Toyota On Provisional Pole At La Sarthe (12.06.19)

Photo: Sebastien Bassani / ACO

Kamui Kobayashi put in a 3:17.161 in the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid he shares with Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez to take provisional pole position for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans. Provisionally starting alongside the #7 car will be the #17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 in which Egor Orudzhev set a 3:17.633.

The two-hour session got underway in calm conditions with a forecast that suggested that qualifying could escape the rain which had affected the previous sessions.

Kobayashi took the first stint in the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 and was advised to set a ‘banker’ lap by his engineers and promptly set the 3:17.161 which secured provisional pole.

News from Dempsey-Proton Racing was that the #99 Porsche 911 RSR, which had had a significant accident with Tracy Krohn at the wheel, had sustained more damage than first thought and that a complete, new chassis might be required to get the car on to the grid. Tracy Krohn was also being carefully checked over by the circuit’s medical team and the decision to start building up a new chassis was dependant on Tracy Krohn being cleared as fit to race.

There was excitement for Scott Dixon, at the wheel of the #69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT when he put a rear wheel into the gravel turning on to the start/finish straight. No damage was done and Dixon continued.

With 25 minutes run, the #11 DragonSpeed BR Engineering BR1 was stuck at the second chicane with gearbox issues. There was drama for the #63 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R which required the car to be pushed back into the garage. The #64 Corvette had suffered a puncture out on the circuit and Olive Gavin had to limp the stricken vehicle back to the garages.

There was drama at the final chicane with 45 minutes remaining with contact with the #7 Toyota driven by Mike Conway and Roberto Gonzalez in the #31 DragonSpeed ORECA. The #7 Toyota sustained damage to the front left corner. The #31 car seemed to escape with just bodywork damage but the incident was deemed to worthy of investigation by the race director. Gonzalez was recovering from a spin when the incident happened.

With less than 30 minutes left in the two-hour session, there was a major incident for the #66 Ford GT as it exited the Porsche Curves. The #66 car sustained damage. Jeff Segal, driving the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F488 GTE LMGTE Am entry, also went off as well as the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA with Stéphane Richelmi driving.

At the conclusion of the two-hour session, the #31 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 was sitting on provisional pole in the LMP2 class after Pastor Maldanado had lapped in 3:26.804 with the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 second on the class grid with a 3:26.935 set by Nicolas Lapierre.

The GTE Pro class was led by the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT in which Harry Tincknell put in a 3:49.530 with the #93 Porsche GT team Porsche 911 RSR just .028 seconds behind with Nick Tandy’s lap of 3:49.558.

Porsche led the LMGTE Am field with the #988 Dempsey – Proton racing entry setting a 3:52.454 in the hands of Matteo Cairoli.

The second qualifying practice session gets underway at 19:00 local time on Thursday June 13.