Tauranga racing driver Richie Stanaway has secured provisional pole position for the GT category in the lead up to the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race this weekend.
Stanaway, who drivers for Aston Martin Racing, delivered a 3m 54.928secs lap early in the 10pm till midnight qualifying session on Wednesday.
The time has a strong chance of holding up for pole position in the GTE-Pro class because rain is forecast at Le Mans when qualifying resumes on Thursday afternoon (Friday morning NZ time).
Stanaway, who shares his car with Brazilian Fernando Rees and British racer Alex MacDowall, had also been the fastest of the GTE drivers in the Wednesday afternoon free practice session. The pace of the Aston Martin Vantage V8 cars was confirmed by Portugal’s Pedro Lamy posting the second fastest overall GT time in one of the team’s GTE-Am class entries.
The battle for outright qualifying honours saw Porsche in command with its trio of 919 Hybrid entries topping the qualifying times.
Switzerland’s Neel Jani bettered last year’s pole time by almost five seconds, his 3m 16.887s lap being the fastest recorded at Le Mans since chicanes began to be installed on the high speed straights.
Germany’s Timo Bernhard was second fastest in the Porsche he shares with New Zealander Brendon Hartley and Australia’s Mark Webber at 3m 17.767s while the third Porsche crewed by New Zealander Earl Bamber, F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) and Nick Tandy (GB) was third — their 3m 19.297s lap set by Tandy.
Provisional qualifying sees the LMP1 Hybrid cars from the three front-running teams lined-up in formation. Behind the Porsche trio the three Audi R18 e-tron quattros filled the fourth, fifth and sixth positions with Frenchman Loic Duval being the fastest Audi driver at 3m 19.866s.
Toyota’s pair of TS040 cars were actually slower than they were in qualifying last year with Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin extracting the best lap of 3m 23.543secs for the Japanese marque.
In the LMP2 category the British Jota Sport team — which won the LMP2 class last year — has provisionally qualified third in a 19-strong field. New Zealand Mitch Evans is teamed with British drivers Oliver Turvey and Simon Dolan in Jota’s Nissan V8-engined Gibson 015S open cockpit prototype and Turvey set the fastest lap, less than a second behind the pole-winning KCMG Oreca 05 entry.
The Thursday Le Mans qualifying sessions run 7pm-9pm and then 10pm-midnight.