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Le Mans 24 Hours, Qualifying 1: #7 Toyota On Provisional Pole

Dragonspeed tops LMP2 before Ford Chicane contact with Toyota; Tincknell paces GTE in #67 Ford

LMP: Provisional polesitters come together at the Ford chicane

The #7 Toyota set the fastest time on Wednesday night, a 3:17.161 with Kamui Kobayashi at the wheel, very early on in the session. The #11 SMP entry, driven by Egor Orudzhev, the least experienced driver in the SMP stable, set the fastest non-hybrid and second-quickest overall time, a 3:17.633.

In third came the #3 Rebellion, piloted by Thomas Laurent in his final race for Rebellion on a 3:19.603. Fernando Alonso set the fastest time of the #8 Toyota, a 3:19.837, more than two seconds slower than its sister car, but good enough for fourth overall.

In fifth came another BR1, this time the #10 DragonSpeed on a 3:20.200, set by Ben Hanley. However, that car stopped on track soon after, this time with Henrik Hedman at the wheel, and remained there for the rest of the session, unable to get back to the pits under its own steam.

Bruno Senna in the #3 Rebellion followed Hanley in the final order on a 3:20.327, less than a tenth behind. Next up was #11 Rebellion, with former F1 driver and Le Mans rookie Stoffel Vandoorne slotting in on a 3:20.934.

Finally, the #4 ByKolles brought up the rear on a 3:25.246, a little less than five seconds slower than the next LMP1. The time was set by Tom Dillmann, who told Radio Le Mans that the car was lacking straight-line speed, even compared to the LMP2 cars.

In LMP2, the #31 DragonSpeed car was the pick of the bunch, with Pastor Maldonado setting a 3:26.804 to go fastest in class. Le Mans veteran Nicolas Lapierre slotted into second in the #36 Signatech Alpine on a 3:26.935, while in the first of the Ligiers, #22 United Autosports, ended up in third on a 3:27.338 with former Audi factory driver Filipe Albuquerque at the wheel.

As in the earlier practice session, Paul-Loup Chatin set #48 IDEC Sport’s fastest time, a 3:27.847. Next up came the #30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca, with Nicolas Jamin driving, setting a 3:28.653, to go fifth.

The first of the Jackie Chan DC Racing Orecas could only manage sixth, with Ho-Pin Tung piloting the #Mighty38 to a 3:28.738.

Loic Duval’s #28 TDS Racing Oreca set a 3:28.840 to go seventh, while Nyck de Vries set a 3:28.909 in the first of the two Dallaras, the #29 Racing Team Nederland.

G-Drive Racing’s Aurus 01, a.k.a an Oreca 07, set a 3:29.107 with Jean-Eric Vergne, with Andrea Pizzitola following very close behind on a 3:29.126 in the #25 Algarve Pro Oreca to round out the top 10.

The final hour of the session saw a scary coming-together of the two pole-sitting cars in the prototype classes when Roberto Gonzalez spun the DragonSpeed machine at the Ford Chicane. Just as he got the car going again, Mike Conway arrived on the scene in the #7 Toyota.

The contact was a glancing blow rather than a direct hit, and the Toyota was repaired and back out on track within 20 minutes. In interviews after incident, both drivers claimed not to have seen the other car until it was too late.

GTE: Ford’s Tincknell crashes the Porsche party

With five minutes to run in the session, Harry Tincknell shot to the top of the GTE Pro standings and became the first driver in the class to break the 3:50.00 mark. He set a 3:49.530 in the #67 Ford, a highlight moment in a session that saw quite a few ups and downs for the brand.

Just 28 thousandths of a second behind Tincknell was Nick Tandy in the #93 Porsche; he also set his best time in the waning moments of the session to ensure his car ended the day in second.

On the contrary, Alex Lynn was one of those who opted for the first minutes of running to set their quickest lap. He took the #97 Aston out and put down a 3:50.037, some two seconds quicker than the team’s best qualifying time from last year. So an Aston completed the top three and ensured three different manufacturers in as many spots.

Porsche though, kept all of its cars in the top six, ending Wednesday in control of positions second, fourth, fifth and sixth.

The #91 911 of Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni and Frederic Makowiecki ended the session in fourth with a best time of 3:50.099 coming from Makowiecki.

In fifth position was the #94 Porsche, with Mathieu Jaminet setting a 3:50.517, followed by the #92 of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor. The best lap there came from Christensen, who set a 3:50.468.

Besides the provisional pole position for the #67, it was a woeful session for Ford. The #69 ended the session in tenth with a 3:51.821 from Richard Westbrook, with the #68 and #66 further back in 15th and 17th respectively.

The #66 with Olivier Pla on board took a trip through the gravel at the exit of the Porsche Curves. The car made contact with the tyre barrier with the front and rear both receiving damage. It was lifted out of the gravel and Pla gingerly drove the car back to the pits. This entry ended the session last in class.

The only other notable incident in GTE Pro involved the #64 Corvette, which suffered a puncture and then further damage, as Oliver Gavin nursed the car back home from the Mulsanne straight.

From a trip to the barrier to the provisional GTE Am pole was the story of the day for the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche. Matteo Cairoli’s best time of 3:52.454 gave himself and team-mates Giorgio Roda and Satoshi Hoshino the top honours, for now at least.

The #56 Project 1 Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti ended the session in second, with the best time coming from Bergmeister, a 3:52.750.

Continuing the theme of Porsche making a strong showing in GTE Am was the #77 Dempsey-Proton entry, which ended the session in third. Matt Campbell set the pace in free practice but this time it was Julien Andlauer who went quickest, on a 3:53.408.

The #99 Dempsey-Proton 911 didn’t run in the session following Tracy Krohn’s crash in practice. It was the only car to not set a lap. Krohn remains under observation in a local hospital and the team has yet to make a decision as to whether it will continue to take part in the meeting.

QUALIFYING 1 TIMES >>