BMW stuns to top first qualifying as Kobayashi brings out red flags

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A 60-minute session took place on Wednesday evening to determine the eight cars from each of the three categories that will progress to Thursday’s final shootout and fight for pole position for the blue riband round of the World Endurance Championship. 

While Porsche, Ferrari and Toyota were seen as the favourites for provisional pole, BMW sprung a surprise by topping the first qualifying session, with Dries Vanthoor posting a best time of 3m24.465s in the #15 M Hybrid V8 with less than 10 minutes left on the clock.
That lap was enough to overthrow Sebastien Bourdais in the #3 Cadillac from the top of the order by 0.177s and demote the #50 Ferrari of Antonio Fuoco to third.
Vanthoor’s time was almost two seconds quicker than the best lap seen so far at La Sarthe in 2024, a 3m26.013s flyer with which Brendon Hartley had led the opening practice earlier on Wednesday.

Any chance of Vanthoor’s being toppled was ended by a rare mistake from Kobayashi in the #7 Toyota GR010 HYBRID with minutes to go in the session, the Japanese driver running wide at the karting corner and getting beached in the gravel.

With under three minutes left on the board, the race control decided to red flag qualifying and declare the results, cementing BMW’s position at the head of the order.

Kobayashi still managed to get the #7 Toyota provisionally into Hyperpole, with his previous effort of 3m24.754s good enough for fourth position in the final reckoning behind Bourdais and Fuoco.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 – Hybrid: Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck De Vries

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

Alpine took fifth thanks to an impressive effort of 3m24.872s by Paul-Loup Chatin in the #35 A424, while Alex Lynn ensured both Ganassi-entered Cadillacs progressed into the final part of qualifying by claiming sixth.
Next up was Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 Ferrari, while only one Porsche could get into Hyperpole amid the red flag – the #8 factory Penske car of Kevin Estre, who survived a big off in the final 10 minutes of qualifying, taking eighth.

The most high-profile absence from Hyperpole was Hartley in the #8 Toyota, the Kiwi ending only qualifying 12th despite lapping within a second of Vanthoor.

In LMP2, Peugeot Hypercar reserve Malthe Jakobsen put the #37 Cool Racing ORECA-Gibson 07 at the top of the order with a best effort of 3m46.530s.
That was enough to usurp the early benchmark set by 2023 LMP2 champion Louis Deletraz in the #14 AO by TF Pro-Am entry by just over three-tenths of a second, while Ben Hanley took third in the #23 United Autosports ORECA that is also entered in the sub-class.
#14 AO by TF Oreca 07: Gibson: Pj Hyett, Louis Deletraz, Alex Quinn

#14 AO by TF Oreca 07: Gibson: Pj Hyett, Louis Deletraz, Alex Quinn

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

Mathias Beche set a time that was exactly a second off the pace of Jakobsen as he grabbed fourth for the Panis Racing operation and its #65 ORECA, which is also entered in Pro-Am.

Proton, which has faced a tough start to the 2024 season following its switch from Porsche to Ford over the winter, led the times in the first-ever LMGT3 qualifying at Le Mans.

Ben Barker lapped the circuit in 3m55.243s in the #77 Ford Mustang GT3 to take provisional pole in the GT division, leading the #70 Inception McLaren of Frederik Schandorff by 0.143s. 
A late effort from Daniel Juncadella put the #82 TF Sport Corvette Z06 GT3 third in the classification, the factory racer ending up 0.842s slower than pacesetter Barker.
Frank Perera was fourth in the #60 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracan GT3, while Klaus Bachler claimed fifth in the points-leading #92 Manthey PureRxcing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Le Mans 24 Hours Qualifying Result

Results to follow…

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