Le Mans 24 Hours: Nakajima puts #8 Toyota on provisional pole

Kazuki Nakajima took provisional pole aboard the #8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID he shares with Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi in Wednesday's qualifying for the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans 24 Hours: Nakajima puts #8 Toyota on provisional pole

With the threat of rain at Le Mans for Thursday, as well as good visibility and low track temperatures early in Wednesday night's session, the leading contenders in the LMP1 class set their best times on the first set of flying laps.

It took just one fast lap for the practice benchmark set by the sister Toyota driven by Jose Maria Lopez to be obliterated, with the Formula E driver's 3m19.626s lap comprehensively beaten by Nakajima's 3m17.270s.

Nakajima's time remained untouched for the remaining one hour and 52 minutes, with the #7 Toyota falling short of the #8 car's benchmark by just 0.107s, although the leading car had several other laps deleted for excessive fuel consumption late on.

"It was a big jump from 3m23s or 3m24s to 3m17s," said Nakajima. "It was difficult to put everything together in the traffic.

"What counts is the race result: we don't really care about qualifying and just need to be in the right position for the start."

Buemi then took over from Nakajima before Alonso completed his mandatory five laps in night-time conditions.

Stephane Sarrazin took the #17 SMP Racing BR1 to third, the first of the non-hybrid privateers, and its 3m19.483s lap put it 2.213s adrift of the leading Toyota.

The two Rebellion Racing cars were fourth and fifth in class with the #1 car in the hands of Bruno Senna edging out the #3 machine by just 0.283s, with its time set by Gustavo Menezes.

IMSA SportsCar Championship driver Renger van der Zande caused a slow zone midway through the session when he stopped before the Dunlop Chicane, forcing a recovery of the car after it had set a time good enough for sixth.

Jenson Button completed his mandatory laps aboard the #11 SMP Racing BR1 car that went on to provisionally secure seventh in the hands of Vitaly Petrov.

The ByKolles team dropped to eighth after it had two of its times set by Tom Dillmann deleted for excessive fuel consumption.

Manor-Ginetta continued to struggle after it was forced to change an engine in the #5 car following electric problems and it delayed its participation in qualifying.

It took 44 minutes for Mike Simpson to take that car on track before a late improvement in the final six minutes from Leo Roussel lifted it to ninth in class and 11th overall provisionally, almost seven seconds off the leading non-hybrid LMP1 pace.

The sister #6 car was significantly slower, finishing back in 23rd overall after Williams F1 young driver Oliver Rowland set its best time.

ORECAs lead the way in LMP2

The #48 IDEC Sport ORECA claimed provisional pole in LMP2, courtesy of a 3m24.956s from Paul-Loup Chatin as ORECA swept the top five positions.

Loic Duval in the #28 TDS Racing ORECA was one of the few drivers able to complete two flying laps before a spin for Gianmaria Bruni's pace-setting GTE Pro Porsche brought out the yellow flags, so Duval took an early advantage before 2014 European Le Mans Series champion Chatin edged ahead by 0.284s.

The Frenchman was the only driver in the top six able to dip under his original time, leaving Duval second, ahead of practice pacesetter Jean-Eric Vergne in the TDS-run #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA, 1.49s off the pace.

Pastor Maldonado was fourth quickest in Dragonspeed's #31 entry, ahead of two-time class-winner Nicolas Lapierre for Signatech-Alpine and Filipe Albuquerque, the best of the rest in the #22 United Autosports Ligier, which survived a trip through the gravel in Paul di Resta's hands late in the session.

Porsche strikes first in GTE

Porsche provisionally locked out the front row in GTE Pro with its pair of retro-inspired 911 RSRs.

Gianmaria Bruni demolished the class practice benchmark on his first flying lap with a remarkable 3m47.504s effort in the Rothmans-liveried car, putting himself 1.593s clear of the opposition.

He subsequently went off at the Dunlop Chicane on his very next lap, ending the #91's session early - but the Italian's time went unbeaten for the remainder of the session.

Bruni's nearest challenger was Michael Christensen, who set a 3m49.097s in the 'Pink Pig' #92 Porsche to go less than a tenth clear of Olivier Pla in the best of the Ganassi-run Ford GTs, the #66.

Dirk Muller made it a provisional all-Ford second row in the #68 car, four tenths further back, while Alessandro Pier Guidi's opening effort in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari proved good enough for fifth ahead of the two CORE autosport-run IMSA Porsches.

BMW enjoyed a more competitive first qualifying session after struggling in practice, as Antonio Felix da Costa managed to get the #82 M8 GTE up to ninth in class with a time 3.075s off Bruni's pace.

