Le Mans race week started with a bang on Wednesday evening as teams and drivers attempted to qualify for Thursday’s all-important Hyperpole session. The top six in each class in qualifying go through to the special one-lap format on Thursday, and so the stakes were high for all involved.
Marked improvement in LMH lap times
With the top six in each category qualifying for the Thursday Hyperpole session, there was little jeopardy in qualifying for the the five-car Hypercar class.
Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi was quickest in the Hypercar class, posting a session-fastest of 3:26.279 for the #7 Toyota GR 010 Hybrid – some three seconds quicker than his fastest time during test day. Second-quickest was Matthieu Vaxiviere, 0.8 seconds further back in the #36 Alpine Elf Matmut entry, followed by the #8 Toyota in third.
There were no dramas for Glickenhaus Racing, with the #708 and #709 cars around two and three seconds slower respectively than the lead Toyota.
Reigning champions miss out in LMP2
There was drama in the LMP2 class, as reigning the Le Mans and WEC champions in the #22 United Autosports USA effort missed out on the Hyperpole session after finishing 12th fastest in class. Portuguese driver Felipe Albuquerque was seen remonstrating with a GT driver during the session, suggesting that on-track traffic had dashed the team’s hopes of competing in Hyperpole.
Elsewhere, the #48 IDEC Sport entry – fastest at Sunday’s test day – was in the barriers early on and required repair work to the rear wing and bodywork. Driver Paul Loup Chatin also complained on the team radio of gearbox issues, suggesting that the French squad may be in for a long night.
The #38 JOTA car was the fastest in the class, qualifying comfortably for Hyperpole by almost half a second. Joining them will be fellow WEC team #23 United Autosports. Also through to the one-lap qualifying session are European Le Mans Series squads #26 G-Drive Racing, #41 WRT Racing, #65 Panis Racing and #32 United Autosports.
WeatherTech Racing and Corvette Racing out in GTE Pro
With the GTE Pro field comprising eight entries this year, the battle was on in qualifying to avoid being in the bottom two and losing out on the chance of a shot at class pole. The #79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche and the #63 Corvette Racing C8.R were the unlucky pair, although the former only missed out by 0.06 seconds.
AF Corse were quickest and second-quickest in the one-hour qualifying session, safely ensuring their passage to Thursday night’s Hyperpole. Both works Porsches also made it, as did the Hub Auto Racing Porsche and the #64 Corvette.
Porsche quickest in GTE Am
The #88 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche was quickest in the GTE Am class, followed by the impressive #86 GR Racing Porsche and the #47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari.
Also making it through to Hyperpole were the #71 Inception Racing Ferrari, the #56 Project 1 Porsche and the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin.
Images © 2021 Marius Hecker/AdrenalMedia.com (FIA WEC press material)