For the first time in 50 years Ferrari will start the Le Mans 24 Hours from pole position, the great Italian team annexing the front row for the Centenary race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday.
In 1973, the last Ferrari effort at Le Mans, Arturo Merzario and Carlos Pace put the Red car on pole, with Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman lining up beside them.
Half a century later, on the occasion of the Scuderia’s return to Le Mans, Antonio Fuoco was in scintillating form, powering around the 13.626 km Circuit de la Sarthe in a best lap of 3:22.982 which was eight tenths faster than second best Antonio Pier Guidi in the sister Ferrari.
Toyota were unfortunate that a red flag stopped the session with just over five minutes to go, just as everyone was prepping for a final flyer but when it mattered neither of their top guns (former Formula 1 drivers) Brendon Hartley and Kamui Kobayashi and who had to settle for third and fifth.
Penske Porsche’s Felipe Nasr split the pair of TGR cars as the great German marque targets its 20th outright victory at the great race, billed this year as The Race of the Century and living up to it if qualifying is anything to go by.
The other Porsche, driven by Frederic Makowiecki was good for seventh, a mere 0.006 shy of the Cadillac of Earl Bamber, which will line up sixth on the grid. Sebastian Bourdais, in the second Caddy, was eighth after his best lap was cancelled for breaking track limits.
How Le Mans 24 Hours Hyperpole unfolded
Earlier, the two Toyota GR010-Hybrids led the Hyperpole field out at 20:00. The Ferraris that topped the Qualifying session took control on the first flying lap with Pier Guidi flying round in 3:23.897. The two Porsche 963s remained in the pits during the early exchanges.
On Fuoco’s sixth lap, the #50 Ferrari driver went top with a time of 3:22.982. Drama struck with just over five minutes to go. The #3 Cadillac V-Series.R driven by Bourdais, who had just leapt into P3 in the standings, stopped on the Mulsanne Straight with flames and smoke emerging from the American Hypercar.
The session was temporarily halted by a red flag. Hyperpole regulations meant that Bourdais’ fastest time was scratched, relegating him down the standings. Brendon Hartley improved his time in the one lap left to complete before the chequered flag, but it was not enough to upset the Ferrari applecart.
LMP2 and LMGTE: IDEC Sport and Corvette on top
The #48 IDEC Sport Oreca-07 of Paul Lafargue/Paul-Loup Chatin/Laurents Hörr clinched class pole position with Chatin clocking a time of 3:32.923. The only Pro/Am team to qualify for the Hyperpole session since it was introduced in 2020, the #14 Nielsen Racing Oreca was fastest on the opening timed lap. Driver Ben Hanley finished P6.
Corvette, with the experienced Ben Keating at the wheel, was fastest in the class, clocking a time of 3:52.376 on the final lap. He shares driving duties with Nicky Catsburg and Nicolas Varrone. They edged the Aston Martin of Ahmad Al Harthy by a second and a bit; Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood are the other drivers in the ORT by TF outfit.