The #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Kobayashi/López/Conway set the provisional pole time in the first qualifying session for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans. The #67 Ford GT went quickest in the GTE Pro class, while Porsche locked out GTE Am and DragonSpeed secured provisional pole in LMP2.
Kamui Kobayashi was once again the man who set the fastest time in Q1, after posting the quickest lap in Free Practice earlier on Wednesday afternoon. The 3:17.161 benchmark was set early on in the session and would not be beaten for the remaining two hours, giving Toyota provisional pole ahead of Thursday’s four hours of qualifying. It was by no means plain sailing for Toyota in Q1, with the sister #8 TS050 only just able to dip into the 3:19s, which was only sufficient for fourth place on the grid.
There was also a major incident for the provisional pole-sitting #7 car around halfway through the session. Entering the Ford Chicane at the end of the lap, Mike Conway encountered a prone #31 DragonSpeed LMP2 car attempting to return to the pits. The collision vaulted the Toyota into the air, but both cars surprisingly did not appear to be too damaged. Indeed, both returned to the track before the end of the session in the search for faster lap times.
Second-fastest was the #17 SMP Racing BR1, just under half a second behind the leading Toyota. Stéphane Sarrazin’s monster lap of 3:17.633 was, in fact, quicker than the fastest race lap recorded here last year, demonstrating how far the privateer LMP1 cars have progressed over the past twelve months. Third-fastest was the #3 Rebellion Racing R13 with a 3:19.603 set by French hotshoe Thomas Laurent.
First blood to Ford in GTE Pro
The #67 Ford GT was the fastest car in GTE Pro, but just half a second covered the top six at the end of the first qualifying session. Harry Tincknell’s time of 3:49.530 was recorded just as the session came to a conclusion at midnight and pipped Nick Tandy’s previous fastest of 3:49.558 for the #93 Porsche 911 RSR by just 0.028. Aston Martin Racing made it three manufacturers in the top three in GTE Pro, with the #97 car’s fastest time of 3:50.037 just under half a second down on the provisional pole time.
It was an exciting conclusion to the session in GTE Pro, with a flurry of fast times catapulting the #93 car and then the #67 machine to the top of the timesheets. The #66 Ford GT, on the other hand, was involved in a significant accident at the exit of the Porsche Curves.
DragonSpeed fastest LMP2 after eventful Q1
The #31 DragonSpeed set the fastest time in LMP2 – a 3:26.804 – but also had some work to do in the garage after the collision with the Toyota at the Ford Chicane.
Second-fastest was the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut car just 0.131 seconds behind, followed by the #22 United Autosports Oreca.
Porsche lock-out in GTE Am
The three fastest times in GTE Am all went to Porsche cars, with the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing machine going quickest by just over three tenths of a second from the championship-leading #56 Team Project 1 crew. Third-fastest was the sister #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR.
Click here for a full list of Q1 times.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)