Toyota locks out front row for Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans 2017

Toyota will lead a 60-strong field to the start of the 85th Le Mans 24 Hours on Saturday after Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi smashed the French circuit’s lap record in final qualifying.

Kobayashi set a 3min 14.791 sec lap, an average of 156.471mph, in the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid he shares with Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin. And the Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 car of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki will line up in second, thanks to a time set by Nakajima during the last of the three qualifying sessions.

Porsche fills second row

The second row will be filled by the two Porsche 919 Hybrid cars of Neel Jani/André Lotterer/Nick Tandy, and Timo Bernhard/Earl Bamber/Brendon Hartley. The third #9 Toyota of Nicolas Lapierre, Yuji Kunimoto and José María López completes the top five of the grid.

“I got in the car with 100% confidence and when you are confident, you are quick,” said Kobayashi, who is only the second Japanese driver to set pole position at Le Mans following Kazuki Nakajima’s performance for the team in 2014. “It was an amazing lap and the car was brilliant. Still, it is a 24-hour race so the important thing is the race result and that is what we are focusing on.”

All in the Toyota team will be wary of becoming too confident – Toyota led most of the 2016 race until its lead car broke down just one lap from taking the marque’s first-ever victory in the endurance classic. Porsche took over to claim its 18th win.

The race starts on Saturday at 3pm local time; 2pm in the UK.

Andrew Charman

Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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