Toyota is one day away from winning the 82nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, after taking pole position in the final qualifying session yesterday. The No.7 car of Kazuki Nakajima, Alex Wurz and Stéphane Sarrazin will start at pole after setting the fastest time in the session. Nakajima became the first Japanese driver in the history of Le Mans to claim this position. Porsche finished in second place in the No.14 Porsche 919 Hybrid before another Toyota, the No.8 TS040 Hybrid.
Despite having a bad Le Mans start with Duval’s crash, Audi still managed to rebuild the car in one night and it was back on the grid and won the ‘race before the race’. In the final qualifying, the best placed Audi in the LMP1 class was the No.3 Audi R8 e-tron quattro in fifth place while the No.2 and 1 followed in sixth and seventh respectively.
Duval’s name continues to be on the No.1 car which will now be driven by Spaniard Marc Gené together with Lucas di Grassi and Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen. Audi has an added advantage during the main race as they will be the only team using the advanced laser headlight technology, aiding the vision of the drivers. At the same time, Audi launched the new Audi R8 LMX last night at Le Mans; their first production model with laser lights.
In the LMP2 class, Thiriet By TDS Racing will start in pole position while Jota Sport is second and OAK Racing in third. AF Corse dominated the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am classes with two of its cars; the No.51 and No.61 Ferrari 458 both finishing first in their classes. The biggest surprise was that by Corvette Racing after they took the second place in the GT Pro class. Aston Martin Racing was third in place in the LM GTE Pro class. The second and third places in the LM GTE Am classes also went to Aston Martin Racing.
The main race will start today at at 15.00 where Toyota will for the 16th time attempt to win their first Le Mans. Audi is still the most successful team with 12 Le Mans wins out of 15 starts. The main race will broadcast live on 31 channels, and in 190 countries while Eurosport will provide live non-stop coverage in Europe. There will be more than 300,000 spectators in attendance!
Even though it is a 24-hour race it is a very good feeling to be on pole position. I am really happy with the car so many thanks to team; we have prepared a great car for the race. I was struggling with the traffic but I managed to get one lap and it was just enough to get the pole. It’s going to be a tough race but tonight I am happy. We didn’t have to compromise our programme and we managed to put in the lap time for the right moment. Now I think we are well prepared for the race.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport):
For us, it was important to put the three cars on the grid prepared as best we could despite the serious accident on Wednesday. Although there was another minor accident with our car No. 1 on Thursday, we managed to do this well. Afterwards, we fully concentrated on the optimal race set-up and have now created a good starting base for all three teams.