Kazuki Nakajima gave Toyota pole position for the Le Mans 24 Hours as the leading LMP1 cars set their fastest times of the event so far in final qualifying.
The ex-Formula 1 driver found nearly one second in the early stages of the third qualifying session, which started 30 minutes early to make up for lost track time so far this week.
Most of the action came in the early part of the session before darkness set in, with Nakajima the only driver able to get under the 3m22s bracket with a 3m21.789s.
“Pole is important and to start from pole position – even though it is 24 hours – is great,” said Nakajima.
“It’s a very good feeling and I am really happy with the car. I was struggling with the traffic but I managed to get one lap and it was just enough.
“It’s going to be a tough race but tonight I am happy.”
Romain Dumas was able to keep Porsche on the front row for its topline return to Le Mans by improving to a 3m22.146s, while Sebastien Buemi moved the second Toyota TS040 HYBRID from fifth to third, 0.7 seconds adrift of his team-mate.
The #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which held provisional pole after Wednesday’s opening qualifying session, did not improve its time, leaving it fourth on the grid ahead of the three Audi R18 e-tron quattros.
Only one of the Audis – the #1 car – improved its time, but it still brought up the rear of the factory LMP1 runners in seventh.
Audi and Porsche both started readying new tyres for the final 15 minutes of the session, but any hopes of having another push for pole were dashed when race control announced that a yellow flag ‘slow zone’ was to be in place until the finish following Karun Chandhok’s crash at Indianapolis in the Murphy Prototypes ORECA.
The #2 Audi caught the eye in the final minutes when Andre Lotterer set a best overall time through the first sector, but due to the slow zone he was unable to improve on the car’s best lap.
Tristan Gommendy gave Ligier pole position in LMP2 for TDS Racing, his 3m37.609s being good enough to keep him clear of Harry Tincknell’s best in the Jota Zytek.
Gianmaria Bruni took GTE Pro pole for the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, wasting little time at the start of the session before deposing the provisional pole-sitting #73 Corvette.
While Antonio Garcia responded to the other improvements in the class to earn best of the rest honours for the #73 car, he was in fact the third fastest in GTE as ex-GP2 racer Sam Bird got the #81 GTE Am Ferrari between the top two Pro cars.
The next best GTE Am car was one second back – the #98 Aston Martin in the hands of Pedro Lamy – but there were five Pro cars between him and Bird in the overall standings.
The Nissan ZEOD set its fastest time yet around the Circuit de la Sarthe as the experimental Garage 56 entry had its best session of the week in terms of pace and mileage.
Lucas Ordenez’s 3m50.185s was enough to get the #0 car ahead of all of the GTE runners, leaving it nearly six seconds adrift of the slowest LMP2 runner.
Several cars will be investigated overnight for speeding in the slow zone.
