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Lopez’s number 7 Toyota on pole for Le Mans

With current Formula E racer Jose Maria Lopez on Pole Position for the 2019 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, alongside sometime Formula E competitors Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, we take a look at how drivers from the all-electric series got on in qualifying ahead of endurance racing's biggest event.

LMP1

The #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 of Dragon Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez along with co-drivers Mike Conway (formerly of Dragon Racing and Venturi) and Kamui Kobayashi (drove two races in Season 4 for Andretti) has claimed pole position for the 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The fastest lap time of 3:15.497 was set by Kobayashi in the second of the three qualifying sessions on Thursday evening.

This was despite Conway being judged to have been at fault in a collision at the Ford Chicane between himself and Roberto Gonzalez in the #31 Dragonspeed Oreca 07 – Gibson LMP2 car, which saw the Brit fail to slow down in time and launched over the front of the Oreca.

As per stewards' decision number 56: “Conway passed MP 35 which was displaying a double yellow flag and at that time, the onboard Marshalling System also displayed the double yellow.”

Conway was given a suspended, 3-minute stop and hold penalty although, in this instance, the penalty applies to the driver and not the car so if Kobayashi or Lopez were to collide with another car on the track, their penalties would be at the discretion of the stewards.

The incident also led to Toyota changing the chassis upon the discovery of a crack whilst they were inspecting it afterwards.

The sister #8 TS050 of Nissan e.dams driver Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso will be starting alongside on the front row thanks to Nakajima’s 3:15.908, which was also set in the same session.

HWA Racelab’s Stoffel Vandoorne impressed in the #11 SMP BR1 – AER as he put the car he will be sharing with Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin fifth on the grid with a 3:16.665.

Just behind Vandoorne was the #1 Rebellion R13 – Gibson with Andre Lotterer of DS Techeetah setting a 3:16.810 in the car he shares with confirmed Season 6 Porsche FE pilot Neel Jani and former Mahindra racer Bruno Senna.

There was however drama for the team in the session as the Gibson engine let go in a very spectacular way coming towards Indianapolis with Senna at the wheel, causing a red flag.

They had previously had all of their laps from the first qualifying session on Wednesday night cancelled due to not declaring the fuel flow meter on the car not complying with what was on the equipment declaration form.

The drivers were, however, allowed to have the laps they did in that session count towards their quota to be able to race at night.

The engine failure came after the #3 car, which features former Team Aguri racer Nathanael Berthon in its driving squad, also had a similar failure in the second qualifying session on Thursday evening. The Gibson engine used by Rebellion this weekend is reportedly newer and more powerful than the ones used by Dragonspeed and ByKolles to the tune of 20 bhp.

Speaking of ByKolles, they rounded out the LMP1 class despite the heroic effort of NIO’s Tom Dillmann, who dragged the recalcitrant car into the 3:23s, 6 seconds quicker than what Oliver Webb managed in the same car.

It was an effort on par with arguably the standout lap in the class which was set by Egor Orudzhev in the #17 SMP entry as he set the fastest lap at Le Mans for a privateer team with a 3:16.159 to take third on the grid, which was quite possibly one of the biggest laps of his career! He shares that car with Sergey Sirotkin and former Venturi, Techeetah and Andretti racer Stephane Sarrazin.

LMP2

Formula E's Season 4 champion Jean-Eric Vergne of DS Techeetah set the sixth fastest lap in the LMP2 class with a 3:26.257 in the #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 – Gibson he shares with Roman Rusinov and Job van Uitert.

The fastest lap in the class was set by Tristan Gommendy in the #39 Graff Oreca 07 – Gibson, but this pole time was deleted due to the car failing to stop at the scrutineering light for weighing during qualifying practice three.

This handed class pole to former Dragon Racing driver Loic Duval's #28 TDS Racing Oreca, ahead of Pastor Maldonado (#31 Dragonspeed), the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 of Nicolas Lapierre and the Oreca of Paul Loup Chatin (#48 IDEC Sport).

The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car of Jaguar Racing reserve driver Ho-Pin Tung will start seventh in LMP2. The #39 Graff entry will start 14th in class.

GTE-Pro

Augusto Farfus set the fifth quickest time in class with a 3:49.108 in the #82 BMW M8 GTE he will be sharing with Jesse Krohn and BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s Antonio Felix da Costa.

Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird set the eighth fastest time in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo which he will share with Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina with a 3:49.391.

Alex Lynn of Jaguar Racing also set the quickest time for the car he is entered into with a 3:50.037 in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage AMR to go 15th in class.

The Brit will be sharing with Maxime Martin and Jonathan Adam but it was the #95 Aston that was on pole in the class thanks to a 3:48.000 from Marco Sorensen, with only Harry Ticknell in the #67 Ford GT able to get any vaguely near to the time set by the Danish driver.

The #63 Corvette of sometime NextEV TCR driver Antonio Garcia will start third in class.

GTE-Am

There is no Formula E interest in the GTE-Am class this year. But the story here was that if you had a Porsche 911 RSR, you were looking good; and if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be starting near the front.

In fact, five of the six best lap times in the class came from teams running the Porsche with only Jeff Segal in the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE able to spoil the party.

Matteo Cairoli set a 3:51.439 as he and Matt Campbell locked out the front row in the class for Dempsey Proton Racing in the #88 and the #77 respectively.

Thomas Preining was third in the #86 Gulf Racing entry followed by Segal, Vincent Abril in the third Proton Competition car (#78) and the top six was rounded out by Jorg Bergmeister in the #56 Team Project 1 entry.

The fourth Proton Competition car was the #99 and following an accident for Tracy Krohn which left him unable to race for a week due to FIA protocols, the car was withdrawn from the race.

The race will begin at 15:00 CEST on Saturday 15th June, finishing at 15:00 CEST the following day.

Photo: Rob Lomas

Rob Lomas

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