Le Mans 24H: Nakajima puts Toyota on provisional pole

Kazuki Nakajima set the fastest lap during Wednesday night’s opening qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as Toyota Gazoo Racing provisionally locked out the front row of the grid.

Nakajima drove the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid to a time of 3:17:270 in the first ten minutes of the two-hour session that stood until proceedings ended at midnight.

The Japanese driver’s effort was consolidated by a 3:17.337 from Kamui Kobayashi in the sister No. 7 car, while the quickest LMP1 non-hybrid lapped two seconds off the pace.

SMP Racing offered the closest challenge through Stephane Sarrazin’s 3:19.483 in the No. 17 BR Engineering BR1 Gibson, while the fourth-placed No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson ended on a 3:19.662 courtesy of Bruno Senna.

Rebellion’s sister machine completed the top five, while Ben Hanley ushered the No. 10 DragonSpeed BR1 Gibson into sixth and ahead of the No. 11 SMP before the car stopped on-track at the Dunlop Chicane with a wheel issue.

Problems also affected the No. 5 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachrome, which came to a halt at the same section with a suspected electrical problem.

In LMP2, Paul-Loup Chatin set the fastest lap in the IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson.

The Frenchman’s time of 3:24.956 ousted the previous best set by Loic Duval in the TDS Racing Oreca, as the French manufacturer filled out the top five places.

Porsche Locks Out Both GTE Classes

Gianmaria Bruni laid down a scintillating pace in the Rothmans-themed No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR to give the German manufacturer the edge after Q1.

The Italian, who is making his Le Mans debut with the marque after nine years with Ferrari, clocked in a 3:47.504 that topped the class by one and a half seconds.

Furthermore, Bruni’s time was 3.3 seconds faster than Darren Turner’s pole marker set last year in a previous-generation Aston Martin Vantage, although the Porsche driver didn’t get a chance to improve after he spun off into the Dunlop Chicane gravel on his next flyer.

The car did not return to action after completing only two laps.

Second in the GTE-Pro charts was Michael Christensen in the No. 92 “Pink Pig” Porsche, while Ford Chip Ganassi Racing ran third and fourth.

Olivier Pla’s best in the No. 67 was a 3:49.181 that resisted a midway charge from Dirk Mueller in the No. 68.

The best Ferrari lap came courtesy of James Calado, who was 2.3 seconds adrift of Bruni, while BMW, Corvette and Aston Martin were all at least three seconds off.

Porsche also led the way in GTE-Am, with the pair of Dempsey-Proton Racing cars locking out the provisional class front row.

Matt Campbell became the first driver this week to duck under Fernando Rees’ pole time from last year with a 3:51.930, before Matteo Cairoli went even quicker with a 3:50.728.

Qualifying 2 is scheduled to take place on Thursday between 7-9 p.m local time.

RESULTS: Qualifying 1

Le Mans 24H: Nakajima puts Toyota on provisional pole

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