COMBINED QUALIFYING TIMES Pos Cl Car Drivers Time 1. LMP1 #7 Toyota Wurz/Sarrazin/Nakajima 3m21.789s 2. LMP1 #14 Porsche Dumas/Jani/Lieb 3m22.146s 3. LMP1 #8 Toyota Davidson/Lapierre/Buemi 3m22.523s 4. LMP1 #20 Porsche Bernhard/Webber/Hartley 3m22.908s 5. LMP1 #3 Audi Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Jarvis 3m23.271s 6. LMP1 #2 Audi Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer 3m24.276s 7. LMP1 #1 Audi Di Grassi/Gene/Kristensen 3m25.814s 8. LMP1 #12 Rebellion Prost/Heidfeld/Beche 3m29.763s 9. LMP1 #13 Rebellion Kraihamer/Belicchi/Leimer 3m31.608s 10. LMP2 #46 Ligier Thiriet/Badey/Gommendy 3m37.609s 11. LMP2 #38 Zytek Dolan/Tincknell/Turvey 3m37.674s 12. LMP2 #35 Ligier Brundle/Mardenborough/Shulzhitskiy 3m37.892s 13. LMP2 #26 Morgan Rusinov/Pla/Canal 3m38.000s 14. LMP2 #36 Alpine Chatin/Panciatici/Webb 3m38.089s 15. LMP2 #48 Oreca Berthon/Gonzalez/Chandhok 3m38.207s 16. LMP2 #47 Oreca Howson/Bradley/Imperatori 3m38.689s 17. LMP2 #43 Morgan Klien/Hirsch/Brandela 3m39.135s 18. LMP2 #34 Oreca Frey/Mailleux/Lancaster 3m39.993s 19. LMP2 #42 Zytek Kimber-Smith/McMurry/Dyson 3m40.035s 20. LMP2 #24 Oreca Rast/Charouz/Capillaire 3m40.407s 21. LMP2 #37 Oreca Ladygin/Minassian/Mediani 3m41.297s 22. LMP2 #27 Oreca Zlobin/Salo/Ladygin 3m42.131s 23. LMP2 #29 Morgan Schell/Leutwiller/Roussel 3m42.438s 24. LMP2 #33 Ligier Cheng/Tung/Fong 3m42.988s 25. LMP2 #50 Morgan Ragues/Taylor/Ihara 3m43.843s 26. LMP2 #41 Zytek Munemman/Latif/Winslow 3m44.293s 27. CDNT #0 Nissan Ordonez/Reip/Motoyama 3m50.185s 28. GTEP #51 Ferrari Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella 3m53.700s 29. GTEA #81 Ferrari Wyatt/Rugolo/Bird 3m54.665s 30. GTEP #73 Chevrolet Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor 3m54.777s 31. GTEP #97 Aston Turner/Mucke/Senna 3m54.891s 32. GTEP #74 Chevrolet Gavin/Milner/Westbrook 3m55.190s 33. GTEP #52 Ferrari Griffin/Parente/Leo 3m55.347s 34. GTEP #92 Porsche Holzer/Makowiecki/Lietz 3m55.516s 35. GTEA #98 Aston Dalla Lana/Lamy/Nygaard 3m55.644s 36. GTEP #91 Porsche Pilet/Bergmeister/Tandy 3m55.745s 37. GTEA #95 Aston Poulsen/Heinemeier-Hansson/Thiim 3m55.944s 38. GTEA #61 Ferrari Perez-Companc/Cioci/Venturi 3m55.977s 39. GTEA #72 Ferrari Bertolini/Shaitar/Basov 3m56.063s 40. GTEA #88 Porsche Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi 3m56.974s 41. GTEA #77 Porsche Dempsey/Foster/Long 3m57.004s 42. GTEA #90 Ferrari Montecalvo/Roda/Ruberti 3m57.217s 43. GTEP #99 Aston MacDowall/O'Young/Rees 3m57.258s 44. GTEA #60 Ferrari Mann/Case/Giammaria 3m57.274s 45. GTEA #66 Ferrari Al Faisal/Neiman/Pumpelly 3m57.757s 46. GTEA #53 Ferrari Mowlem/Patterson/Hamilton 3m57.958s 47. GTEP #71 Ferrari Rigon/Calado/Beretta 3m58.086s 48. GTEA #76 Porsche Narac/Armindo/Hallyday 3m58.398s 49. GTEA #79 Porsche MacNeil/Curtis/Bleekemolen 3m59.012s 50. GTEA #75 Porsche Perrodo/Collard/Palttala 3m59.394s 51. GTEA #58 Ferrari Barthez/Pons/Ayari 3m59.837s 52. GTEA #57 Ferrari Krohn/Jonsson/Collins 4m01.006s 53. GTEA #70 Ferrari Nakano/Ehret/Rich 4m01.446s 54. GTEA #67 Porsche Maris/Merlin/Helary 4m03.277s 55. GTEA #62 Ferrari Mallegol/Bachelier/Blank 4m10.354s