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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.

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

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