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

#8 Toyota Le Mans 24 Hours 2018

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.

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

#48 IDEC Sport ORECA LMP2 Le Mans qualifying 2018

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

1LMP1S.Buemi, K.Nakajima, F.AlonsoToyota Gazoo RacingToyota3m17.270s-31
2LMP1M.Conway, K.Kobayashi, J.M.LopezToyota Gazoo RacingToyota3m17.377s0.107s33
3LMP1S.Sarrazin, E.Orudzhev, M.IsaakyanSMP RacingBR Engineering/AER3m19.483s2.213s24
4LMP1A.Lotterer, N.Jani, B.SennaRebellion RacingRebellion/Gibson3m19.662s2.392s26
5LMP1T.Laurent, M.Beche, G.MenezesRebellion RacingRebellion/Gibson3m19.945s2.675s27
6LMP1H.Hedman, B.Hanley, R.van der ZandeDragonSpeedBR Engineering/Gibson3m21.110s3.840s13
7LMP1V.Petrov, M.Aleshin, J.ButtonSMP RacingBR Engineering/AER3m21.408s4.138s29
8LMP1O.Webb, D.Kraihamer, T.DillmannByKOLLES Racing TeamENSO CLM/NISMO3m22.505s5.235s24
9LMP2P.Lafargue, P-L.Chatin, M.RojasIdec Sport RacingORECA/Gibson3m24.956s7.686s19
10LMP2F.Perrodo, M.Vaxiviere, L.DuvalTDS RacingORECA/Gibson3m25.240s7.970s26
11LMP1C.Robertson, M.Simpson, L.RousselCEFC TRSM RacingGinetta/Mecachrome3m26.246s8.976s20
12LMP2R.Rusinov, A.Pizzitola, J-E.VergneG-Drive RacingORECA/Gibson3m26.447s9.177s29
13LMP2R.Gonzalez, P.Maldonado, N.BerthonDragonSpeedORECA/Gibson3m26.508s9.238s18
14LMP2N.Lapierre, A.Negrao, P.ThirietSignatech Alpine MatmutAlpine/Gibson3m26.681s9.411s28
15LMP2P.Hanson, F.Albuquerque, P.Di RestaUnited AutosportsLigier/Gibson3m26.772s9.502s24
16LMP2J.Jaafar, N.Jeffri, W.TanJackie Chan DC RacingORECA/Gibson3m27.468s10.198s26
17LMP2R.Lacorte, G.Sernagiotto, F.NasrCetilar Villorba CorseDallara/Gibson3m27.993s10.723s28
18LMP2H-Pin Tung, S.Richelmi, G.AubryJackie Chan DC RacingORECA/Gibson3m27.999s10.729s27
19LMP2F.van Eerd, G.van der Garde, J.LammersRacing Team NederlandDallara/Gibson3m28.556s11.286s30
20LMP2V.Shaytar, H.Newey, N.NatoSMP RacingDallara/Gibson3m28.629s11.359s28
21LMP2T.Buret, J.Canal, W.StevensPanis Barthez CompetitionLigier/Gibson3m29.421s12.151s27
22LMP2V.Capillaire, J.Hirschi, T.GommendyGraff-SO24ORECA/Gibson3m29.860s12.590s29
23LMP1O.Rowland, A.Brundle, O.TurveyCEFC TRSM RacingGinetta/Mecachrome3m30.339s13.069s17 Sadeleer, W.Owen, J.P.MontoyaUnited AutosportsLigier/Gibson3m30.347s13.077s26
25LMP2J.Allen, J.Gutierrez, E.GuibbertG-Drive RacingORECA/Gibson3m31.291s14.021s21
26LMP2A.Bertolini, N.Jonsson, T.KrohnEurasia MotorsportLigier/Gibson3m33.532s16.262s30
27LMP2R.Taylor, C.Ledogar, D.H.HanssonJackie Chan DC RacingLigier/Gibson3m33.755s16.485s20
28LMP2D.Cheng, N.Boulle, P.NicoletJackie Chan DC RacingLigier/Gibson3m35.237s17.967s23
