Kazuki Nakajima set the fastest time in first qualifying for the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hour race on Wednesday evening.
His time of 3:17.270s put the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 that he shares with Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi on provisional pole for this weekend’s event.
It was just over a tenth faster than the sister #7 car piloted by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López. The two hybrids were over two seconds clear of the rest of the field.
However, the #8 car had a number of subsequent laps deleted during the session for excessive fuel consumption. Although it didn’t affect the provisional pole time, the team will need to address the issue before the race to avoid costly penalties.
The #17 SMP Racing BR1 was best of the rest in the hands of Stephane Sarrazin, followed by the two Rebellion R-13 prototypes. Bruno Senna wheeled the #1 car to fourth place, beating Gustavo Menezes in the #3 by 0.283s.
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The #10 DragonSpeed BR1 was sixth fastest. However it also triggered a slow-zone during the two-hour session when Renger van der Zande was forced to stop at the Dunlop Chicane.
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Vitaly Petrov put the #11 SMP Racing BR1 he shares with another former F1 driver Jenson Button into provisional seventh place. Tom Dillman had initially gone faster in the #4 ByKolles NISMO, but was another to have laps deleted for excessive fuel consumption.
The #48 IDEC Sport Oreca claimed provisional LMP2 pole in overall ninth position. Paul-Loup Chatin posted a time of 3:24.956s as Oreca swept the top five places.
Porsche dominated the GTE-Pro category, with Gianmaria Bruni fastest in the retro-liveried #25 911 RSR, ahead of stablemate Michael Christensen in the #92 car dubbed the ‘Pink Pig’.
Qualifying continues on Thursday with two more two-hour sessions, one in daylight and one after dark. Drivers have to log at least five laps in night conditions before starting the race itself – a requirement that both Alonso and Button have already completed.
However the forecast conditions for today’s sessions are not as good as they were on Wednesday, with rain a possibility.
It means that the times set overnight could prove to the best of the week – effectively sealing the starting grid for Saturday’s race.
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