Ex-Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley led a qualifying one-two for reigning champions Toyota at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Japanese team taking their sixth successive pole position at the Sarthe circuit.
New Zealander, Hartley, who shares the number eight GR010 hybrid car with Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japanese Ryo Hirokawa, lapped with a best time of three minutes and 24.408 seconds.
Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi, who took pole last year in 3:23.900, was denied a fifth in six years and had to settle for second in the number seven Toyota after lapping 0.177 slower than Hartley.
“It’s an incredible feeling. I was ready for it last year. I’m sorry for Kamui who wanted his fifth pole position, but there you go,” said Hartley, a Le Mans winner in 2017 and 2020 with Porsche and then Toyota.
The number seven car won last year with Kobayashi, Britain’s Mike Conway and Argentine Jose Maria Lopez who remain in the lineup.
Renault-owned Alpine took third on the grid after the hyperpole session with Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre at the wheel of the number 36 car and looking like he could seize the pole from Toyota.
There are only five entries in the top hypercar category for the 90th edition of the race, a showcase of the world endurance championship, which starts on Saturday with 62 teams and 186 drivers.
In the second tier LMP2 category, Dutch driver Robin Frijns was fastest with the WRT team.
The hyperpole qualifying format was first introduced in 2020 and features the six quickest teams in each class, or five in the case of the hypercars.
The LMGTE Pro category sees the No.64 Corvette lead the way as Nick Tandy’s early session topping laps of 3m49.895s beats sister Corvette driven by Antonio Garcia by a mere 0.192s.
Porsche GT Team start from second row of the grid as No.91 leads No.92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 as Frederic Makowiecki and Laurens Vanthoor set times.
AF Corse Ferrari fifth and sixth with No.52 of Antonio Fuoco just beating No.51 Spa winning car driven by James Calado
In LMP2 the No.31 Le Mans LMP2 title defending car driven by Robin Frijns holds off challengers after scintillating 3m28.394s lap.
This beats the No.41 Realteam by WRT car driven by Norman Nato by a huge 1.3s, while the No.22 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson is third with Filipe Albuquerque at the wheel.
No.38 JOTA entry places fourth ahead of Prema Orlen Team of Louis Deletraz and No.23 United Autosports car of Alex Lynn.
In the LMGTE Am class the No.61 AF Corse Ferrari driven by Vincent Abril shades the Kessel Racing car of Mikkel Jensen to make it a Prancing Horse front-row lock-out.
Harry Tincknell secures third for Dempsey Proton Porsche heading Nicki Thiim in No.98 Northwest AMR Vantage. No.54 AF Corse place fifth with Nick Cassidy at wheel, while Iron Dames take sixth thanks to Rahel Frey. Full Results Here. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin & ACO Le Mans))