until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

WEC/Le Mans

Porsche denies Cadillac in Le Mans qualifying thriller

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
2 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The Penske-run factory Porsche team denied Cadillac a first-ever Le Mans 24 Hours pole in a thoroughly entertaining all-LMDh scrap headlining the Thursday Hyperpole session.

The 35-year-old Kevin Estre, qualifying the World Endurance Championship-leading #6 Porsche Penske entry, pulled out a 3m24.634s at the very last moment to grab the German brand's first Le Mans pole since 2016.

The Porsche 963 is widely regarded as a leading contender for Le Mans victory this year, but only one 963 was running in the Hyperpole session - Estre making the cut by two tenths in the initial qualifying earlier this week, in which he very nearly shunted with an LMP2 car.

And Estre was only fifth, over 1.6s down on provisional pole held by #3 Cadillac driver Sebastien Bourdais, when the red flag came out for a crash for BMW's Dries Vanthoor at Indianapolis corner.

Bourdais didn't head out for another run, and looked in a strong position to hang on to pole as both Ferrari cars came up short in their efforts.

Cadillac #3, Le Mans 24 Hours

But the other Cadillac - the #2 in Alex Lynn's hands - pipped him by three hundredths after the chequered flag, only for Estre to go another tenth and a half clear moments later.

Because of a grid penalty for the #2 after the previous WEC round at Spa (where its driver Earl Bamber was deemed at fault for colliding with a BMW GT3 car), the #6 Porsche and the #3 Cadillac will share the front row for the 24-hour race, followed by the two Ferraris (the leading cars designed to Hypercar rules rather than LMDh rules) and the #35 Alpine.

Only seven top-class cars ran in Hyperpole instead of the intended eight (and thus 23 out of 24 overall) as Jota's customer Porsche 963s was damaged in a heavy crash in practice after having already made Hyperpole - and could not be repaired in time to actually take part.

Long-time Le Mans dominator Toyota also had one of its cars set a time good enough for Hyperpole but not take part - as Kamui Kobayashi's effort in that initial session was erased for him having caused a red flag.

The fastest laps in LMP2 and LMGT3 were set by reigning WEC LMP2 champion Louis Deletraz and former Oculus VR company CEO Brendan Iribe (for LMGT3, only Bronze-category drivers are allowed to run in Hyperpole).

Hyperpole had been delayed by over half an hour for a crash in a Road to Le Mans support race, one involving ex-grand prix motorcycle racer Louis Rossi - whose sole Moto3 win came at Le Mans.

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