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Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi smashes Le Mans lap record at 3:14.791

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Kamui Kobayashi was provisional polesitter after Wednesday’s first round of qualifying for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with a time up on last year’s pole by more than a second.

He only went four seconds quicker than he did Wednesday in Thursday’s second round of qualifying in the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid.

Kobayashi posted a best lap of 3:14.791 around the 8.4-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, which was the fastest lap ever turned around the track since chicanes were installed on the Mulsanne Straight, and the fastest lap ever speed-wise with an average of more than 251.9 kph. Hans Stuck had the previous speed record in 1985, 156.471 mph (251.815 km/h).

The previous best lap time on this circuit configuration was Neel Jani at 3:16.887, set in 2015 in a Porsche 919 Hybrid.

Kobayashi’s Wednesday time was a 3:18.793, before teammate Mike Conway went quicker at a 3:18.651 in the early part of this second session on Thursday. Stephane Sarrazin is the car’s third driver.

Kobayashi’s lap was the spell-binder and standout of this session but all four class pole positions have also changed hands.

Vitaly Petrov moved to the top of LMP2 in the No. 25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson at 3:25.549 in the car he shares with Roberto Gonzalez and Simon Trummer. Thomas Laurent had been on the pole prior to that in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca at 3:26.776.

Aston Martin’s pacesetter in GTE-Pro switched from the No. 95 Vantage (Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen, Richie Stanaway) to the No. 97 car (Darren Turner, Jonny Adam, Daniel Serra) and a new best time of 3:51.860.

Will Stevens is now head of the grid in GTE-Am in JMW Motorsport’s No. 84 Ferrari 488 GTE at 3:53.981.

This session was extended until 9:30 p.m. local time following a crash for Erik Maris’ No. 33 Eurasia Ligier JS P217, with barrier repairs, but now there’s been a further 10-minute reduction after an accident for Timothe Buret’s No. 23 Panis-Barthez Ligier. Buret’s out of his car after his incident.

The final two hours of qualifying to set the finality of the grid comes later tonight after a half hour break from 9:30 to 10 p.m. local time.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.