The 24 cars set to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans’ first-ever Hyperpole session were determined in a fast and furious 45-minute session late on Thursday afternoon.
With six cars in each class heading through to Friday’s final session, qualifying was largely academic for the LMP1 class. The #7 and #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050s, however, set down marker lap times of 3:17.089 and 3:17.336 respectively, some way clear of the privateer teams.
GTE Pro also saw just two cars eliminated from final qualifying. Unsurprisingly, it was the pair of US-entered Ferraris of WeatherTech Racing (#63) and Risi Competizione (#82). Otherwise, the Aston Martins once again set the pace and were the only cars to dip into the 3:50s.
The interest in qualifying largely focused on the two pro-am classes, LMP2 and GTE Am, where over 20 cars were fighting to go through to Friday’s Hyperpole. In LMP2, full-season WEC entries Racing Team Nederland, Jackie Chan DC Racing and United Autosports all made it safely through.
The second United Autosports machine (#32) also made the grade, as did the #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus. One of the surprises of the session was High Class Racing, with Kenta Yamashita pipping the likes of Antonio Felix Da Costa, Nick Tandy, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Thomas Laurent to get the Danish-entered Oreca through.
GTE Am was similarly closely fought, with only a second separating the first eight cars. Aston Martin set the pace, with the #98 machine going quickest and the #90 just a couple of tenths behind. The #61 Luzich Racing Ferrari also made it through, as did a trio of Porsches for Gulf Racing (#86), Dempsey-Proton Racing (#77) and Team Project 1 (#56).
Friday sees the cars take to the track for one hour of free practice before the Hyperpole begins at 11:30 local time.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)