Toyota's Kamui Kobayashi surprised by record Le Mans qualifying lap

Toyota driver Kamui Kobayashi admitted his surprise at being able to dip into the 3m14s on the way to pole position for this weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours

Toyota's Kamui Kobayashi surprised by record Le Mans qualifying lap

The Japanese driver said he was shocked to find out that he had set a 3m14.791s - a new qualifying record - when he crossed the line at the end of his qualifying run in the first of Thursday evening's two sessions.

"I thought I could do a 3m16s or maybe a 3m15s, but when I saw 3m14s, I thought wow," he said.

"I went at the right time on the right tyres and it was correct to go straight after the red flag.

"It was a brilliant lap - no mistakes and no traffic."

Kobayashi's lap eclipsed Neel Jani's previous 3m16.887s qualifying record on the current configuration of the Le Mans circuit from 2015, and was also the fastest ever in the history of the 24 Hours.

The lap aboard the #7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID was completed at an average speed of 156.516mph.

That meant he went faster than Hans Stuck's 156.47mph pole lap for Porsche in 1985, which was set before the two chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight and the one at Dunlop Curve were added to the circuit.

The fastest ever lap of Le Mans was set by Jackie Oliver at the Le Mans test in 1971, but his 3m13.6s was completed at a slower average speed because the circuit was significantly shorter before the addition of the Porsche Curves.

Toyota had predicted ahead of the final two qualifying sessions on Thursday that Jani's pole time from 2015 would be unlikely to be beaten.

It reckoned that the high ambient and track temperatures were costing the latest TS050 up to two seconds.

But the track conditions turned out to be quicker than expected for multiple reasons.

Temperatures were cooler than on Wednesday evening, when Kobayashi had topped the times with a 3m18.793s, giving the circuit more grip.

Another factor was the amount of rubber laid gone down on the track courtesy of three practice and qualifying sessions for the Porsche Carrera Cup race and first of the two Road to Le Mans races for LMP3 and GT3 machinery.

Just as significant was the tail wind that pushed the cars down the Mulsanne Straight, which turned into a headwind on the return leg and gave the cars more downforce in the Porsche Curves.

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Le Mans 24 Hours: Kobayashi heads Toyota 1-2 with qualifying record

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