Toyota driver Kamui Kobayashi set a new all-time 24 Hours of Le Mans lap record in the No. 7 TS050 with an unbelievable lap of 3:14.791. Incredibly, this was Kobayashi’s out-lap, going out on fresh medium tires but taking full advantage of the lack of traffic in front of him to set an unbelievably fast qualifying lap.
The No. 33 Eurasia Motorsport LMP2 crashed and damaged a wall less than 20 minutes into the second qualifying session, bringing out a lengthy red flag that temporarily halted the session as crews made repairs to the wall. Before the red flag, Mike Conway had started the qualifying session in the No. 7, setting a new provisional pole-setting lap of 3:18.651.
When the session started back up, Toyota put Kobayashi in the No. 7, who then proceeded to smash the all-time record for the fastest ever lap of the 8.469-mile Circuit de la Sarthe since the chicanes were introduced to the Mulsanne Straight in 1989.
Naturally, the Toyota team watching in the garage went nuts when they saw that Kobayashi had the new record. It was hard to believe the 3:14.791 wasn’t a typo, as it was so much faster than any laps that had been run so far this weekend.
It’s a Japanese driver setting a record in a Japanese car, so I can’t imagine how happy Toyota must be right now.
According to ex-Toyota driver Alex Wurz, conditions were ideal when Kobayashi made his flying lap. Traffic was light and didn’t slow Kobayashi’s insane flying run. A tailwind on the straights helped the car go a bit faster, and a headwind worked with the car’s aerodynamics on the Porsche Curves to keep it planted there.
The session ran for a little over 20 minutes longer to make up for the red flag, however, the No. 23 LMP2 crashed with 9:33 left to end the session early. One more nighttime qualifying session is left, so we’ll know if this was the pole-setting lap for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans after then.