LE MANS, France – Kamui Kobayashi has put the No. 7 Toyota TSO50 Hybrid on the provisional pole for for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Kobayashi’s fastest lap came early during the opening round of qualifying on Wednesday night, which saw him set a 3:17.161 lap around the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe.
“It wasn’t the best lap as I experienced quite a lot of traffic,” Kobayashi said. “It’s a pity not to have a clear lap but the car feels good and I think the time can be improved. Qualifying doesn’t mean anything in a 24-hour race so we are just preparing for the race as best we can. The track conditions today probably don’t match what we will face in the race so we still have preparation work to do.”
Later in the evening, with Kobayashi’s teammate Mike Conway behind the wheel, the provisional pole winning car made contact with the No. 31 DragonSpeed LMP2 entry driven by Roberto Gonzalez, who was returning to the track after a spin.
The resulting contact briefly sent the leading Toyota airborne. Both drivers were uninjured in the crash, which littered the track with debris.
“It was a pity about the incident because the session had gone really well until then,” Conway said. “I slowed down then saw headlights: I tried to pull out of the way but it was difficult to see the car and unfortunately we made contact. I’m sorry for the crew that they had a lot of extra work to do, but they did a great job to get the car back out at the end of the session.”
Egor Orudzhev put the No. 17 SMP Racing entry second on the provisional grid, followed by Rebellion Racing’s Thomas Laurent in third, the second factory Toyota driven by Fernando Alonso in fourth and the DragonSpeed entry of Neel Jani in fifth.
In LMP2, the No. 31 DragonSpeed entry is the current class polesitter thanks to a fast lap from Pastor Maldonado. However, stewards are investigating the incident between the leading No. 7 Toyota and the No. 31 entry, then driven by Gonzalez, that slowed the session later in the day.
Harry Tincknell put the factory No. 67 Ford team on top of the GTE class thanks to a late fast lap. His 3:49.530 was enough to best the No. 93 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy by .028 of a second.
Matteo Cairoli was fastest in the GTE Am division, putting the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche on top of the board with a 3:52.454.