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Le Mans: no.7 Toyota scores Pole, Aston leads GT Pro

Text and images: Rick Kiewiet

After three qualifying sessions, the full grid for the 87th running of the 24 hours of Le Mans is known. Read all about it here.

The formation lap on Saturday will be led by a Brit: Mike Conway, who'll start in the no.7 Toyota TS050 hybrid. Where last year Kazuki Nakajima set a blistering record lap time of 3.15.377, this year it was his fellow countryman Kamui Kobayashi who, with a 3.15.497, took the honors. After the Toyota's, the no. 17 SMP Racing car laid claims on the third position on the grid. Egor Orudzhev, together with teammates Stephane Sarrazin and Sergei Sirotkin, drove the fastest time in q3: 3.16.159 which was only 6 tenths of the pace set by the no. 7 Toyota earlier. Gustavo Menezes qualified the no. 3 Rebellion in fourth, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne in the no. 11 SMP.

In LMP2, pole position initially went to the no. 39 Graff Racing Oreca, be it not that after q3 they missed the weighing bridge and saw all their q3 times deleted. Pole now went to the no. 28 TDS Racing Oreca, in which former winner and DTM pilot Loïc Duval, was able to outrun Pastor Maldonado in the Dragonspeed car by 0.322 seconds. In third came the championship leader, the #36 Signatech Alpine car in the hands of Nicolas Lapierre. The runners-up Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca will start the race from 7th. Best Dallara was the no. 29 car of Racing Team Nederland, in which current Formula 2 runner-up Nyck de Vries set the fastest time. Best placed Ligier is the no. 22 United Autosports car with Felipe Albuquerque behind the wheel.

The ongoing development of the new Aston Martin Vantage by Prodrive materialized with the second Pole of the season (after Fuji): Marco Sørensen produced a 3.48.000, which gave him a 0.112s lead over Harry Tincknell in the no. 67 Ford GT. Antonio Garcia put the #63 Corvette C7.R on p3, Nick Tandy in the #93 Porsche was 4th, the #82 BMW M8 in the hands of Augusto Farfus 5th, making it 5 manufacturers in the first 5 spots. Best Ferrari was found in p8, put there by Sam Bird. Championship leaders by 36 points, Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen, will start the race Satuday from p7.

The fight for pole in GT Am was mainly one between Porsche and Ferrari, won in the end by the Dempsey-Proton squad: Matteo Cairoli in the #88 claimed Pole ahead of the #77 driven by Matt Campbell. Thomas Preining made it an all-911 top 3, putting the #86 Gulf Racing car ahead of the first Ferrari 488, run by JMW Motorsport. Jeroen Bleekemolen put the Keating Ford GT 9th on the grid, best Aston was the #98 driven by Pedro Lamy. Leaders in the championship, Project 1 racing in the 911 RSR qualified right in front of their main competitor, the Spirit of Race Ferrari: they will start the race from p6 and p7 respectively.

Find the full starting grid here.

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