24 Hours of Le MansFIA WEC

Hypercar Le Mans Pole Secured for Toyota by Kobayashi

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Kamui Kobayashi gets Pole for Toyota Gazoo Racing, 24 Hours of Le Mans 2021
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

For the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota Gazoo Racing has made history by putting the first Hypercar on overall pole for the blue riband event.

Kamui Kobayashi held off Brendon Hartley in the championship winning, and reigning Le Mans overall winning, car to take the front spot on the grid in the new Le Mans Hyperpole format, seeing the fastest six cars in each class take to the track for a 30-minute fastest lap shoot out. As the Hypercar class only has five entrants, all five took part in the qualifying session.

Toyota have been the favourites all week to take the front row for this weekend’s race, but the question remained which would be in front. Kobayashi led the way after the first flying laps with a big advantage over the sister car, and although he held onto the lead throughout the session with his 3:23.900, Hartley was only three tenth off the sister car when the chequered flag fell.

It had looked like the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus was going to take third on the grid behind the two Toyotas as, after the first runs, Olivier Pla had put the #708 two seconds faster than Nicolas Lapierre in the #36 Alpine Elf Matmut. However, after a short delay with a red flag due to Kevin Estre putting the #92 Porsche GT Team into the barriers at Indianapolis, Lapierre was able to go faster, claiming third on the grid and demoting Pla to fourth ahead of the #709 sister car.

In LMP2, it was the time of JOTA as Antonio Felix da Costa claimed class pole position. It wasn’t an easy victory, however, with #41 Team WRT‘s Louis Deletraz keeping him honest through the first runs. Although it was close between the pair, da Costa’s 3:27.950 gave him half a second advantage on the chasing Deletraz, something that the Swiss driver could not close down.

Rounding off the top three in class was Will Stevens in the #65 Panis Racing, whilst Formula E World Champion Nyck de Vries beat out the United Autosports pair for fourth on the grid in the #26 G-Drive Racing. The USA-backed United Autosport in the hands of Nico Jamin outqualified Paul di Resta to complete the top six.

#72 Hub Auto Racing Porsche on track at Circuit de la Sarthe for 24 Hours of Le Mans 2021
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Estre, who had been in the fastest Porsche all week, had been the favourite to take class pole in GTE Pro, but with his incident at Indianaoplis the door was opened for an underdog to take pole position. Porsche have been the fastest GTE car all week, and that fact didn’t change come the end of the qualifying. Even though three works teams were involved in Hyperpole – making five of the six cars factory-backed entries – it was the #72 Hub Auto Racing that took the limelight, claiming class pole with a 3:46.882.

With the loss of Estre in the #92, three different manufacturers fill out the top three spots in class, with Davide Rigon only two tenths off the HubAuto Porsche in second and ex-Porsche driver Nick Tandy third in the #64 Corvette Racing. The second AF Corse entry in the hands of James Calado placed fourth in class whilst the #91 works Porsche brought up the rear in fifth. As Estre’s accident occurred before the GTEs got a chance to set any flying laps, the #92 Porsche ended at the bottom of the timing board, behind all the GTE Ams, with no set time.

Porsche’s dominance continued in GTE Am, locking out the top three. Julien Andlauer claimed pole position for the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing setting an unmatchable 3:47.987. Fellow Porsche runners Ben Barker and Matteo Cairoli will start just behind Andlauer respectively in the #86 Gulf Racing and #56 Team Project 1 entries.

Lights out for the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans is at 16:00 race local (15:00 BST) Saturday 21st August.

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