 3:26.490 set by the Venezuelan this evening keeps them at the top of the class by three tenths. #36 Signatech Alpine was knocked from second in class by championship rivals #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing. An improvement to a 3:26.821 was enough to take them a tenth of a second faster than Alpine-badged ORECA.
Porsche GT Team jumped to provisional pole position in the closing moments of the session, as Michael Christensen set a 3:49.388. He beat Antonio Garcia, who was looking to make a solid improvement after his fastest lap time was deleted yesterday due to improving under yellows, by 0.03 seconds. It was a close fight to end the session on top between the two favourites for victory in class come Sunday afternoon.
There was nothing splitting the trio at the top, as Harry Tincknell‘s time, although he did not improve at the end, only dropped him to third in class by two thousandths of a second.
#88 continued to manage the pace of the Am class during this two hour stint, but the sister #77 was demoted by the FIA World Endurance Championship Spirit of Race. Giancarlo Fisichella improved on the car’s lap time in the opening stages of the session. He missed out on taking second from the Team Project 1 by six-tenths of a second.
The third Demspey-Proton car, that suffered major damage in a crash yesterday, has sadly withdrawn from the race.
For constant abuse of track limits, the #70 MR Racing has been handed a 3-minute stop/go penalty for the race. This puts them about a lap down on the class before the race has even begun.