There was nothing held back in the first qualifying for this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Kazuki Nakajima was the fastest Toyota, ahead of #7 with Kamui Kobayashi. The two cars have more than two seconds advantage to SMP Racing #17 with Stephane Sarrazin, who was best of the rest. Rebellion Racing was right behind them with their #1 and #3, while DragonSpeed #10 and SMP Racing #11 weren’t far off either.
ByKolles Racing Team #4 did their best lap ever, but unfortunately it only was good enough for P8.
CEFC TRSM Racing was way off, but with all their issues so far, the best thing for them is probably to concentrate on the race – but they were 13 seconds off the pace, and in the middle of the LMP2 field.
IDEC Sport #48 with Paul Loup Chatin was the quickest man in LMP2, ahead of TDS Racing #28 with Loic Duval and G-Drive Racing #26 with Jean-Eric Vergne, followed by DragonSpeed #31 with Pastor Maldonado in P4. It was expected for those four to be at the top, since they have been there during the test day and free practice.
United Autosports #22 with Filipe Albuerquerque was almost guaranteed P6 by now, while Cetilar Villorba Corse #47 with Felipe Nasr was the fastest Dallara.
There was only one thing to say in GTE Pro – Gianmaria Bruni. The Italian Porsche #91 driver absolutely smashed the rest of the field including his teammates by 1,6 seconds. A super time of 3:47.504 – actually just three seconds slower than the slowest LMP2 car. Michael Christensen posted the second fastest time in #92 and had Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #66 and USA #68 right behind.
If you remove the super time of Bruni, the next 13 cars are within 1,9 seconds, which is nothing.
BMW Team MTEK were P9 and P11 while Corvette Racing were P13 and P14.
Aston Martin Racing did a 3:52 in the Qualifying, which would have been a respectable time in 2017 – the issue is that everybody is driving three seconds per lap faster this year. So #97 and #95 are 4,9 and 7,2 seconds behind Pole Postion respectively. So they can forget everything about a top 10 in the Qualifying, but at least they are within 10 kph of the fastest cars on the straight, which is about half of the gap that we saw during the test day. So it’s going in the right direction – but still not fast enough.
But we are likely to see yet another BOP adjustment before the race, since Porsche are way too quick, and Aston Martin way too slow – otherwise the midfield is quick tight.
We have GTE Am left to talk about, where Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche did a 1-2 with #88 and #77, while Gulf Racing UK Porsche #86 was the next car in line. Spirit of Race #54 was more than two seconds slower, while the best Aston Martin Racing #98 was 3,5 seconds behind. So some of the teams are probably hoping for a slight adjustment prior to the race.
This could very well be the starting grid, since rain is expected before and during Q2, and the track is unlikely to fully dry up for Q3, since the sun already would have set, and can’t help out drying up the circuit.
But we have to wait and see what happens later today.