Brendon Hartley has ended the first qualifying session for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours second fastest as Toyota dominated proceedings ahead of tomorrow’s Hyperpole.
The top six cars from each class in the 45-minute session would move onto a 30-minute shootout to determine the grid for the famed race.
All five LMP1 entries were guaranteed entry to Hyperpole meaning motivation to show their full hand was subdued. But Toyota proved to be in a league of their own as they eased to a one-two result.
Fronting the provisional front-row lockout is the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid with a 3m17.089s lap set by Kamui Kobayashi, one-tenth clear of teammate Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 sister car.
Winners in two of the last four World Endurance Championship races, the #1 Rebellion was 4.5 seconds adrift of the Toyota’s in third. The sister Rebellion was a further three seconds behind, split by the lone ByKolles entry.
A final effort by Nyck de Vries gave Racing Team Nederland Oreca the upper hand in LMP2, edging out erstwhile leader Will Stevens late in the session.
Jean-Eric Vergne squeezed into Hyperpole for the G-Drive Oreca team after having his best time deleted for abusing track limits. The time set would have been good enough to usurp de Vries at the head of the timesheets but keeps him in the game for pole tomorrow.
Aston Martin finished top in both GTE Pro and Am with the British marque looking formidable in this year’s event. Marco Sorensen put the #95 Aston Martin Vantage on top in the Pro class, just half-a-tenth quicker than the second car of Alex Lynn.
Australian GT ace Matt Campbell secured a spot in Hyperpole in GTE am with the fifth-fastest time in the Porsche 911 RSR.
The only other Kiwi on the grid, Tom Blomqvist, will start the race from 48th as the Hub Auto Racing Ferrari 488 GTE was unable to come close to the top-six in class, finishing three seconds down on provisional pole.
HyperPole will get underway from 9.30 pm tonight NZT with only one driver per car allowed to set a time and no returning to the pitlane for fresh tyres or a top-up of fuel.
Two further practice sessions will be sandwiched between qualifying and Hyperpole before the main race which is set to get underway from 12.30 Sunday morning.