Hyperpole: Toyota star, Hub Auto Racing cause GTE upset

#7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans
#7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid during Hyperpole at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans

The #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López will start the 89th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans from pole after setting the fastest time in the 30-minute Hyperpole session.

Japanese driver Kobayashi was handed driving duties for the #7 machine, and wasted no time in hooking up a fast lap by posting a 3:23.900 on his first flyer. The time was the quickest seen so far this weekend by some distance and set an impressive benchmark in the inaugural year of the new Le Mans Hypercar regulations.

After the first set of flying laps, the session was interrupted due to an accident involving the #92 Porsche. Once the session returned to green, New Zealander Brendon Hartley attempted to better Kobayashi’s time in the #8 Toyota but fell three tenths short. Nevertheless, the time of 3:24.196 was still good enough for second on the grid.

Alpine and the #708 Glickenhaus will share the second row of the starting grid, posting times in the 3:25s for the first time this week. The #709 Glickenhaus was fifth fastest with a fastest lap time of 3:27.66.

Upset in GTE Pro

Pole in the GTE Pro went to the privately entered Porsche 911-RSR of Hub Auto Racing (#72), piloted by Belgian driver Dries Vanthoor. The #52 AF Corse machine had held the advantage for much of the session, but Vanthoor’s final flyer was good enough to snatch a somewhat surprising pole position for the Taiwanese entry.

The #52 AF Corse Ferrari will join the #72 machine on the front row of the grid thanks to Daniel Serra’s 3:47.063. Starting the race in third will be the #64 Corvette Racing C8.R after the works machine found some impressive pace with former Le Mans winner Nick Tandy behind the wheel.

Kévin Estre triggered a short interruption to the Hyperpole session following a major accident at Indianapolis in his #92 Porsche 911 RSR-19. The Frenchman, who is currently leading the WEC championship together with teammate Neel Jani, lost the rear end of the Porsche into the banked left-hander and ended up in the barriers on driver’s right. Estre was apparently uninjured, but the Porsche mechanics will have some significant work to do to repair the car.

JOTA the class of the field in LMP2

The #38 JOTA Oreca took pole position in the LMP2 by an impressive half a second ahead of the #41 Team WRT Oreca. Antonio Felix da Costa was the only man to dip into the 3:27s in LMP2 and the British-entered squad look to be the team to beat at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2021.

Louis Deletraz was second-fastest for current ELMS championship leaders Team WRT, while the #65 Panis Racing and the #26 G-Drive Racing machines will start Saturday’s race from the second row of the grid.

Porsche front-row lock-out in GTE Am

Porsche will also start the GTE Am race from pole after Julien Andlauer’s 3:47.987 in the #88 Dempsey Proton Racing 911 RSR-19. Second-fastest was the #86 GR Racing Porsche, with the #56 Project 1 Porsche in third. Cetilar Racing was the “best of the rest” in the #47 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

Click here for a full rundown of the Hyperpole times.