Ferrari came out all guns blazing at the Circuit de la Sarthe grabbing the first and second place in Hypercar super pole qualifying whilst in LMGTE-AM the #83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari took the top spot.
The sun blazed over the Circuit de la Sarthe, casting its golden rays upon the racing machines as they eagerly awaited their turn to conquer the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours. The qualifying practice had begun, and the stage was set for a breathtaking battle.
Ferrari AF Corse had come prepared, their sleek red beauties oozing with power and grace. As the engines roared to life, anticipation filled the air. The #50 Ferrari 499P Hypercar, driven by the talented Antonio Fuoco, shot onto the track with lightning speed, leaving a trail of burning rubber in its wake. Fuoco was on a mission, and he showcased his skill by setting a blistering time of 3m25.213s.
But there was no time to rest on laurels, as his teammate Alessandro Pier Guidi stormed onto the scene. Pier Guidi’s #51 Ferrari 499P danced through the corners, desperately chasing the perfect line. With every turn, the gap between the two Ferraris closed. The tension was palpable as Pier Guidi briefly seized the top spot, only to be swiftly overtaken by his countryman Fuoco. The margin was mere fractions of a second, with Fuoco’s time surpassing Pier Guidi’s by a mere 0.199s.
While the Ferraris celebrated their impressive performance, the mighty Toyota team wasn’t far behind. The #7 Toyota, driven by the talented duo of Kamui Kobayashi and Brendon Hartley, showcased their mettle as they secured the third position. Their sister car, the #8 Toyota, pushed them to the limit, but fell just short in the qualifying practice.
However, the road to the Hyperpole was not without its challenges. The qualifying practice was marred by not one, but two red flags that halted the session. The first interruption occurred due to a collision between Filipe Albuquerque’s #22 United Autosports LMP2 car and Matthieu Vaxiviere’s #36 Alpine ELF Team car. The screech of metal against metal echoed through the air, briefly overshadowing the roar of engines.
Just when the teams thought they could resume their chase against the clock, fate had a different plan. The second red flag waved high, this time caused by an accident at Indianapolis involving the #37 Cool Racing Oreca-Gibson, with Malte Jakobsen behind the wheel. The crashes were a stark reminder of the perils that awaited them on the treacherous circuit.
In the midst of the chaos, some teams rose above the turmoil. Porsche Penskes, with their #5 and #75 entries, showcased their skill and secured their spot in the Hyperpole. They were joined by the #3 and #2 Cadillac Racing entries, further adding to the excitement of the upcoming challenge on Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, the #38 Jota Porsche 963 faced its own share of struggles. The car came to an abrupt halt on the circuit, its hybrid system crying out for attention. It returned to the pits, where the mechanics worked tirelessly to fix the issue. Hope soared as the car ventured out once again, only to be met with the recurrence of the problem. Disappointment hung heavy in the air, but the team remained determined to overcome the hurdles.
As the qualifying practice drew to a close, the spotlight shone on the #708 Glickenhaus 007LMH. This non-hybrid entry showcased its sheer speed, snatching the title of the fastest non-hybrid car. With their audacious performance, they announced their presence amongst the elite and set the stage for an intriguing battle against the giants of endurance racing.
The qualifying practice had unveiled the contenders, but the ultimate test awaited them in the grueling Le Mans 24 Hours. With adrenaline pumping through their veins, the drivers and teams prepared themselves mentally and physically for the epic showdown that awaited them on the hallowed grounds of Le Mans. The quest for glory had only just begun, and the world held its breath in anticipation of the remarkable feat that would unfold.
In LMP2 it was Jota, determined to make their mark, surging ahead early on, propelled by the fiery speed of Pietro Fittipaldi. The Brazillian scorched through the track, leaving his rivals in awe as he clocked a scintillating lap time of 3m34.751s.
Fittipaldi’s stellar performance in the #28 car ensured that his time would reign supreme, placing Jota at the top of the session. The team’s jubilation was tempered by the knowledge that their triumph was far from secure, with formidable opponents hot on their heels.
Hot on Jota’s tail was the #41 WRT entry, aiming to reclaim the glory they had tasted the previous year. Louis Deletraz, a force to be reckoned with, pushed his car to the limits, setting a blistering pace that secured them second place. The battle for pole position was intensifying, and the WRT team had firmly established themselves as contenders.
However, the competition was far from over. The #63 Prema entry, piloted by the skilled Mirko Bortolotti, made a last-minute surge, capturing the attention of onlookers as he unleashed an impressive performance. Bortolotti’s determination paid off, propelling the #63 car to the third position and injecting a fresh wave of excitement into the competition.
Meanwhile, IDEC Sport Oreca-Gibson, represented by the talented Paul Loup Chatin, showcased their prowess on the track. With unwavering focus, Chatin set a formidable time that secured the team the fourth spot. The incoming ELMS competitors announced their arrival with a resounding statement, ready to challenge the established order.
As the dust settled, the battle lines were drawn for the upcoming Hyperpole. In addition to the top four teams, a select group of challengers had earned their place in the coveted session. Vector Sport, #47 Cool Racing, Racing Team Turkey, #37 Cool Racing, and the #9 Prema Racing entry had proven their mettle, earning the opportunity to vie for glory amongst the best.
A curious coincidence added an extra layer of intrigue to the qualifying session. Mirko Bortolotti in the #63 car and his teammate Ben Viscaal in the #9 sister car had set exactly the same time, a testament to their synchronized determination and skill. It was a rare occurrence, showcasing the fine margins that separated victory from defeat at this elite level of motorsport.
As the LMGTE category unfolded every team had their sights set on glory, and the competition was fierce but one team rose to the occasion with a last-gasp effort that left everyone in awe.
The #83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari, driven by the talented Alessio Rovera, unleashed its power and agility, conquering the circuit with remarkable precision. Rovera pushed the limits, pushing himself and the car to the edge. In a breathtaking display of skill, he set the fastest lap of 3m51.877s, stunning the crowd and securing a place in the record books.
But the Prancing Horse wasn’t done yet. The #54 AF Corse Ferrari, piloted by Davide Rigon, joined Rovera in the pursuit of greatness. Rigon, fueled by determination, showcased his expertise as he weaved through the corners, inching closer to his teammate’s time. The gap was minuscule, a mere 0.022s, a testament to the team’s unwavering commitment and the Ferrari’s prowess.
Meanwhile, the points-leading #33 Corvette Racing entry faced adversity after an unfortunate accident during free practice. The team rallied together, working tirelessly to repair the car. Their efforts paid off as Nicky Catsburg, with nerves of steel, took to the track. Catsburg unleashed his skill, pushing the repaired Corvette to its limits. The determined driver claimed the third spot in the LMGTE Am category, earning a well-deserved place in the Hyperpole session.
However, not every team had a smooth qualifying session. The Iron Dames, known for their tenacity and grit, encountered a challenging session. Michelle Gatting, one of the team’s talented drivers, found herself spinning into the gravel at Dunlop Chicane. It was a moment of frustration, but the Iron Dames refused to be disheartened, determined to bounce back stronger.
As the dust settled, the teams celebrated their hard-fought victories and the opportunity to compete in the Hyperpole session. Alongside the top three contenders, several other teams had showcased their mettle and secured their place in the prestigious session. ORT by TF Sport, Kessel Racing, GMB Aston, the #21 AF Corse, and the #74 Kessel Racing Ferrari were ready to challenge the status quo, eager to leave their mark on the illustrious race.
Fast becoming a fan favourite the garage 56 entry Hendrick Motorsports run Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 completed the session with a time of 3m47.976s and placed 38th overall.
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