LE MANS, France — Fernando Alonso’s Toyota group topped the opening qualifying session for this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
With Fernando Alonso set to sort out his maiden 24-hour race at Le Mans this week, ESPN visited the French circuit for the two-wheeled equal to see what it takes to endure certainly one of motor racing’s hardest occasions.
Kazuki Nakajima’s three:17.270 put the No.eight group prime of the order on Wednesday night, zero.107s faster than Toyota’s different group. The subsequent nearest automotive was over two seconds behind, underlining the uncooked tempo benefit the Japanese producer has over the remainder of the sector. Rain is presently forecast to fall throughout Thursday’s two periods, that means that point may very well be sufficient to say pole place.
Alonso took over from his different teammate, Sebastien Buemi, 40 minutes into the session to get his first expertise of Le Mans at evening. His finest particular person time — three:20.991 — was 11th quickest, though his flip within the automotive got here after the circuit temperature had dropped considerably. Alonso was additionally out on the circuit at certainly one of its busiest factors, with a bunch of slower vehicles from different classes out on the circuit with him, including to the problem of his first laps on a floodlit Circuit de la Sarthe.
Eyes huge open and full focus by way of the darkness. @Toyota_Hybrid @alo_oficial #LeMans24 #WEC pic.twitter.com/VNFkxaF1hw
— WEC (@FIAWEC) June 13, 2018
The guidelines dictate every driver should have accomplished 5 night-time laps earlier than they’re allowed to participate within the race; Alonso and certainly one of his different fellow Le Mans rookies, former McLaren teammate Jenson Button, each did so. Button’s SMP Racing group, which additionally options Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin, completed the opening session in seventh place.
Although begins are much less important in an endurance race than in a grand prix, there may be nonetheless an enormous quantity of status to claiming pole at Le Mans — Toyota is the odds-on favorite to take action this weekend. The Japanese producer is trying to declare its first ever victory on the French circuit and has spent a lot of the build-up to the occasion focusing on automotive reliability.
The race will host numerous different ex-F1 drivers. The No.7 Toyota group contains former Sauber and Caterham man Kamui Kobayashi. The LMP2 class, beneath the premier LMP1 division which Toyota competes in, options the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Jean-Eric Vergne, Felipe Nasr and Pastor Maldonado.
The Le Mans 24 Hours begins on Saturday, June 16, at 3pm native time.