Qualifying continued at Le Mans today, with the final two sessions before Saturday’s 24-Hour race start. Entering today’s first session as polesitter, super-quick Brendon Hartley said there was more time to come from the Porsche 919, but Porsche’s morning PR declared they would do no more big runs.
“For Thursday’s qualifying sessions, Porsche intends to limit the number of laps. In order to give the crew some rest on Friday before the start of the 24-Hours on Saturday, the Porsche team will prepare the cars on Thursday for the marathon, and so doesn’t want to put too many miles on the parts to be used in the race.”
When the flag dropped, Toyota went for broke and chased hard for pole position. Porsche’s times also tumbled. Hartley thought a 3:21 was in the car – if not more – and Timo Bernhard soon clocked a 3:22.9. Romain Dumas went two-tenths quicker, and later managed a 3:22.146. Ultimately, there was no stopping Toyota, as Nakajima set a 3:21.789 and clinched pole position.
Elsewhere in the sessions, there were crashes galore, with the Porsche Curves claiming even more carbon fibre. Audi number 1 was back on track after landing on its roof in the Porsche Curves yesterday, Loic Duval was on his way home with Marc Gene replacing him.
With Audi 1 back on track and all its drivers needing time on the board, Lucas di Grassi had a sizeable moment and shoved Audi 1 head first into the barriers. Keeping it moving and limping back to the pits, he tripped up the Pegasus Morgan, which got onto the grass at speed and ploughed across the track, straight into the concrete.
James Calado in the 71 Ferrari had a big accident, which left him concussed and out of the race. The 458 was obliterated, so AF Corse summoned a new car from Maranello, and a replacement driver: Pierre Kaffer. Life as a works team.
The 911 RSRs had their share of fun. Slowing down for track position, the number 92 RSR took a Ferrari in its side at the final chicane and headed back to the pits for a rebuild. The Corvettes looked quick all day, but Bruni/Fisichella set the fastest time in GTE-Pro. If the Ferrari stays together, it must be the favourite.
The night sessions were interesting, as the race director tested slow zones, where cars run into yellow flag areas on the pit lane speed limiter. A noticeable number ignored the warnings and their dash lights, running straight through the speed restrictions with all guns blazing. This is not the way to win a race: no doubt there will be penalties.
Porsche missed pole position, but no one gives trophies out on Thursdays at Le Mans. There’s a long race ahead and it’s not over until the fat fräulein sings. She’s due to do that on Sunday afternoon.