Ahead of the 88th 24 hours of Le Mans race, the cars and their drivers took to the track in an effort to place themselves at the front of the field in the hopes of a quick getaway at lights out.
It was the number 7 Toyota of former Formula E drivers Conway, Kobayashi & Lopez took pole for Saturday’s Le Mans 24hrs in a qualifying session that saw the introduction of the new “Hyperpole” format, as well as a top 5 decorated with Formula E drivers past and present.
A total of 16 current and former Formula E drivers took to the track on Thursday and Friday for the new qualifying ahead of this year’s race. The format saw qualifying split into two sessions, with the top 6 of each class from Thursday’s qualifying session going through to the final Hyperpole session, not too dissimilar from Formula E’s own Superpole.
The most notable elimination of the Formula E alumni was Techeetah’s newly crowned champion, Antonio Felix da Costa. Racing the in the LMP2 class, da Costa’s 38 JOTA entry narrowly missed out on Hyperpole by just eight hundreds of a second, becoming the only Formula E driver to be eliminated from the first 45min qualification session.
The second Formula E alumnus to be eliminated came in the shape of former Andretti driver Tom Blomqvist, who was behind the wheel of the 72 HUB Auto Racing Ferrari.
There were no other Formula E drivers eliminated in LMP1 or GTE Pro, partially as a result of the relatively lower entries in each category due to complications created by Covid-19 with Ginetta ending their LMP1 program and the North America entires.
Friday’s 30min Hyperpole brought something of a surprise with the 1 Rebellion of former Mahindra driver Bruno Senna splitting the two hotly favoured Toyotas, just 0.5 adrift of the pole time set by the 7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose-Maria Lopez in LMP1. Third was former Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi in the 8 Toyota, sharing with Dragon’s Brendon Hartley, followed by former Aguri driver Nathanael Berthon’s 3 Rebellion and former Venturi man Tom Dillman’s ByKolles.
In the ultra-competitive LMP2 class, double Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne missed out on the class pole by three tenths in the 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca, followed closely Nyck De Vries in the 29 Racing Team Nederland Oreca.
Lastly, in the frequently show-stealing GTE Pro class, outgoing Jaguar driver James Calado also missed out on a class pole position in his 51 AF Corse Ferrari. Newly signed Mahindra driver Alex Lynn qualified in 4th with the 97 Aston Martin, and Calado’s replacement at Jaguar, Sam Bird, in 5th with the 71 AF Corse Ferrari. All works entries within the GTE class were within 0.9 of each other.
Hyperbole Classification for all competing Formula E drivers:
1st (1st LMP1) – 7 Mike Conway GBR / Kamui Kobayashi JPN / Jose-Maria Lopez ARG –
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 3:15.267
2nd (2nd LMP1) – 1 Bruno Senna BRA (w/ N Nato FRA & G Menezes USA – Rebellion Racing
3rd (3rd LMP1) – 8 Sebastien Buemi CHE / Brand Hartley NZL (w/ K Nakajima JPN) – Toyota
Gazoo Racing – 3:16.649
4th (4th LMP1) – 3 Nathanael Berthon FRA (w/ R Dumas FRA & L Deletraz FRA) – Rebellion
Racing – 3:18.330
5th (5th LMP1) – 4 Tom Dillman FRA (w/ B Spengler CAN & O Webb GBR) – ByKolles Racing –
7th (2nd LMP2) – 26 Jean-Eric Vergne FRA (w/ R Rusinov RUS & M Jensen DNK) – G DriveRacing – 3:25.860
8th (3rd LMP2) – 29 Nyck De Vries NLD (w/ F Van Eerd NLD & G Van Der Garde NLD) –
Racing Team Nederlands – 3:25.062
11th (5h LMP2) – 37 Ho-Pin Tung CHN (w/ G Aubry FRA & Will Stevens GBR) – Jackie Chan
DC Racing – 3:25.875
12th (6th LMP2) – 38 Antonio Felix da Costa PRT (w/ A Davidson GBR & R Gonzales MEX) –
JOTA – 3:27.097
31st (2nd in GTE Pro) – 51 James Calado GBR (w/ A Pier Guidi ITA & D Serra BRA) – AFCorse – 3:51.115
33rd (4th in GTE Pro) 97 Alex Lynn GBR (w/ M Martin BEL & H Tincknell GBR) – Aston Martin
Racing – 3:51.324
34th (5th in GTE Pro) 71 Sam Bird GBR (w/ D Rigon ITA & M Molina ESP) AF Corse –
50th (13th in GTE Am) 72 Tom Blomqvist GBR (w. M Chen TWN & M Gomes BRA) – Hub
Auto Racing – 3:55.308
Words: Rajan Jangda
Images: Toyota Gazoo Racing / James Moy, G-Drive Racing