Photo: Toyota

Toyota, unsurprisingly, on provisional pole at Le Mans

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With the pace advantage showcased in the Le Mans Test Day, it was no surprise to see the Toyota TS050 Hybrid top the timesheets in provisional qualifying for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi posted the quickest time of the first qualifying session overall and in LMP1 at 3:18.793 in the No. 7 car he’ll share this race with Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin.

The No. 8 Toyota was next up at a 3:19.431, with the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid at least within one second in third at 3:19.710.

TDS Racing made it through to the provisional top spot in LMP2 with the No. 28 Oreca 07 Gibson in the hands of Mathieu Vaxviere, who shares the car with Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo.

Vaxviere’s top time of 3:29.333 blitzes the prior LMP2 track record of 3:32.301 set by Jos Verstappen in a Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder set in 2008, and again, comes as expected with the intense top speeds turned in by the new powerplant.

The top 12 cars in class are either the Oreca 07 or the rebadged Alpine A470, continuing that chassis manufacturer’s dominance. It comes to 13th place before the first other chassis appears, the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217 at a best time of 3:33.796, in the hands of Le Mans debutante Rubens Barrichello with co-drivers Jan Lammers and Fritz van Eerd.

Aston Martin Racing has the provisional GTE-Pro pole, perhaps not the manufacturer you’d choose off hand, with the No. 95 Vantage of Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Richie Stanaway in at 3:52.117 ahead of the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTEs and the second factory GTE-Pro Aston Martin.

The best Ford (No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK) is fifth at a 3:54.118, the best Porsche (No. 92 Porsche GT Team) sixth at a 3:54.243 and the best Corvette (No. 63) ninth at a 3:54.827.

Aston also tops the GTE-Am provisional pole charts with the factory No. 98 car of Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana in at 3:55.134.

Of note, the four Verizon IndyCar Series drivers active since 2016 (including NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell) are provisionally here:

  • Tony Kanaan, 11th GTE-Pro, No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT, 3:55.059
  • Scott Dixon, 12th GTE-Pro, No. 69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT, 3:55.553
  • Mikhail Aleshin, 16th LMP2, No. 27 SMP Racing Dallara P217 Gibson, 3:34.407
  • Townsend Bell, 9th GTE-Am, No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE, 3:57.267

Aleshin’s car reportedly stopped on track with a fire, one of several LMP2 cars to have had mechanical issues this session.

There are four more hours of qualifying tomorrow.

Provisional results are below.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”