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.

Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”