Aston Martin on the other hand continued to suffer, its pair of Vantage GTEs ending up 16th and 17th. Alex Lynn's best time in the #97 car was almost five seconds slower than that of Bruni.

Both Aston Martins, as well as the two Corvettes, were slower than the quickest car in GTE Am, the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche of Matteo Cairoli.

The Italian driver was 1.202s clear of Matt Campbell in the sister Dempsey-Proton car, with Ben Barker making it a trio of Porsches out front in the #86 Gulf Racing car.

Best of the non-Porsches was again the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari with Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel.

First qualifying times

Pos Class Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 LMP1 S.Buemi, K.Nakajima, F.Alonso Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota 3m17.270s - 31
2 LMP1 M.Conway, K.Kobayashi, J.M.Lopez Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota 3m17.377s 0.107s 33
3 LMP1 S.Sarrazin, E.Orudzhev, M.Isaakyan SMP Racing BR Engineering/AER 3m19.483s 2.213s 24
4 LMP1 A.Lotterer, N.Jani, B.Senna Rebellion Racing Rebellion/Gibson 3m19.662s 2.392s 26
5 LMP1 T.Laurent, M.Beche, G.Menezes Rebellion Racing Rebellion/Gibson 3m19.945s 2.675s 27
6 LMP1 H.Hedman, B.Hanley, R.van der Zande DragonSpeed BR Engineering/Gibson 3m21.110s 3.840s 13
7 LMP1 V.Petrov, M.Aleshin, J.Button SMP Racing BR Engineering/AER 3m21.408s 4.138s 29
8 LMP1 O.Webb, D.Kraihamer, T.Dillmann ByKOLLES Racing Team ENSO CLM/NISMO 3m22.505s 5.235s 24
9 LMP2 P.Lafargue, P-L.Chatin, M.Rojas Idec Sport Racing ORECA/Gibson 3m24.956s 7.686s 19
10 LMP2 F.Perrodo, M.Vaxiviere, L.Duval TDS Racing ORECA/Gibson 3m25.240s 7.970s 26
11 LMP1 C.Robertson, M.Simpson, L.Roussel CEFC TRSM Racing Ginetta/Mecachrome 3m26.246s 8.976s 20
12 LMP2 R.Rusinov, A.Pizzitola, J-E.Vergne G-Drive Racing ORECA/Gibson 3m26.447s 9.177s 29
13 LMP2 R.Gonzalez, P.Maldonado, N.Berthon DragonSpeed ORECA/Gibson 3m26.508s 9.238s 18
14 LMP2 N.Lapierre, A.Negrao, P.Thiriet Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine/Gibson 3m26.681s 9.411s 28
15 LMP2 P.Hanson, F.Albuquerque, P.Di Resta United Autosports Ligier/Gibson 3m26.772s 9.502s 24
16 LMP2 J.Jaafar, N.Jeffri, W.Tan Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA/Gibson 3m27.468s 10.198s 26
17 LMP2 R.Lacorte, G.Sernagiotto, F.Nasr Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara/Gibson 3m27.993s 10.723s 28
18 LMP2 H-Pin Tung, S.Richelmi, G.Aubry Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA/Gibson 3m27.999s 10.729s 27
19 LMP2 F.van Eerd, G.van der Garde, J.Lammers Racing Team Nederland Dallara/Gibson 3m28.556s 11.286s 30
20 LMP2 V.Shaytar, H.Newey, N.Nato SMP Racing Dallara/Gibson 3m28.629s 11.359s 28
21 LMP2 T.Buret, J.Canal, W.Stevens Panis Barthez Competition Ligier/Gibson 3m29.421s 12.151s 27
22 LMP2 V.Capillaire, J.Hirschi, T.Gommendy Graff-SO24 ORECA/Gibson 3m29.860s 12.590s 29
23 LMP1 O.Rowland, A.Brundle, O.Turvey CEFC TRSM Racing Ginetta/Mecachrome 3m30.339s 13.069s 17
24 LMP2 H.de Sadeleer, W.Owen, J.P.Montoya United Autosports Ligier/Gibson 3m30.347s 13.077s 26
25 LMP2 J.Allen, J.Gutierrez, E.Guibbert G-Drive Racing ORECA/Gibson 3m31.291s 14.021s 21
26 LMP2 A.Bertolini, N.Jonsson, T.Krohn Eurasia Motorsport Ligier/Gibson 3m33.532s 16.262s 30
