24 Hours of Le MansFIA WEC

Le Mans Qualifying: How Does it Work?

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#709 GLickenhaus Racing on track at Le Mans in 2021
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Introduced back in 2020, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has used the Hyperpole session to dictate the front starting positions of each class. It was brought in as a way to allow the front runners a chance to get the perfect lap around the 13.626km circuit. However, qualifying at the Le Mans isn’t decided in one session, but two, so here is everything you need to know about the Le Mans qualifying format.

The two sessions are due to the fact that, although the circuit is very long, with 62 cars out at the same time traffic, slow zones and yellow flags are a big factor to contend with. Before Hyperpole was introduced, qualifying did take place over multiple sessions, but in every one all cars would go out on track to try and set the fastest lap.

Hyperpole sees only the top six runners of each class taking part, dropping the number of cars on track down to 24 rather than 62. This reduces the chance of hitting traffic on a fast lap and the potential of multiple slow zones effecting a possible pole lap, giving the drivers a chance to not only got for the fastest lap in class but also push the limits of their cars to go for fastest lap records uninterrupted.

The first qualifying session, called qualifying and taking place on Wednesday evening, will be an hour long and consist of all 62 cars being out on track. The aim will be to finish in the top six in class. The second session, almost 24 hours later on Thursday evening, is Hyperpole. Most of the grid will be set come the end of qualifying, with only the class pole sitters and top six remaining to be decided.

The Hypercars will all progress straight into Hyperpole as there are only five entries in that class, meaning it will be 23 cars in Hyperpole this year. In opposition, only one Pro car will not make it into Hyperpole as that class has seven entries.

During Hyperpole, which is a half hour session, cars are not allowed to refuel. They are allowed to select their tyres, unless rain dictates the tyre choice on a safety basis, and have eight (two sets) for the session. This means it becomes a game of getting out on track at the right time, when track evolution is high but beating any potential rain that might be on the way. If a car gets through to Hyperpole but fails to set a lap time during Hyperpole, they will start sixth in class, behind the other Hyperpole runners but ahead of those who didn’t qualify for the top six shoot out.

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The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional, Alice is a freelance digital communications manager, video editor and graphic designer at OrbitSphere. She also runs and manages her own YouTube channel - Circuit The World - with videos on gaming, travel, motorsports and reviews.
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