29LMP2E.Creed, R.Ricci, T.DagoneauLarbre CompetitionLigier/Gibson3m38.206s20.936s20
30LMP2M.Patterson, A.D.De Jong, T.KimAlgarve Pro RacingLigier/Gibson3m44.177s26.907s28
31GTE ProR.Lietz, G.Bruni, F.MakowieckiPorsche GT TeamPorsche3m47.504s30.234s2
32GTE ProM.Christensen, K.Estre, L.VanthoorPorsche GT TeamPorsche3m49.097s31.827s23
33GTE ProS.Mucke, O.Pla, B.JohnsonFord Chip Ganassi Team UKFord3m49.181s31.911s26
34GTE ProJ.Hand, D.Muller, S.BourdaisFord Chip Ganassi Team USAFord3m49.582s32.312s22
35GTE ProA.P.Guidi, J.Calado, D.SerraAF CorseFerrari3m49.854s32.584s26
36GTE ProR.Dumas, T.Bernhard, S.MullerPorsche GT TeamPorsche3m50.089s32.819s21
37GTE ProP.Pilet, N.Tandy, E.BamberPorsche GT TeamPorsche3m50.261s32.991s18
38GTE ProA.Priaulx, H.Tincknell, T.KanaanFord Chip Ganassi Team UKFord3m50.429s33.159s24
39GTE ProA.Farfus, A.F.da Costa, A.SimsBMW Team MTEKBMW3m50.579s33.309s24
40GTE ProR.Briscoe, R.Westbrook, S.DixonFord Chip Ganassi Team USAFord3m50.593s33.323s21
41GTE ProM.Tomczyk, N.Catsburg, P.EngBMW Team MTEKBMW3m50.596s33.326s26
42GTE ProD.Rigon, S.Bird, M.MolinaAF CorseFerrari3m50.669s33.399s27
43GTE AmM.Cairoli, K.Al Qubaisi, G.RodaDempsey-Proton RacingPorsche3m50.728s33.458s25
44GTE ProJ.Magnussen, A.Garcia, M.RockenfellerCorvette Racing - GMChevrolet3m50.789s33.519s23
45GTE ProO.Gavin, T.Milner, M.FasslerCorvette Racing - GMChevrolet3m50.952s33.682s27
46GTE AmM.Campbell, C.Ried, J.AndlauerDempsey-Proton RacingPorsche3m51.930s34.660s23
47GTE ProT.Vilander, A.Giovinazzi, P.DeraniAF CorseFerrari3m52.112s34.842s27
48GTE ProA.Lynn, M.Martin, J.AdamAston Martin RacingAston Martin3m52.486s35.216s26
49GTE AmM.Wainwright, B.Barker, A.DavisonGulf RacingPorsche3m52.517s35.247s24
50GTE AmT.Flohr, F.Castellacci, G.FisichellaSpirit of RaceFerrari3m52.756s35.486s27
51GTE AmJ.Bergmeister, P.Lindsey, E.PerfettiTeam Project 1Porsche3m52.985s35.715s19
52GTE AmB.Keating, J.Bleekemolen, L.StolzKeating MotorsportsFerrari3m54.000s36.730s18
53GTE AmP.D.Lana, P.Lamy, M.LaudaAston Martin RacingAston Martin3m54.307s37.037s26
54GTE AmL.Griffin, C.MacNeil, J.SegalJMW MotorsportFerrari3m54.384s37.114s24
55GTE ProM.Sorensen, N.Thiim, D.TurnerAston Martin RacingAston Martin3m54.780s37.510s26
56GTE AmM.Ishikawa, O.Beretta, E.CheeverMR RacingFerrari3m54.951s37.681s26
57GTE AmMok W.S., M.Griffin, K.SawaClearwater RacingFerrari3m55.076s37.806s28
58GTE AmF.Babini, C.Nielsen, E.MarisEbimotorsPorsche3m55.569s38.299s21
59GTE AmS.Yoluc, E.Hankey, C.EastwoodTF SportAston Martin3m55.661s38.391s21
60GTE AmP.Long, T.Pappas, S.PumpellyProton CompetitionPorsche4m03.107s45.837s12

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