27 LMP2 R.Taylor, C.Ledogar, D.H.Hansson Jackie Chan DC Racing Ligier/Gibson 3m33.755s 16.485s 20
28 LMP2 D.Cheng, N.Boulle, P.Nicolet Jackie Chan DC Racing Ligier/Gibson 3m35.237s 17.967s 23
29 LMP2 E.Creed, R.Ricci, T.Dagoneau Larbre Competition Ligier/Gibson 3m38.206s 20.936s 20
30 LMP2 M.Patterson, A.D.De Jong, T.Kim Algarve Pro Racing Ligier/Gibson 3m44.177s 26.907s 28
31 GTE Pro R.Lietz, G.Bruni, F.Makowiecki Porsche GT Team Porsche 3m47.504s 30.234s 2
32 GTE Pro M.Christensen, K.Estre, L.Vanthoor Porsche GT Team Porsche 3m49.097s 31.827s 23
33 GTE Pro S.Mucke, O.Pla, B.Johnson Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford 3m49.181s 31.911s 26
34 GTE Pro J.Hand, D.Muller, S.Bourdais Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford 3m49.582s 32.312s 22
35 GTE Pro A.P.Guidi, J.Calado, D.Serra AF Corse Ferrari 3m49.854s 32.584s 26
36 GTE Pro R.Dumas, T.Bernhard, S.Muller Porsche GT Team Porsche 3m50.089s 32.819s 21
37 GTE Pro P.Pilet, N.Tandy, E.Bamber Porsche GT Team Porsche 3m50.261s 32.991s 18
38 GTE Pro A.Priaulx, H.Tincknell, T.Kanaan Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford 3m50.429s 33.159s 24
39 GTE Pro A.Farfus, A.F.da Costa, A.Sims BMW Team MTEK BMW 3m50.579s 33.309s 24
40 GTE Pro R.Briscoe, R.Westbrook, S.Dixon Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford 3m50.593s 33.323s 21
41 GTE Pro M.Tomczyk, N.Catsburg, P.Eng BMW Team MTEK BMW 3m50.596s 33.326s 26
42 GTE Pro D.Rigon, S.Bird, M.Molina AF Corse Ferrari 3m50.669s 33.399s 27
43 GTE Am M.Cairoli, K.Al Qubaisi, G.Roda Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 3m50.728s 33.458s 25
44 GTE Pro J.Magnussen, A.Garcia, M.Rockenfeller Corvette Racing - GM Chevrolet 3m50.789s 33.519s 23
45 GTE Pro O.Gavin, T.Milner, M.Fassler Corvette Racing - GM Chevrolet 3m50.952s 33.682s 27
46 GTE Am M.Campbell, C.Ried, J.Andlauer Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 3m51.930s 34.660s 23
47 GTE Pro T.Vilander, A.Giovinazzi, P.Derani AF Corse Ferrari 3m52.112s 34.842s 27
48 GTE Pro A.Lynn, M.Martin, J.Adam Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 3m52.486s 35.216s 26
49 GTE Am M.Wainwright, B.Barker, A.Davison Gulf Racing Porsche 3m52.517s 35.247s 24
50 GTE Am T.Flohr, F.Castellacci, G.Fisichella Spirit of Race Ferrari 3m52.756s 35.486s 27
51 GTE Am J.Bergmeister, P.Lindsey, E.Perfetti Team Project 1 Porsche 3m52.985s 35.715s 19
52 GTE Am B.Keating, J.Bleekemolen, L.Stolz Keating Motorsports Ferrari 3m54.000s 36.730s 18
53 GTE Am P.D.Lana, P.Lamy, M.Lauda Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 3m54.307s 37.037s 26
54 GTE Am L.Griffin, C.MacNeil, J.Segal JMW Motorsport Ferrari 3m54.384s 37.114s 24
55 GTE Pro M.Sorensen, N.Thiim, D.Turner Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 3m54.780s 37.510s 26
56 GTE Am M.Ishikawa, O.Beretta, E.Cheever MR Racing Ferrari 3m54.951s 37.681s 26
57 GTE Am Mok W.S., M.Griffin, K.Sawa Clearwater Racing Ferrari 3m55.076s 37.806s 28
58 GTE Am F.Babini, C.Nielsen, E.Maris Ebimotors Porsche 3m55.569s 38.299s 21
59 GTE Am S.Yoluc, E.Hankey, C.Eastwood TF Sport Aston Martin 3m55.661s 38.391s 21
60 GTE Am P.Long, T.Pappas, S.Pumpelly Proton Competition Porsche 4m03.107s 45.837s 12


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Series WEC
Drivers Kazuki Nakajima
Teams Toyota Racing
Author Tom Errington
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