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Toyota leads polesitters for 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans

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After a staggering lap in the second of three qualifying sessions for the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans, Kamui Kobayashi’s No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid will lead the field to the green for Saturday’s endurance classic, as Toyota Gazoo Racing looks for its elusive first victory at Le Mans.

Kobayashi’s best time of 3:14.791 is a new lap record for the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe in the configuration that features chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight.

He’ll share the car with Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin, the latter driver having been swapped over to this entry for this race compared to the rest of the FIA World Endurance Championship season in place of Jose Maria Lopez.

Toyota had the 2016 Le Mans overall win in the bag with the No. 5 car, driven by Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, last year before a technical defect occurred on a connector on the air line between the turbo charger and the intercooler, which caused a loss of turbo charger control.

That trio, now in the renumbered No. 8 Toyota, will roll off second in LMP1 and overall.

The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids are next, with the third Toyota unable to better fifth in the hands of Lopez, Yuji Kunimoto and Nicolas Lapierre. That third Toyota can be used for strategic purposes against the Porsches for Saturday’s race.

The privateer LMP1 ByKolles Enso CLM P1/01 NISMO did well to get ahead of the LMP2 field, Oliver Webb turning the No. 4 car’s best time of 3:24.170.

The other polesitters in the other three classes are Alex Lynn (LMP2, No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, 3:25.352), Darren Turner (GTE-Pro, No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage V8, 3:50.837) and Fernando Rees (GTE-Am, No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R, 3:52.843).

All these classes changed hands from the Wednesday polesitters.

The unofficial starting grid is below.

RESULTS
STARTING GRID

Australia SuperCar Champion gets IndyCar Test at Team Penske

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Scott McLaughlin’s latest reward for winning the 2019 Virgin Australia SuperCar championship is an INDYCAR test at Team Penske.

“Scott has been incredibly successful for DJR Team Penske over the last three seasons and he has become a true champion of our sport,” said team owner Roger Penske, who will become the owner of INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in early January. “He certainly embraces new challenges and we think this is a great opportunity to utilize the IndyCar Series rookie testing program so Scott can experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of one of our Indy cars.”

McLaughlin, who has scored back-to-back Virgin Australia Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP), will participate in an INDYCAR Rookie Evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. on Monday, January 13.

“I am always open to new challenges and I’m thankful to Team Penske for providing this opportunity to test an Indy car,” said McLaughlin, who established a new Supercars single season record with 18 victories this past season. “We had an amazing year in 2019 and I’m looking forward to defending our Supercars championship next season. I’m also excited to grow as a driver and being with Team Penske creates cool opportunities to try something new. Although I have spent a few hours in a simulator earlier this year, it’s going to be a blast to see what one really feels like at a place like Sebring.”

McLaughlin joined DJR Team Penske in 2017 as one of the brightest stars in Supercars. He has produced 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019, the driver’s title each of the last two seasons and the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, along with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin will defend his Supercars title for DJRTP in 2020 in the No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford Mustang.  He will build on his already successful racing career by driving a full-sized open-wheel car for the first time.

Team Penske enjoyed another successful IndyCar Series season in 2019. The team earned its record 18th Indianapolis 500 victory as Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in May, while Josef Newgarden won his second series title in three years and the team’s 16th INDYCAR Championship. Team Penske will once again compete with three full-season entries in 2020, featuring series champion drivers Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power.

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 540 major race wins, over 620 pole positions and 37 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia SuperCars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500