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.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.