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.